Scotland's international policy statement 2017

This policy statement builds on the four strategic objectives outlined in Scotland's International Framework.

External relationships

All our international work is founded on partnership: with our people, our institutions and our partners outside Scotland to share knowledge and build long-term relationships and networks.

Network and offices overseas

We will develop our network of Government offices in Brussels, Washington DC, Toronto, Beijing, Dublin and London alongside Scottish Development International ( SDI ) offices spanning key markets. We will keep our collective overseas presence under review to ensure that we are best placed to meet current and future opportunities. This includes the doubling of SDI’s presence across Europe and building on our existing innovation and investment hubs in Dublin and London, opening hubs in Berlin and Paris and upgrading our presence in Toronto and Brussels.

These hubs bring together resources and partners to co-ordinate and deliver activity on the ground. They provide a platform for business and academia to access trade and investment opportunities, develop research and innovation collaborations and attract inward investment to Scotland.

In addition, the Government will engage with international partners on specific policy issues, as set out in relevant policy documents and in our Country Engagement Strategies for our five priority countries – the USA, Canada, China, India and Pakistan. Work in our priority countries is supplemented by increased engagement with Japan.

Overseas visits

We will use our diplomatic and cultural capital to build strong international bilateral relationships. This will be supported by a programme of Ministerial activity and overseas visits focused on those organisations, individuals and platforms that can make a real difference to achieving our ambitions.

Visits, such as those undertaken by the First Minister to the United States in April 2017 and the Minister for International Development and Europe to Norway in February 2017 and Latvia in September 2017, showcased Scotland’s innovative technologies and our climate change and renewable energy credentials. They also deepen Ministerial engagement with priority countries such as India, China and Japan and build on previous in-country programmes. As always, future visits will be tailored to strengthen our links on trade, investment, education and culture. We will seek to pool resources and work jointly inside and outside government when developing overseas trade missions and visits.


We published our updated Nordic Baltic Policy Statement in September 2017. Since the Statement was launched in 2014, we have built our relations, focusing on knowledge exchange, for example our ‘Baby Box’ Policy inspired by the Finnish model. The Minister for International Development and Europe visited Estonia in November 2016 and Norway in February 2017. To encourage policy exchange within broader civic society, we have continued our support of the Nordic Horizons group and VisitScotland agreed in 2016 to share information and best practice with the Icelandic Tourist Board.

We continue to develop Scotland’s relationship with the Arctic Region. In March 2017, we submitted evidence to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee on Scotland and the High North and the First Minister visited Iceland in October 2016 and 2017, delivering keynote speeches at the Arctic Circle Assembly. In November 2017 we hosted an Arctic Circle Forum entitled ‘ Scotland and the New North’ in Edinburgh to further develop relations between Scottish organisations and international partnerships on economic issues.

Priority Countries

North America

North America’s economic scale, relative ease of market access and role in inward and capital investment make it key to Scotland’s trade and investment future. Following on from the First Minister’s visits to the USA in 2015 and April 2017 and the Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work’s visit to North America in October 2017, future visits programmes will seek to capitalise on this opportunity.

Our refreshed US and Canada Engagement Strategies make the most of existing connections while broadening relationships in emerging areas of cooperation. In our engagement with both the US and Canada, we will focus on key areas identified in our Trade & Investment Strategy. This engagement will be part of a wider effort to develop stronger relationships throughout the Americas, assessing where the most productive long-term opportunities for Scotland lie.


China is the world’s most populous country and is undergoing rapid social change, with increasing influence on the global stage. It is Scotland’s 14th largest export market and recently became a top five source of inward investment to Scotland.

Our China Engagement Strategy, due to be revised in Spring 2018, builds on the great progress in our bilateral relationship across government and with the business, education and cultural communities and civil society. Respect for human rights and the rule of law remains one of the four guiding principles of that Strategy.

Almost all higher education institutes have links to Chinese institutions and we welcome a growing number of Chinese students – the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s diploma programme is the largest foreign higher education programme in China.

In July 2015 the First Minister renewed our commitment to greater collaboration across the arts, creative industries, heritage and national collections. Both China and Scotland recognise innovation is key to a strong, sustainable and inclusive economy and we relish the opportunity for mutual learning as we move towards low carbon energy and environmental protection.


India is the world’s largest democracy and possesses an unrivalled youth demographic. Scotland has expertise in areas of priority for India, such as education, skills, data, energy and water.

Our India Engagement Strategy commits us to a partnership with mutual benefit – allowing both countries to achieve their goals, whilst reducing inequality. Engagement with Indian national and state governments, the academic, business and cultural communities and civil society can strengthen sustainable and inclusive economic growth for both parties. Crucially, we want to connect with young Indians to show them what contemporary Scotland has to offer and, in doing so, open equivalent opportunities for Scottish students.


Pakistan occupies a geopolitically important location, with an increasing urban and young population. Scotland is home to a large and vibrant Pakistani community, many of whom maintain close links in Pakistan. Their contribution to Scotland – culturally, economically and socially – is significant, and their experience, celebrated through the Colourful Heritage project, leads them to play a valued role in public life.

Scotland’s new Pakistan Engagement Strategy recognises the need for specific, appropriate and collaborative activity focused on trade, investment and enterprise; education and skills; water and energy; and culture and heritage. These reflect Pakistan’s priorities and, matched with Scotland’s expertise, offer scope for mutual learning and sharing of knowledge.


Japan is one of the world’s largest economies, a leader in science, technology and innovation and home to many of the world’s leading global companies. Many Japanese businesses have a long-standing relationship with Scotland, making significant investments in important sectors such as energy, life sciences and manufacturing. We will continue to support their activity and encourage Scottish companies to seek out opportunities in Japan, building on regular Scottish Ministerial visits since 2009. Recent engagement has included increasing collaboration on marine resource development and subsea technologies.

Scotland has strong historical and cultural connections with Japan, collaborating on traditional and contemporary performing arts and the management of industrial heritage. The Rugby World Cup in 2019 and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020 will be valuable opportunities to showcase Scotland and to encourage Scots to develop their understanding of Japan.

Good Global Citizenship

We are proud of, and committed to, Scotland’s reputation as a good global citizen in an increasingly connected world, making a unique contribution to the international community.

Ethical Leadership

Scotland is a country that can have a positive voice, offering ethical leadership on global issues, including human rights, tackling poverty and inequality, sustainable and inclusive development, fair trade, climate change and climate justice.

All of our international engagement is guided by our commitment to the universally-recognised values enshrined in international human rights treaties. We will act in ways that respect, protect and realise human rights and promote equality, fairness and social justice and respect for both human dignity and the rule of law. We recognise that our commitment to progressive values cannot stop at our national borders. Scotland not only accepts, but embraces, our responsibility to act as a good global citizen and to promote and support best practice internationally.

Practical, front-line delivery of our progressive values, including championing human rights, will be matched by participation in international mechanisms, in particular via the United Nations and Council of Europe. We are committed to reporting via such bodies on Scotland’s own performance. As a good global citizen it is incumbent on Scotland to model the standards we ask others to meet.

The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals ( the Global Goals) set the framework for a global approach between now and 2030, applying to all countries equally, including Scotland. In announcing Scotland’s intention to sign up for the Global Goals, the First Minister made a dual commitment to tackle poverty and inequality domestically in Scotland and to contribute internationally to help developing countries grow in a fair and sustainable manner. That leadership has been welcomed both in Scotland and overseas.

Our pledge to implement the Global Goals domestically is being fulfilled through the National Performance Framework ( NPF ) and the Scottish National Action Plan on Human Rights ( SNAP ). Our pledge for Scotland to contribute internationally to implementation of the Global Goals is taken forward through our international development work.

Scotland is considered a world leader in social enterprise and, as a good global citizen, takes this leadership responsibility seriously. The Social Enterprise World Forum was first launched in Scotland in 2008 and has since been held across the globe, providing a platform for global conversation and shared learning on best practice in social enterprise practice and policy.

In September 2017, the Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities travelled to the Social Enterprise World Forum in Christchurch, New Zealand, to talk about Scotland’s world leading ecosystem of support for social enterprise, but also to receive the social enterprise ‘baton’ in advance of the Social Enterprise World Forum returning to Edinburgh in 2018. This event will provide a further opportunity to demonstrate Scotland’s excellence in this field on a world stage and share our learning with a global audience.

International Development

International development is a key part of Scotland’s global contribution. It embodies our core values of fairness and equality. As a good global citizen, we have much to contribute in tackling poverty, injustice and inequality.

‘Global Citizenship: Scotland’s International Development Strategy’ was published in December 2016 and will guide Scotland’s contribution to the Global Goals between now and 2030. At the forefront of our efforts is our International Development Fund, whose main aim is to support and empower our partner countries: Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan.

Our funding supports grassroots development through a range of Scotland based organisations including NGOs, health boards, local authorities and other public sector bodies, working with local organisations in our partner countries.

Our commitment to support our partner countries as they move toward developing sustainable economic growth has seen us establish an Investment Initiative for Malawi, with £1 million match funded by the private sector.

We support peer to peer knowledge-sharing and we are funding Police Scotland to work with their counterparts under our sub-Saharan Africa programme. Under the Hydro Nation agenda, the Scottish and Malawian Governments are working together on water resource management, governance and legislation. With our partners Beyond Borders, we are supporting the Women in Conflict 1325 Fellowship. By 2021 this will enable at least 250 women from conflict-affected countries to hone the skills and confidence to maximise their contribution to building a safer world.

Our International Development Fund is supplemented by a new £1 million per annum Humanitarian Emergency Fund from Spring 2017 and an increased Climate Justice Fund of at least £3 million per year for the next five years and supported by Scotland’s access to the Global Challenges Research Fund ( GCRF ) to support development-related research. We are increasingly shaping our international development work around the ‘Beyond Aid’ agenda. This recognises that some of the greatest benefits to the world’s most vulnerable can come from policy changes which encourage good and fair choices by all relevant parties.

We have put Policy Coherence for Development ( PCD ) at the heart of this new approach, working across policy areas, and with global partners, to face the implications for developing countries of all Scotland’s actions: through a “do no harm” approach and through positive development contributions across policy areas.


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