Scotland: a trading nation

A plan for growing Scotland's exports.

5.2 Energising our diaspora and in-country networks

5.2.1 GlobalScots

GlobalScot is a volunteer business-to-business network that was introduced in 2001 to leverage the experience and connections of senior international business leaders that were Scottish, or had an affinity to Scotland. The network was created to support the ambitions of Scottish businesses looking to do business internationally. Unlike Trade Envoys, they do not represent the Scottish Government.

Today, the GlobalScot network comprises 665 members in over 50 countries across the globe as noted below:








Total Members







% of total members







GlobalScots will typically support Scottish exporters and potential exporters by: 

1. Advocating for Scotland and its exporters, promoting Scottish products and services in a way that resonates with their local market.

2. Providing Scottish businesses with market insight and market entry advice based on their experience of working and living in international markets. 

3. Introducing Scottish businesses to local contacts and networks in markets where there is a fit for their product or service. 

4. Mentoring executives within Scottish businesses to raise international ambition in businesses that may not be exporting but have the capability to do so.

5. Hosting international trade delegations in global markets, raising the profile of Scotland and ensuring visiting delegates are connected to the right contacts at the right time.

6. Meeting directly with businesses when visiting Scotland or through themed masterclasses designed to raise awareness of market opportunities and what is needed to address them.

The GlobalScot network, while highly valued, needs to further evolve and refocus around the ambitions and strategic choices laid out in this plan. The network needs to grow and it needs to be more open thereby creating an international movement of Scots and Scots with an affinity to Scotland that can support Scottish businesses to internationalise. 

We will: 

1. Scale up the GlobalScot network, expanding from 600 to 2000 business people in key markets, including doubling to 500 in Europe by 2020 with clearer “asks” and “offers” of support from a revamped SDI support platform.

2. Expand the membership of GlobalScot in markets that align with our strategic focus, scaling the current global membership from the hundreds to the thousands.

3. Enable and encourage ‘openness’ across the network through a redeveloped digital platform that promotes connectivity directly between members and exporters. 

4. Use our new digital footprint to harvest data in a way that allows us to better understand engagement levels, outcomes and enables us to shape relevant support for the network in real time.

5. Develop the network to support and align with our Brand Scotland ambitions, as well as wider international networks, including diaspora and alumni.

6. Provide resources to support these enhancements.

5.2.2 Scottish Chambers of Commerce

Strong relationships exist between individual Scottish Chambers and Chambers of Commerce worldwide, making use of organisations, facilities and contacts in-market. This is a powerful network enabling Scottish businesses to establish connections with businesses in many countries. In addition, many individual Chambers have focused on building strong links with specific overseas Chambers. Below is a list of the Chamber-to-Chamber links between Scotland and our priority markets.

COUNTRY                                                     CHAMBER                                                   REGIONS



Manhattan, New England, Portland






Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg




West Lothian






No connections

















West Lothian



Donegal, South Dublin


No connections











Inverness Aberdeen






No connections









No connections









5.2.3 City to city links

Scotland has many long standing twinning relationships with towns, cities and regions across the globe. Most twinning arrangements are based on friendship and culture, however, some have a trade, educational and economic development focus within the relationship. We have mapped out all active twinning connections across all 32 local authority areas.

Currently only a few of the larger Scottish local authorities are actively maintaining their twinning partnerships.

We will:

  • Work with local authorities to consider how existing twinning arrangements can best be used to support grow Scotland’s exports. 
  • Work closely with local authorities to understand how they are developing new twinning arrangements and will encourage them to share best practice on how they identify twinning arrangements which will have the best economic benefits to them, particularly in terms of export performance.

5.2.4 Private business networks

In addition to those networks already mentioned, there are many private business networks that also have specific overseas connections. This is not an exhaustive list but gives an indication of some of the active networks and ways in which private business networks can support exporting.

Scottish Business Network

Formed in 2016, the Scottish Business Network aims to identify new commercial opportunities in London, SE England and internationally through a growing business diaspora network. Through their partnerships with others, such as Scotland House and GlobalScot, they are working together to provide a business development ecosystem that pools resources to support Scottish businesses increase their international sales and secure investment.

Causeway Ireland Scotland Business Exchange

Connecting businesses from Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, and supported by both the Scottish and Irish Government, Causeway Ireland Scotland Business Exchange is a not-for-profit membership organisation that facilitates business connections from both sides of the Irish Sea. From networking events and direct engagement through to a dedicated members area or access to its LinkedIn Group, Causeway is a business development resource that has helped to facilitate and deliver international business opportunities between Irish and Scottish businesses.

British-German Business Network

The British-German Business Network offers a range of in-market services in Germany, from market research, interim management solutions to advice and support setting up a new business in Germany. The Network works on a commercial basis with UK and international businesses that are looking to grow their exports to Germany.

China-Britain Business Council

The China-Britain Business Council helps British and Chinese businesses and organisations work together in China, the UK and third markets around the world. 

Its 1,000-strong membership includes some of the UK’s largest and most established businesses, some of the UK’s most dynamic and innovative SMEs as well as leading Chinese businesses. They also work closely with a range of Scottish organisations, including the Scottish Government, SDI, Scottish Chambers of Commerce, CBI Scotland and others to ensure that Scottish businesses are kept aware of the emerging opportunities in China and provide insights on targeting the Chinese market.


The CBI in Scotland represents a range of typically larger businesses, many of which are established exporters. It provides its members with support to help them achieve their international ambitions, most notably through its International Trade and Investment team, based across five countries: UK, China, Brussels, India and USA. This support can include:

  • An opportunity to influence the international policy agenda on key global business issues.
  • Access to vibrant business-to-business and business-to-government networks in the UK and its overseas locations.
  • Insights and ‘soft’ intelligence on key international markets.
  • Links to sources of advice and support in particular markets.

We will:

  • Continue to identify business networks in our priority markets and engage with them in Scotland and in-market to expand the sources of support available to Scottish exporting businesses.
  • Continue to work closely with the CBI International Trade and Investment team to share Scottish priorities and engage their support in the roll out of A Trading Nation.

5.2.5 New Scots

Scotland prides itself on being an open inclusive nation that provides a warm welcome to those who chose to live, work and study here. New Scots, and their communities, are an integral part of Scottish society. Many New Scots continue strong family and business links to their countries of birth. We see opportunities in supporting actions to strengthen those links to provide trade opportunities for Scottish businesses.

In the year ending June 2018 it was estimated that 419,000 people aged over 16 in Scotland were born outside the UK approximately 9% of the 16+ population in Scotland.

Graph showing population of residents aged 16+ by country

Source: Annual Population Survey – Jul 2017 to June 2018

It is estimated that 64,900 people born in Poland live in Scotland, by far the largest single group. This was followed by those born in India (25,500), those born in Ireland (22,300) and those born in Germany (22,000). Indeed 10 of the export priority countries for Scotland have significant New Scots populations already living in Scotland.

Many of these communities already have active business networks and organisations which would benefit from being connected to the work being done by Scottish Government agencies and our wider network in our target markets.

We will:

• Identify and connect with country specific New Scots business groups and Consular Corps networks currently operating in Scotland that can help create exporting opportunities in priority markets.

5.2.6 International networks of universities, colleges and their alumni 

Scotland has a large and developed education sector, comprising our 19 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) as well as colleges, and the education sector is a significant contributor to Scotland’s export activity in its own right.

The sector also has strong and established links with similar institutions, and directly with businesses, in many countries around the world. These links are often underutilised and offer significant potential to support Scottish export efforts in a variety of ways.

In addition, their alumni networks are a powerful untapped resource to help drive up Scottish exports.

Over the past 18 years, the proportion of international students in higher education has grown from around 10% to 22% of the overall student body which represents 180 countries(12), meaning a significant proportion of our alumni are international and overseas.

While universities have been proactive in leveraging their alumni to serve their individual interests (e.g. philanthropic donations), the Scottish Government has not, as yet, fully capitalised on our global alumni network across different areas.

How can alumni be of benefit to Scotland?

1. Acting as ambassadors for Scotland and its universities and colleges to encourage potential students to consider Scotland as a destination for study and to inspire existing students. 

2. Using their networks in various sectors to build connections and influence and to promote Scotland’s international messaging.

3. In the case of more experienced alumni helping businesses to export by offering connections, opening doors and providing mentoring capacity.

We will:

1. Develop an approach that enables universities and colleges to partner with enterprise agencies to network with all of Scotland’s alumni to further our trade and investment ambitions.

2. Connect with international students while they are studying in Scotland to build connections and relationships. This will include country focused business events and graduation events sponsored by Scottish Government with ministerial engagement.

3. Enable alumni to opt in to diaspora networking platforms.

4. Provide a route for experienced alumni to become GlobalScots.

5. Support Saltire Scholars to help connect them into networks.

6. Work with universities and colleges to link them to agencies and Scottish networks on a country by country basis identifying specific areas of focus and cooperation relevant to specific markets.

5.2.7 Wider Scottish diaspora

We will also work to engage the wider Scottish diaspora, and those with an affinity to Scotland, who, while they may not participate in the formal structures identified above, can still contribute to Scotland’s export success through:

1. Acting as global advocates for Scotland, promoting Scotland through social media channels, attendance at in-country events and liaison with their local international offices. 

2. Using their own networks to build connections and influence and promote Scotland’s international messaging. 

3. Providing invaluable in-country intelligence on a wide range of topics that can benefit business decisions.

4. Facilitating in-country events. 

5. Helping Scottish businesses understand the cultural challenges and preferences of their new country and helping with country specific messaging.

We will:

• Engage with this wider diaspora through the specific messaging of Scotland is Now’s live, work, study, visit and do business pillars and provide opportunities for the wider diaspora to engage with our exporting efforts in-market.



(12) HESA student and qualifier statistics 2001/02 and 2016/17.

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