Global Scotland: trade and investment strategy 2016-2021

Our eight-point action plan to increase trade and investment in Scotland.

Chapter 4: Supporting Global Scotland

As indicated in Chapter 1, the delivery-focused policies and actions to inspire, enable and support Scotland’s businesses to trade internationally and individuals, businesses and institutions to invest in Scotland are underpinned by a much broader agenda for internationalisation; for creating a Global Scotland, which seeks to:

  • Create an environment within Scotland that supports a better understanding of international opportunities and a greater appetite and ability to seize them; and
  • Influence the world around us on the issues that matter most in helping Scotland flourish.

To support this agenda and, in turn, our ambition for trade and investment we will take action to:

Enhance Scotland’s profile and reputation;

  • Make effective use of engagement and influence ;
  • Maximise the impact of networks and relationships;
  • Make the most of our combined global footprint; and
  • Ensure that policies and activities across Government support our ambition.

Profile and Reputation

Scotland has a positive global reputation built on a strong identity, culture and natural beauty, on people’s experience of Scotland and on events like the Commonwealth Games, the Edinburgh festivals and the Tiree Wave Classic – but also on globally recognised products and services from food and drink to digital games and services; and on the ingenuity and innovation of our entrepreneurs, businesses and universities. This raises Scotland’s international profile, attracts international visitors and students to Scotland, supports overseas trade and helps attract investment.

The VisitScotland ‘Spirit of Scotland marketing campaign and themed years such as the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 help strengthen this profile and reputation. However, there is scope to enhance it still further and, as part of the One Scotland approach, to consider how the activities of different partners, public and private, can complement and reinforce each other.

In the first instance, the Scottish Government and its agencies will adopt a new, single international narrative to promote trade and investment and tourism and cultural strengths and activities. Furthermore, a clear identity and messaging, to be used across all the international activities of the Scottish Government and its agencies and by organisations receiving Government funding, will be developed.

This approach to marketing and communications will be underpinned by targeted engagement and effective use of events and networks to highlight and pinpoint specific strengths and assets and, more broadly, Scotland as an innovative, inclusive and global economy. The Scottish Government, SDI and VisitScotland have a key role in this but our aim is to work with and across partners to achieve maximum impact and mutual benefit. This could, for example, include business leaders, companies and entrepreneurs such as Scotland’s Women’s Enterprise Ambassadors; cultural bodies, business organisations, industry bodies and local authorities; and higher education institutions and Innovation Centres – but also, reflecting our emphasis on inclusive growth and responsible business, through social enterprise, environmental and international development organisations.

Engagement and influence

Our individual and collective international engagement, across business, government and academia and through formal and informal relationships, provides opportunities to support our ambition, influence policy and markets and shape perceptions of Scotland.

For its part, and driven by our strategic response to global change, the Scottish Government and its agencies will place a strong emphasis on developing and realising trade and investment opportunities through, for example:

  • Targeted engagement in specific international markets and sectors;
  • Building long-term relationships with existing and potential investors;
  • Using international platforms to promote trade and investment interests and Scotland’s wider reputation and profile in areas such as low carbon and inclusive growth; and
  • Collaborating with international partners through programmes like the Vanguard Initiative which brings together European regions around specific innovation and investment projects in areas of niche strength and seeks to influence EU innovation and industrial policy.

This will be supported by a programme of Ministerial activity focused on the organisations, individuals and platforms where such engagement can make a real difference to achieving our ambition.

As well as the above, the Scottish Government has a particular role in representing Scotland’s priorities and interests at a Government-to-Government level and with international bodies and institutions around key policy areas. In this respect, we will work with business and other stakeholders to engage with EU institutions, Member States and other partners to support the effectiveness and further development of the Single Market in a way that supports inclusive growth and does not undermine food, environmental and other standards. In particular, we will continue to support the interests of the Scottish fishing industry and agriculture but also focus on areas such as regulatory reform, services and the development of the Digital Single Market.

The EU is also responsible for trade and investment negotiations and agreements and, although the Scottish Government has no formal role in the negotiation or ratification of such agreements, we will represent the priorities and concerns of business and others to the UK Government, the European Commission and international partners. In doing this, we will always wish to protect the NHS and other vital public services; Government’s rights to regulate in the public interest; and standards. Meanwhile, from an inclusive growth perspective, we will focus on policies which present significant opportunities and/or challenges for the Scottish economy; on sectors of particular importance to Scotland; and, as with the steel industry, on European Commission action against unfair trade practices by other countries. This work will be complemented by engagement with specific countries and the UK Government to help Scottish businesses gain access to new markets through, for example, lifting import restrictions on, or other barriers to, particular products such as beef and lamb in North America.

We will also encourage the European Commission to give real and practical effect to its ‘Trade for All’ (Oct. 2015) Strategy’s [18] emphasis on ensuring trade benefits small businesses, consumers and workers; on making trade negotiations more transparent and subject to greater scrutiny; on safeguarding the European social and regulatory model; and on using trade to promote sustainable development and human rights.

As we engage on these issues we will work through our enterprise agencies and with other partners and industry bodies to identify specific areas of interest or concern and to help businesses realise the opportunities and respond to the challenges of the Single Market and international trade agreements.

Networks and Relationships

In a globally and digitally connected world, the networks and relationships of individuals, businesses and organisations are vital to understanding and realising opportunities for trade, investment and collaboration and to enhancing Scotland’s profile and reputation. They can provide valuable insights and expertise; facilitate greater communication and connectivity between business leaders and the business and entrepreneurial community in Scotland; and help open doors to new markets and opportunities.

These networks are a key part of the One Scotland approach. Focusing on our ‘Strategic Response to Global Change’, we will develop, support and work through them, and enable others to do so, to achieve our ambition.

The GlobalScot Network is an important but by no means the only element of this. Managed and supported for the whole of Scotland by Scottish Enterprise, the Network harnesses the drive, ambition and talent of successful Scottish business leaders around the world, and those having an affinity with Scotland, to advance Scotland’s economic success. All businesses and business organisations across Scotland can access their experience and expertise to support business growth. In addition to this, we will involve GlobalScots more closely in mentoring of Scottish businesses and entrepreneurs; in the development and delivery of international engagement activity such as overseas trade missions; and work with them to inform strategy and policy development by Government, the enterprise agencies and others.

New GlobalScots with skills and experience related to our ‘Strategic Response to Global Change’ and entrepreneurial individuals at the forefront of new industries, services and markets will be recruited. As well as those with a proven track record in business, the contribution that academics, policy experts and others can make to the GlobalScot Network and offer will be considered.

In addition to the further development of the GlobalScots Network, and building on the cultural and family ties of Scotland’s international diaspora, we will also:

  • Work with the business community to explore how their international networks and relationships can support our ambition. In particular, starting in London and linked to the establishment of the Innovation and Investment Hub, we will work with individuals and businesses to pilot the development of Scottish Business Networks in key global cities;
  • Strengthen engagement with the international university alumni community including the new diaspora of international students who return home as ambassadors for Scotland;
  • Use events and conferences in Scotland and internationally to connect with key organisations and individuals in a targeted way to build Scotland’s reputation and profile; and
  • Explore how relationships between Scotland’s higher education institutions, Chambers of Commerce and towns and cities with international partners can more effectively lever trade and investment opportunities.

Global Footprint

Together, the Scottish Government, SDI and VisitScotland have a permanent presence in over 30 locations in 19 countries – from Silicon Valley to Singapore to Shanghai; and from Boston to Brussels to Beijing. Similarly, Scotland’s higher education institutions have a significant international presence and some Chambers of Commerce have joint working arrangements with their counterparts overseas. Meanwhile, the UK Government has a presence in over 200 locations, Scottish businesses have operations across the globe and our inward investors are international and often global by nature.

Our aim is to make the most of this collective global footprint to deliver our ambition. We will therefore:

  • Continue to seek assurances that the UK’s international footprint serves the distinct needs and strengths of Scottish businesses; and
  • Work with public, private and academic partners to make the most effective use of our collective international presence. In particular, the Scottish Government and SDI’s international office network will be reviewed to take account of the development of the Innovation and Investment Hub model, explore opportunities for joint working and ensure resources are effectively focused on delivering our ambition.

Scotland’s permanent global footprint is just part of a much wider but more temporary footprint arising from the international engagement and activities of many organisations and individuals. Again, our aim is to make this most of this temporary footprint, especially where there are opportunities for the activities of SDI and UKTI and other organisations to be better coordinated and/or to complement and reinforce each other around, for example, targeted trade and investment engagement and sporting, cultural and ‘Global Platform’ events.

This work to make the most of Scotland’s physical global footprint will be complemented by work to use our digital footprint to reinforce our profile and reputation and deliver trade and investment goals.

Working across Government

The Scottish Government is committed to embedding internationalisation across its policies and activities and those of its agencies to ensure that Scotland remains internationally competitive and that our people have the confidence and skills to realise international opportunities and participate in a globalised world. Key areas of focus for work across Government and with partners include:

  • Planning, Infrastructure and Connectivity: Our investment in infrastructure provides the physical and digital connectivity needed to ensure that all of Scotland is open to the national and global economy and helps businesses to grow, innovate and create high quality jobs. This is supported by the Government’s Infrastructure Investment Plan [19] and the National Planning Framework ( NPF3) which identifies key ‘national developments’ and planning policies to guide investment and growth. The Scottish Government aims to ensure that businesses across all of Scotland can access world-class technology at all times by improving mobile coverage across Scotland and providing next generation broadband to all by 2020. Meanwhile, Scotland’s National Transport Strategy 2016 includes proposals for supporting the development of the freight industry, expanding the Greenock Ocean Liner Terminal quayside and, building on recent success in attracting new routes, improving air connectivity with a particular focus on possible routes to China and other emerging global markets. These new routes and our commitment to reducing Air Passenger Duty in Scotland by 50 per cent by 2021 will improve connectivity to Scottish airports, help sustain existing and generate new routes and increase inbound tourism.
  • Research and Innovation: Investment in our universities through the Scottish Funding Council is supporting international research collaboration. Scotland’s eight Innovation Centres, which bring together universities and businesses to drive innovation in areas such as precision medicine, sensor technology and big data have, significant international potential.
  • Languages and learning: Language learning increases people’s ability to participate in our globalised world and language deficiencies, especially in non-European languages, are a significant barrier to exporting costing the UK an estimated £48bn per annum. Given this, the Scottish Government seeks to enable all children to learn a first additional language from Primary 1 and to be offered a second from at the latest Primary 5 to S3. We also recognise the importance of continuing to support languages in further and higher education. Action is also being taken through the Outward Mobility Fund, which offers students who have never studied abroad new opportunities for academic, cultural and language learning in Europe, Canada, China, India and the USA.
  • T alent, migration and international students: Migrants from across the world contribute to Scotland’s economy and cultural diversity. Furthermore, the 29,000 international students from around 180 countries that study in Scotland’s higher education institutions encourage a global perspective among their peers and, when they leave, are international ambassadors for Scotland and for Scottish higher education. The Scottish Government and Scotland’s colleges and universities are working together to attract the best international talent to our education institutions, and are engaging with the UK Government on visa issues, which are having a negative impact on attracting and retaining talent, for example through the removal of the post study work route in Scotland.

Our focus on these key areas demonstrates the breadth of policy and activity around internationalisation which supports our trade and investment ambition. Looking ahead, we will seek to ensure that key policies and activities in areas such as tourism, energy, education, culture and food and drink maximise their contribution to our ambition. Similarly, we will work with key agencies such as VisitScotland, Transport Scotland, Skills Development Scotland, Scottish Funding Council and Creative Scotland to maximise their contribution.

We welcome dialogue and discussion with business, investors and other stakeholders about how Government policy and activities and that of our agencies can better support our ambition.


Email: Jamie McGarvey,

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