Ireland and Scotland publish Bilateral Review of future relationship

Review recommendations will enhance cooperation and collaborations between Scotland and Ireland.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, and Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Michael Russell have today published the Ireland-Scotland Joint Bilateral Review Report.

Following wide consultations between the two Governments, and substantial public engagement, the report sets out a series of joint actions to be taken in the areas of business and the economy; community and diaspora; culture; academic and research links; and rural, coastal and island communities as well as government and political relations.

At the heart of the Review Report is a shared understanding of the importance of securing the closest possible relationships between Scotland and Ireland, as well as between the UK and Ireland, for the coming years.  

With over forty recommendations across five thematic areas, the report will guide Ireland-Scotland collaboration over the coming five years.

These include:

  • regular high-level contact between Scottish and Irish Ministers and continued cooperation through the British-Irish Council, an institution of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement
  • a new Ireland-Scotland Trade Taskforce, supported by the Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh and the Scottish Government Office in Dublin, which will work with the public and private sectors to develop and support trade relations
  • a conference this year to address the opportunities and challenges of living in rural, coastal and island communities, to be convened by both Governments, working with the University of Highlands and Islands and Údarás na Gaeltachta
  • a series of cultural exchanges and collaborations, including joint programming in support of the Colmcille 1500 celebrations, reflecting the international legacy of this pivotal figure in our shared cultural, legal and ecclesiastical history
  • Shared Irish and Scottish diaspora and heritage events to take place in the US and Canada this year

Other recommendations envisage deeper cooperation on health issues; a new framework for cooperation on education; research and development of off-shore renewable energy technologies; and exploring together how to increase participation and inclusivity in sport.  

The Cabinet Secretary and Minister will meet today to mark the publication and look ahead to future collaborations.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, T.D., said:

“Undertaking a bilateral review jointly has been a first for each of our Governments. 

“Its purpose was simple: to ensure that the closeness, the cooperation, and the natural connectivity of the Irish-Scottish relationship was strengthened in a changing international environment.

“Through the recommendations in this review, I know we will enhance our shared work across many fields.

“We will work more closely as Governments to manage challenges together, including to support our broader recovery from COVID-19 in the coming years.  I see this review as both a platform, on which our relationship will grow; and a map, which will guide that growth.”

External Affairs Secretary Michael Russell said:

“We are delighted to publish this report, and look forward to building on the great friendship we have by enhancing co-operation at this time of unprecedented change and challenge.

“This review is a starting point for the next five years, and indeed beyond. We have created the signposts which point the way for our ambitions to work together to benefit business, the creative and cultural sector, education and a range of other areas of importance to both our countries.

“By creating further opportunities, we know we will see new ideas emerge, as the relationship continues to evolve. In order to ensure that the ambition in our recommendations is realised, we are committed to meeting annually, when we will not only look at what we have done, but also set new, ambitious, shared objectives.”


You can read the Bilateral Review, and view a film launching the report.

Work on the joint bilateral review began in November 2019, and was governed by a steering group of officials from the Scottish Government’s External Affairs Directorate, and Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs.  Read the original concept note, setting out the terms of reference for the review.

Rather than being exhaustive, the purpose of the review was to capture a snapshot of the current state of the relationship and to identify shared ambitions and ways to realise the potential for future growth in the Irish-Scottish relationship.

The review process involved a wide variety of engagements with a range of stakeholders, in the form of round table discussions, consultation groups, and in hundreds of formal and informal conversations. 

An online questionnaire widened the reach of the review. Some 1,068 responses were received from individuals and organisations in Ireland, Scotland and beyond. 

A steering committee of officials from both governments will report on delivery of the recommendations annually to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Cabinet Secretary for External Relations, who will in turn review progress and jointly agree new recommendations.


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