Scotland's international policy statement 2017

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

International attractiveness

Increasing Scotland’s attractiveness and ensuring the flow of new investment is a strategic priority. We continue to strengthen and enhance Scotland’s reputation, striving to be a leader in specific areas such as climate change and equality.

Tourism and Major Events

Our tourism industry presents Scotland’s face to the world, offering the welcome for which we are famous. Encouraging overseas visitors to experience the best that Scotland has to offer – spectacular landscapes, a rich history and heritage and our wonderful food and drink – boosts our international reputation and ensures that Scotland becomes a destination of first choice for visitors, near and far. Not only is tourism vital to Scotland’s economy and our second largest employer, but it showcases our country as a great place in which to study, live, work and invest. Tourism offers significant and growing opportunities for trade and investment, and we are actively supporting the sector to maximise opportunities for infrastructure and other investment.

Our tourism industry also demonstrates our ability to collaborate – with industry, public bodies and international partners – to make the most of our resources. To grow our visitor economy, we need to make new connections, expanding our direct air links and encouraging new and untapped markets.

We will identify new trends and untapped potential to ensure that Scotland retains its high-quality and creative offering, with something fresh and exciting for all visitors. We will also continue to remove those barriers, physical, social or otherwise, that prevent everyone who wishes from enjoying all that Scotland has to offer. Working with domestic and international partners, such as Visit Flanders, we will become a world leader in inclusive and accessible tourism.

With our national tourism body, VisitScotland, and our enterprise agencies, we are developing future opportunities to keep Scotland’s profile high on the world stage, maintaining links with the Scottish diaspora and extending our strategic partnerships internationally. Scotland is the perfect stage to host world class events: the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow and the 2019 Solheim Cup at Gleneagles are just two of the many highlights ahead.


Culture is fundamental to Scotland’s positive international reputation as an open, creative, welcoming and confident nation. Cultural engagement builds trust and strengthens our understanding of other nations and cultures.

Cultural Relations are a cornerstone of our international approach. Working in partnership with organisations such as Creative Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, The British Council, the international festivals and the National Performing Companies and Collections we ensure that Scotland is a distinctive and innovative cultural world leader. This is supported by the cultural contribution of our Higher Education sector, including the international prominence of the Glasgow School of Art and of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

Collectively, we promote and present Scotland’s contemporary and traditional cultures at home and through international exchanges and platforms. Our success is borne out through many examples, including Scotland’s profile at the Venice Biennale, the Lorient and Rudolstat music festivals, tours by our performing companies, Digital Scanning and conservation of historic sites and a strong relationship between Edinburgh’s International Children’s Festival and Japan.

This Government recognises the power of culture and creativity to engage across the world. Through international cultural engagement we ensure that we remain an open and tolerant nation sharing ideas and supporting cooperation, collaboration and co-creation. Innovation across our creative industries continues to open up new opportunities with other countries. Our historic environment plays a crucial role in promoting a positive image of Scotland and is a key driver of our international reputation. Many international visitors are attracted to Scotland each year by monuments such as our six World Heritage Sites and we have built productive collaborations with international partners to care for, protect and promote our shared heritage and enjoy partnerships with colleagues across the world.

While cultures are varied and distinct, culture is a universal way to welcome the world and to develop relationships across borders, opening doors to diplomatic engagement between political figures in a neutral space. The Edinburgh Festivals are testament to this, providing an international platform where political and artistic expression is welcomed and encouraged. Culture supports dialogue at national and international levels: this is why Scotland hosts the biennial International Culture Summit.

VisitScotland, Scottish Development International, the Scottish Government and Universities Scotland have united to develop one strategic and creative approach to promote Scotland as a great place to live, work, visit, study and invest. Pooling our resources, skills and budgets, we are creating together a strong, unified narrative, an integrated marketing programme and a dynamic digital platform which will allow Scotland to realise more fully additional income from overseas markets.

Diaspora and International Community

Scotland has an extensive and valued diaspora who, by sharing and celebrating Scottish successes, culture and traditions abroad, showcase Scotland to new audiences. We will work with the Scottish diaspora around the world through targeted engagement using our web presence, including This will forge connections across networks to unlock the role our diaspora can play in supporting our international ambitions.

Scotland also has a large, established international community and we welcome the contribution new Scots make to our economy and society. This remains unchanged – and indeed all the more important – following the EU referendum. Alongside our efforts to create more jobs in Scotland and develop the skills of our workforce, we must be able to attract and retain world-class talent to fill vacancies which cannot be filled by resident workers.

Trade and Investment

International trade and investment is central to our wider internationalisation, driving improvements in competitiveness and productivity, opening Scotland to new ideas and creating opportunities for individuals, businesses, universities and Scotland as a whole.

Our Trade and Investment Strategy for 2016-2021, ‘Global Scotland’, sets out a comprehensive action plan to boost Scotland’s international trade activity, including stimulating inward investment. Building on our status as the most attractive place in the UK for Foreign Direct Investment Projects outside of London, it outlines our approach to attracting Foreign Direct Investment and Capital and Risk Investment to Scotland including attracting new investors, building Scotland as a global innovation and investment hub and supporting existing investors to develop, grow and expand. The Strategy supports the twin goals of the Economic Strategy – increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality – and is underpinned by the much broader agenda for internationalisation set out in the International Framework.

In September 2016 we published ‘Internationalising Social Enterprise – A Strategy for Scotland’ which outlines support for social enterprises operating internationally and their role in global citizenship, trade, investment and education as part of our aspiration for international excellence, leadership and impact. This is delivered through our Action Plan 2017-20. Our Social Enterprise Academy is a leading example, supporting individuals, organisations and networks to grow strong social enterprises, teams and communities across the world, including in Pakistan and Malawi.

In June 2017 we published the report on Phase 2 of the Enterprise & Skills Review, setting out a range of actions to improve coordination of international activity across areas such as exports, inward investment and branding. These aim to bring greater coherence as we step up the pace of delivery of our Trade and Investment Strategy through activity such as the establishment of a new Board of Trade, the appointment of Trade Envoys to champion and represent Scotland’s export interests and the doubling of SDI’s presence across Europe, by ensuring a much stronger focus on co-ordinating international activity across the public and academic sectors to deliver maximum benefit for Scotland.

We will work constructively with the UK Government and the European Union to promote Scottish interests overseas and in international accords, including seeking assurances that the UK’s international footprint serves the needs and strengths of Scottish businesses and institutions.

Food and Drink

Scotland continues to enhance its reputation as a Land of Food and Drink, with an unrivalled diversity of high quality, premium products. Our food and drink exports – now worth £5.5 billion – continue to grow, with food exports alone up 111% since 2007. Our new strategy, ‘Ambition 2030’, seeks to double the value of the industry, with a continued focus on new and emerging export markets.

The Government will work with industry to showcase produce and connect suppliers with buyers, domestically and internationally.

Aquaculture is increasingly important to Scotland and we will look for opportunities to co-operate internationally, as evidenced by the Scotland-Norway Memorandum of Understanding for Aquaculture (2009). In 2015, we pledged to collaborate on sustainable management of the global salmon farming sector through a Joint Statement of Ministers in partnership with Norway, Chile, and Canada. Additionally, we met partners in Reykjavík in early 2017 to scope out a new Aquaculture Innovation Network for the Northern Periphery and Arctic. This initiative was led by the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre ( SAIC ).

Like other sectors which attract overseas investors, the salmon farming industry benefits from high Scottish production standards and provenance which help to maintain a market for higher value niche products. The ‘Aquaculture Growth to 2030’ Strategy, launched in late 2016, aims to double aquaculture’s contribution to the Scottish economy and support 18,000 jobs across the supply chain.


Scotland continues to be a highly attractive place to study and welcomes students from around the world. International students
make an important social, cultural and economic contribution and add to the diversity of our communities, enriching the learning experience and supporting local businesses and jobs. Student mobility raises the profile of Scotland as a place to live, work and study in key overseas markets and showcases the best of Scottish higher education.

We provide funding to a number of mobility programmes to ensure that students from Scottish universities and colleges have the opportunity to study and work overseas, and to allow students from other countries to come to Scotland. This includes the International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience ( IAESTE ) which is run by the British Council using Scottish Government funding and promotes outward and inward student mobility. This is also supported by the ‘Scotland’s Universities Welcome the World’ campaign.

Connected Scotland also has a key role to play in ensuring a collaborative approach by universities and other key stakeholders in international marketing and attracting international students.


GlobalScot serves as Scotland’s unique global network to help Scottish companies access markets overseas. Created in 2001, GlobalScot works in partnership with Scottish Development International, Scottish Enterprise and agencies across Scotland and around the world to provide advice, assistance and expertise to Scottish businesses that are planning to export, offering links across 51 countries.

Physical and Digital Infrastructure

We will continue to strengthen our domestic infrastructure to increase Scotland’s international attractiveness. This includes investing in our transport links and air connectivity which facilitate trade, tourism and investment.

Scotland is served by direct flights to over 30 countries. We are committed to improving long-haul connectivity, including new direct routes to China, India and West Coast USA. We are working closely with Scotland’s airports and airlines to move Scotland’s international air connections to the next level.

The devolution of Air Passenger Duty allows us to better support sustainable growth by improving international connectivity. Our aim is to reduce the burden of the Air Departure Tax by 50%, and to abolish the tax completely when resources allow.

As well as physical connections, digital connectivity and broadband will unlock economic growth and help tackle inequality. ‘Realising Scotland’s Full Potential in a Digital World: A Digital Strategy for Scotland’ was released in March 2017, committing us to deliver world-class digital connectivity across the whole of Scotland by 2021 as part of our ‘Reaching 100%’ programme. This will support the creation, growth and transformation of businesses better able to connect and compete with their international peers.


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