International network: annual report 2022-2023

Annual report showcasing the achievements of the Scottish Government's international network of offices. Covering the reporting year 2022 to 2023, it uses case studies to demonstrate the positive impact our international activity has, and the benefits it brings to the people of Scotland.

Foreword by Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture

I am delighted to present this paper in response to the recommendation of the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee in their report on the Scottish Government’s international work,[1] that we publish “an Annual Report setting out the contribution made by the international offices to promoting the values, objectives and priorities of the revised International Framework”.

Scotland’s international network delivers tangible benefits to our people, businesses and institutions. From attracting overseas investment and growing exports to facilitating cultural exchanges, our active engagement on the global stage supports the delivery of Scotland’s domestic policy objectives and the First Minister’s three missions of equality, opportunity and community.

This report covers the financial year 2022-23, a year in which our work has taken place against the backdrop of the most turbulent economic and financial context most people can remember: from the enduring impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the need to mitigate the damage of Brexit, to facing a global climate crisis and rising energy costs. Russia’s illegal war against Ukraine, launched in February 2022, fuelled this

multifaceted crisis and continues to shape the international environment. These events, incidents and trends have the potential to impact negatively on Scotland’s economy, security and society. They are all international in nature, and we must work internationally to ensure that we are able to understand and address these, and any future challenges which may arise.

We continue to look outwards, doing all we can to attract jobs, investment and opportunities to Scotland. We also place a great deal of importance on being a good and compassionate global citizen, of playing a positive, progressive role in the world. Our International Development work, through our distinct partnerships with Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda and Pakistan, is a key part of Scotland’s contribution to the global community, as are our responses to humanitarian emergencies.

Tackling climate change is the defining issue of our time. Scotland has long recognised the need for urgent action on climate justice and is recognised globally for our leadership on this key issue. In 2012 we launched the world’s first Climate Justice Fund. We were also the first country to declare a climate emergency in 2019. In 2021 at COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland was the first country in the global north to commit funding to address Loss and Damage. Our just transition to net zero, involving transformation across all sectors of our economy and society, will be crucial to ending Scotland’s contribution to the climate and nature emergency and to global efforts to do likewise with urgency and with fairness.

The work of our international network is essential to these aims. Scotland has maintained an international presence for decades, in order to secure insight, understanding, access and influence in key markets. Since the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, the Scottish Government has further developed its international network of government offices in our closest friends and most important trading partners

This is a proper and necessary function of government in an interconnected and interdependent world, as it is for the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive in the present UK constitutional arrangement, and as it is for state and regional governments the world over. The framers of the Scotland Act were clear that “the reservation of international relations does not have the effect of precluding the Scottish Ministers and officials from communicating with other countries, regions, or international or European institutions, so long as … the Scottish Ministers do not purport to speak for the United Kingdom.”[2] We would, of course, never do so, and in fact maintain positive working relationships with UK Government officials co-located with Team Scotland in British Embassies and High Commissions across the world, all working collaboratively to promote Scotland’s interests internationally.

I was very happy to commit to an annual report showcasing that work, and setting out how we assess its impact as we further develop our revised international framework to make sure Scotland is represented on the world stage in the most effective way possible.

Rt Hon Angus Robertson MSP

Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture



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