Scotland-Ireland bilateral review report

The report and recommendations for this review set out current areas of bilateral cooperation and identify opportunities for cooperation and joint initiatives in new areas, which are devolved to Scotland, over the next 5 years from 2021 to 2025.

Community and Diaspora

The histories of the peoples of Ireland and Scotland are closely connected, with our stories of migration taking many forms at different times. Place names and family names across both lands are an ever-present reminder of the intertwined past and shared future.

Irish and Scottish diasporas are in many of the same locations, such as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. In some locations these diasporas are closely interlinked, and defined by a shared heritage, such as in Nova Scotia where there is a shared linguistic identity in Gaelic, or through shared Ulster-Scots heritage, particularly evident in the USA. Highland Games celebrated in North America are enthusiastically embraced by those of Scottish and Irish heritage and often celebrated jointly. There is potential to develop broader understanding of this joint heritage, building on recent work by Ireland's Consuls General in Boston and Atlanta.

Ireland has a long tradition of diaspora engagement around the world, led by the Department of Foreign Affairs, appointing its first Minister for Diaspora Affairs in 2014. Scotland engages its global diaspora through GlobalScot - a worldwide network of almost 800 entrepreneurial and inspirational business leaders and experts. These professionals use their skills, experience and connections to support Scottish businesses to grow and develop. As well as supporting and working directly with Scottish businesses, many GlobalScots undertake activities to support Scotland's international work.

Sara Sheridan, Catriona Logan, Margot McCuaig, and Louise Bruton ( L-R) in conversation at 2020 Brigid's Day celebrations, Glasgow Women's Library.
© Consulate General of Ireland, Edinburgh/Brian Sweeney
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Irish and Scottish diasporas overlap in the U.S., where more than 3 million people proudly identify as Scots-Irish. (2015 US census data).

Around the globe around 70 million people claim Irish roots (Department of Foreign Affairs) and 50 million people claim Scottish descent. (National Records Scotland).

63% of respondents to the questionnaire believe that community and diaspora links are very important to the relationship.

Dublin was the Scottish Government’s first innovation and investment hub providing a Scottish Government presence for its diaspora in Ireland since 2016.

Almost 30,000 Irish citizens were living in Scotland in 2011. (UK Census data, 2011).

Responses to the online questionnaire indicated that respondents from both communities – the Scottish community in Ireland and the Irish community in Scotland – are equally involved in meeting each other through diaspora-focused events. Both communities are interested in being more actively involved.

A wealth of community organisations in both countries continue to support and enrich the lives of these respective diaspora communities, and promote Scottish and Irish cultural capital and sporting traditions. Both countries also use annual events such as St Andrew's Day, St Patrick's Day, Burns Supper and St Brigid's Day, celebrating culture and heritage, to forge new relationships, showcase talent, and develop community outreach. Live Music Now Scotland artists have performed at official events and on visits to care homes, schools and hospices in Dublin in recent years.

Branches of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann in Scotland nurture Irish traditions in music, often sharing them with other diaspora communities. Likewise, Irish dance schools in Scotland, as around the world, attract people of all backgrounds to this art form. Vibrant Irish language activities, and Ciorcail Comhrá, in Glasgow and Edinburgh attract speakers and learners of mixed ability to enjoy speaking Irish. Causeway Ireland Scotland Business Exchange is active in Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland providing links between our diasporas in business, and has diversified with a young professionals network
and mentoring programme. 

The Dublin Scottish Benevolent Society of St Andrew, founded on St Andrew's Day in 1831, is one of the oldest Scottish diaspora societies in the world. Originally founded "for the relief of indigent and distressed natives of Scotland in Dublin," the society now performs a vital role in fostering fellowship among Scots in Ireland, celebrating Scotland's culture and annual festivals, and promoting an understanding in Ireland of the culture of Scotland.

Musicians from Live Music Now Scotland! perform at the Scottish Government St Andrew's Day reception in Dublin. 
© Peter Varga
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A variety of well-established Irish community organisations exist in Scotland, though there has been limited engagement with the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme (ESP).  Opinions expressed in the online questionnaire suggest an appetite for more community activity in sports and the arts, indicating a sustainable future for Irish organisations in Scotland. 

Scotland GAA's recent successful partnership with West Dunbartonshire Council, Sport Scotland, and local clubs helped to secure significant funding to build a state of the art clubhouse and pitches at the Clydebank Community Sports Hub. This inclusive community facility is a shared base for Gaelic games, rugby, and Taekwondo. It is an excellent example of how community and diaspora organisations can work with partners to both secure
their own future and share their heritage. 

Looking Forward

The focus for governments will be on lesson learning and the exchange of good practice.  The Scottish Government will, for example, work with Irish colleagues leading on diaspora affairs, to assess where lessons can be drawn from Ireland's experience. There is also scope for increased exchange and partnerships between different diaspora organisations. 

Case Study

In 2018 the Omagh Protestant Boys Melody Flute Band participated in the 195th Savannah St Patrick's Day Parade as a result of a partnership between the Consulate General of Ireland in Atlanta, the Northern Ireland Bureau in Washington and the Ulster-Scots Agency. This was the first ever participation of a traditional Ulster-Scots marching band in a major U.S. St Patrick's Day Parade. It was made possible by an invitation from the Savannah St Patrick's Day Parade Committee and support from local Scottish and Irish community organisations. This outstanding 30-strong band started its programme by performing at Savannah's Independent Presbyterian Church, where the city's first St Patrick's Day Parade ended in 1813, and opening an exhibition on Savannah's Scots-Irish heritage. It won the best band award and made front-page news with its parade performance. Representatives of the Government of Ireland, the Northern Ireland Bureau, the Ulster-Scots Agency, and the British Consul General, himself a Scot, marched alongside the band. The Ulster-Scots Agency has told this story through BBC Radio Ulster broadcasts. The Agency also commissioned a documentary "From Ulster to Savannah," which has been screened on both sides of the Atlantic with support from the partners. 

Drum Major, Stacey Connor, leading the Omagh Protestant Boys Melody
Flute Band in the St Patrick's Day Parade, Savannah, 2018.
© The Ulster-Scots Agency
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  • Ireland and Scotland will deliver two shared diaspora and heritage events in Irish Embassies and Consulates in the USA and Canada in 2021, in cooperation with the Scottish Government's network of offices in North America.
  • The Consulate General in Edinburgh will deliver an awareness campaign in Scotland to increase engagement with the Government of Ireland's Emigrant Support Programme.
  • The Scottish Government Office in Dublin will further enhance its reach into and connections with the Scottish diaspora in Ireland, through its programme of winter festival events.
  • The Consulate General in Edinburgh will expand the celebration of Brigid's Day year on year across Scotland following the successful 2020 event held in the Glasgow Women's Library.
  • Scotland will engage with and learn from Ireland's diaspora policy experience through engagement with the Department of Foreign Affairs Irish Abroad Unit in Dublin and the varied approaches of Ireland's diplomatic missions.
  • The Department of Foreign Affairs will support Donegal County Council's Donegal Connect event in Glasgow, planned for 2021.
A university Ladies Gaelic Football game at the 2017 Irish Culture and Heritage Day at the Grange Cricket Club Edinburgh -
hosted by Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh, Conradh na Gaeilge Glaschú, and Scotland GAA.
© Consulate General of Ireland/Leo Paredes Photography
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