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.


From the ancient to the contemporary, the value of culture in the lives of both Scotland and Ireland, at home and abroad, is well recognised. The high levels of engagement in the review process under this theme underlined its importance, with most focus on the arts, language and sport.

Edinburgh International Book Festival, Charlotte Square Gardens.
© Edinburgh International Book Festival
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Levels of collaboration happening across both jurisdictions in culture, heritage, arts and sport continue to increase. Collaboration between Showcase Scotland and Tradfest, and close working relationships between Culture Ireland and the Edinburgh Festivals, typify the ease with which collaboration in this sector happens and demonstrates how cooperation can co-exist with competition, feeding creativity and strengthening the bilateral relationship. 

Links are strong at ministerial and official level between our creative industries and within the Indigenous, Minority and Lesser-used Languages work sector of the British-Irish Council. Our officials meet quarterly under a biennial work programme, leading up to a ministerial-level meeting. 

Colm Cille, or Columba, is a foundational link between Ireland and Scotland. Beyond his ecclesiastical influence, which migrating Scots then carried to Canada and elsewhere, his legacy in learning, art and intellectual property reaches far beyond Scotland and Ireland. Bòrd na Gàidhlig and Foras na Gaeilge, the language agencies of Scotland and Ireland, have a partnership, Colmcille, and are promoting international cultural collaboration and celebration of the 1500th anniversary of his birth in 2020-21.

Monuments from the Neolithic era, including the tombs at Maeshowe and Brú na Bóinne, demonstrate how far back the links between us stretch. These links continue today in the work to preserve, promote and share these UNESCO World Heritage Sites with visitors. Historic Environment Scotland's (HES) case study on the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site for the Climate Vulnerability Index is a valuable lead for Ireland, and both countries have considerable shared expertise in this area to offer internationally.

Our archaeologists benefit from the strategic partnership, through a memorandum of understanding on policy and best practice collaboration, between the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists (UK) and the Institute of Archaeologists (Ireland), and work closely together within international organisations. The Edinburgh Group brings together professional bodies representing architects, engineers and building surveyors with Irish officials and those of the UK and devolved governments biannually to exchange knowledge on education and practice in architectural conservation.

Founded in 1980, the Celtic Media Festival, based in Glasgow, is an industry celebration of television and radio production in the Celtic nations and regions. Connections between Ireland and Scotland, particularly between TG4 and BBC Alba, are strong, with high quality joint programming regularly winning awards at the Festival. Glasgow Film Festival and Dublin International Film Festival have also run joint showcases in recent years.

In May 2019, the Scottish Government Office in Dublin hosted the Creative Cities Summit and networking event, designed to engage leaders in the Creative and Cultural Industries (CCI) in Glasgow and Dublin to share future ambitions to build closer links. City councils, national institutions, universities and businesses were all involved and work continues in this area.

Performance on the Mound in Edinburgh during Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
© VisitScotland/Kenny Lam
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In 2019, there were 80 shows (approx. 191 artists) at Edinburgh Festival Fringe from Ireland with a further 26 shows (44 artists) from Northern Ireland. (Edinburgh Festival Fringe).

3 of Edinburgh's leading international festivals, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the Edinburgh Art Festival, are led by Irish directors while Ireland's National Theatre is co-led by a Scottish director.


Across Ireland, 771,811 people reported that they also speak Irish outside of the education system. (2016 census). In 2011, 57,600 people in Scotland reported that they could speak G�idhlig. (2011 UK census).


2021 marks 1,500 years since Colmcille was born - a figure who made a vital contribution to the historical record of both Ireland and Scotland in the early Christian monastic period.

Scotland has 6 UNESCO World Heritage sites:

St Kilda
Edinburgh (Old Town and New Town)
The Heart of Neolithic Orkney
New Lanark
The Antonine Wall
The Forth Bridge

Ireland has 2 World Heritage sites:

Br� na B�inne
Skellig Michael

Looking Forward

Cultural and heritage exchange and promotion will continue to be central to the bilateral relationship. Both governments will work together in the coming year with
a continued focus on creating opportunities for our artists and performers, and for our creative and heritage sectors to flourish, despite the constraints and profound challenges created by the global pandemic. Ireland and Scotland will also collaborate on cultural projects during the Colmcille 1500 anniversary year.

Case Study

Collectively, the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh Art Festival are the world's largest global arts and cultural gathering. Culture Ireland supports Irish artists at the Festivals every August in Edinburgh, where they reach local and global audiences, gaining international recognition and touring contracts.

Selection for the curated Edinburgh International Festival is a significant mark of success for any international company. Following Druid's acclaimed presentation of Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot in 2018, Oona Doherty's Hard to be Soft, A Belfast Prayer marked a significant collaboration between Culture Ireland, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and the British Council, co-supporting work of a Northern Ireland company in Edinburgh in 2019. 

Amidst more than 3,000 shows annually, Irish artists are highlighted in the Fringe every year. In 2019, Pat Kinevane was awarded the coveted Herald Archangel Award for sustained contribution to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and Gina Moxley achieved Fringe First and Herald Angel awards for her show The Patient Gloria.

Every August in Edinburgh, Culture Ireland hosts an industry event bringing together Irish artists and festival and venue presenters, producers and promoters, securing new international touring contracts for Irish artists across Europe, the USA, New Zealand and Australia, as well as important stages in Britain. 

Close collaboration in the arts and cultural spheres of Ireland and Scotland is personified in the leadership of three of the Edinburgh Festivals - Edinburgh International Festival (Fergus Linehan), Edinburgh Festival Fringe (Shona McCarthy), Edinburgh Art Festival (Sorcha Carey) – while the co-directors of the National Theatre of Ireland, Graham McLaren and Neil Murray, came to Ireland from Scotland's National Theatre.

Despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, in 2020 Culture Ireland maintained its commitment to Irish artists' participation in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and Edinburgh International Book Festival, this time online. 

Oona Doherty's Hard to be Soft, A Belfast Prayer at Edinburgh International Festival, 2019.
© Luca Truffarelli
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  • The Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh and the Scottish Government Office in Dublin will fund high level artistic joint programming in support of Colmcille 1500 celebrations (Dec 2020-21), showcasing contemporary work and performance reflecting this shared international legacy.
  • Ireland and Scotland will build on the excellent structured cooperation between the Office of Public Works and Historic Environment Scotland (HES), particularly focused on protecting monuments from the effects of climate change, and conservation skills development. A new memorandum of understanding between HES and Ireland's Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage will facilitate exchange of knowledge and structured cooperation in addressing the impacts of climate change on our built and archaeological heritage.
  • The Scottish Government Office in Dublin will work with Poetry Ireland and the Scottish Poetry Library to develop an exchange programme bringing together schools and young people to co-create work and performance.
  • The Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh and the Scottish Government Office in Dublin will celebrate Scottish-Irish co-productions in both Irish/ Gàidhlig and English in an online TV festival in partnership with the Celtic Media Festival.
  • Ireland and Scotland will build on annual collaboration between Showcase Scotland and Tradfest to promote the best in our musical traditions.
  • The Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh will support Conradh na Gaeilge to increase the profile of their Irish language activity in Scotland.
  • The Embassy of Ireland in London and Scotland House in London will host, in alternate years, an annual celebration of our shared cultural affinity.
  • The Consulate General of Ireland in Edinburgh and the Scottish Government Office in Dublin will jointly host an event in 2021 to share best practice in increasing participation and inclusivity in sport.
Scotland GAA ahead of the 2019 All-Ireland Junior Football Championship Semi-Final against Kerry at the Clydebank Community Sports Hub, Glasgow.
© Duncolm Sports Photography
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Swim Ireland attends a reception to mark the 2018 Euro Championships.
© Paul Sherwood
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This map is named Colmcille, or Columba, and was designed by Foras na Gaeilge (Ireland) and Bòrd na Gàidhlig (Scotland) for their Colmcille partnership. This partnership fosters communication and collaboration between the Scottish Gaelic and Irish Gaelic language communities.
The map cartography is by Collins Bartholomew, the blue arrow points north, and the place names are in Scottish and Irish Gaelic.
© Foras na Gaeilge/Bòrd na Gàidhlig
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