Scotland's international policy statement 2017

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

Global Outlook

Enhancing Scotland’s global outlook focuses on embedding internationalisation in everything we do, using a coherent, unified approach to promote the exchange of knowledge and provide targeted support so the people of Scotland are equipped to capitalise on global opportunities.

University research and knowledge exchange

Our universities have a world-leading reputation for the impact of their research in areas such as life sciences, medical research, cultural industries, energy, informatics and quantum technology. Science and research are increasingly international pursuits and we want Scotland’s universities to be able to respond to international challenges and opportunities. We remain committed to collaborating with international partners and we want Scotland to be a country where talented researchers from across the world come together to explore and address issues for the benefit of our society and the wider world.

Scotland’s network of Innovation Centres brings together universities and businesses in transformational collaborations that place Scotland at the forefront of global innovation activity. We will work with the Centres to ensure that their international potential is fully realised.

We support Scottish universities’ collaboration in Connected Scotland, a partnership to develop opportunities worldwide for student recruitment, the delivery of Scottish education overseas, and research. Investment in our universities through the Scottish Funding Council is supporting this international research collaboration.

Scotland’s National Academy, the Royal Society of Edinburgh ( RSE ), makes an important contribution to the Scottish Government’s strategic objectives through a diverse programme of visits, exchanges and joint projects and research collaborations. The RSE extends and helps strengthen Scotland’s partnerships and diplomatic relations through agreements and collaborations with sister academies across the world, including the Chinese Academy of Sciences and networks such as ALLEA , the European Federation of Academies of Sciences and Humanities, which brings together 59 Academies in more than 40 countries across Europe.


Inward migration is vital to meeting Scotland’s economic, demographic and cultural needs: population growth is the biggest driver of economic growth in Scotland today and migration is essential for the sustainability of Scotland’s population growth.

While immigration is reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government believes that continuing free movement of persons is in the best interests of Scotland and the UK as a whole. We do not believe that a restrictive model which limits free movement is in Scotland’s, or the UK’s, interests. Furthermore, for migration from outside the EU it is clear that a one-size fits all approach does not meet Scotland’s needs. There is a clear case for a differentiated migration system that recognises the different needs across the UK.

We will publish proposals on a future migration policy for Scotland better suited to our circumstances and needs. This will outline Scottish Ministers’ policy of removing Scotland from the net migration target and describe an approach that ensures a welcoming environment for new Scots and their families.

We will continue to work to address the negative rhetoric around migration and to support unaccompanied child refugees and others through the Syrian Resettlement Programme and our ‘New Scots’ strategy.


Globalisation creates opportunities in Scotland. The interconnectedness of people, trade, finance & data and new means & methods, as well as speed of communication and transfer of knowledge, can be productive for the economy and for communities. However, these developments can expose Scotland, as well as many other countries around the world, to new vulnerabilities. The global nature of these vulnerabilities has extended our field of vision beyond Scotland’s borders.

We are committed to learning from international partners, collaborating to understand how we can protect our essential services and critical infrastructure from emerging risks, including natural hazards and extreme weather events, and sharing our practice and expertise in tackling serious and organised crime and other policing challenges. Additionally, we remain committed to participate in and share our experience and approach in EU-wide projects as well as collaborative initiatives and networks within regions of Europe and more widely internationally. We will scope all the options available to us to maintain and enhance solidarity and support networks – such as the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and associated European Response and Coordination Centre – as, by pooling together resources and capabilities, we can both better protect our people and help others in achieving much more than a single country can do by acting alone.

We will seek to further strengthen our relationships with European and international partners through opportunities to share our expertise and learning with practitioners from around the world who may be facing similar challenges to develop a shared approach for shared outcomes. We will also continue and explore opportunities to engage with EU and international research programmes (such as Horizon 2020) to support research projects and operational applications so that we can maintain and enhance our preparedness to future challenges.

This will allow us to bring to bear the unique Scottish legal system, including the role of the Lord Advocate and the Crown Office Procurator Fiscal Services, and contribute to the global effort among international partners to tackle dynamic threats such as those in cyberspace that can impact on Scotland’s citizens, its businesses and its public services.


There are global benefits in improving health worldwide. Under the Chief Medical Officer’s auspice, a new Scottish Global Health Collaborative ( SGHC ) has been formed as an “inclusive multidisciplinary and cross-sectoral network established to promote greater coherence, coordination, collaboration and communication in Scotland’s global health activities.” There is also evidence that involvement in global health can benefit the Scottish population through a reinvigorated, self-sufficient, innovative and productive workforce. In 2017, the Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians Glasgow launched their Report ‘Global Citizenship in the Scottish Health Service’. We are committed to work closely with partners across NHSScotland to consider its recommendations, including a pilot Scottish Centre for Global Health.

Scotland has a globally recognised track record in health related research and development, delivered in collaboration between the Scottish Government’s Chief Scientist Office (Health), NHSScotland, academia, industry and charities. We see health and social care as a key driver of global collaboration on research and innovation, through the development of strategic partnerships with health systems and their academic partners in our priority markets in areas including precision medicine, big data and clinical research/clinical trials. An information sharing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with British Columbia is already in place. The Scottish Government are also one of a number of partners working with the Estonian Government on the Digital Health Society Declaration.

Climate Change

Scotland is continuing its very strong contribution to international action on climate change, a key part of our contribution to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Scotland has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by over 40% since 1990 and we will phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2032.

Climate action is important for Scotland itself and, as a part of our international development ‘Beyond Aid’ agenda, to mitigate the global north’s impact on the poorest and most vulnerable people in developing countries in the global south.

We are going beyond this ‘do no harm’ approach, however, to contribute to international development outcomes by supporting off-grid community energy projects in Malawi and a staff assignment to help develop Malawi’s renewable energy strategy. Following up on our £1 million support for the UN Paris Agreement Capacity Building for Transparency Initiative, and £2.5 million Hydro Nation funding for Water Futures in Malawi, we will continue to deliver the First Minister’s pledge to the Paris climate conference to provide £3 million each year through our climate justice programmes. This includes our new Climate Challenge Programme Malawi and Climate Justice Innovation Fund which announced its first six projects in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda in September 2017.

In 2017 we signed a letter of cooperation with the State of California to provide practical support to the Under 2 Coalition of high ambition states, regions and cities worldwide which now covers over a billion people and over a third of the global economy.


Scotland is a global knowledge hub for energy exploration and production, power system engineering and a host of modern renewable energy technologies and systems, placing us at the forefront of the challenge to decarbonise the global economy. Scotland’s expertise and leadership was recognised when then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon asked the First Minister to support the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All ( SE4All) initiative.

Scotland is at the forefront of the development of offshore renewable technologies and is home to the world’s leading wave and tidal test centre, the world’s largest planned tidal stream array and the world’s largest tidal turbine. Additionally, in collaboration with the Norwegian state-owned energy firm Statoil, the world’s largest floating offshore wind farm Hywind has been built 25km off the east coast of Scotland.

The global market for low carbon goods and services is also growing, spurred by major investments in low carbon technologies in rapidly developing economies such as China, India, Mexico and South Africa. Scotland will strive to build upon its reputation to capitalise on this expanding market.

Hydro Nation

To maximise the value of our water resources, Scotland: The Hydro Nation must help our water sector identify and respond to international opportunities, growing networks and awareness of our capacity and reputation for research excellence, exporting Scotland’s expertise in governance and delivering projects with partners in key territories to support our objectives. This is evidenced by the University of Dundee hosting the UNESCO Centre for Water Law, Policy and Science.

We work with organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ( OECD ) and other advocacy bodies, to bring Scotland’s knowledge and experience to key water challenges and policy development. We are establishing Hydro Nation International ( HNI ) to grow better networks across Scotland to respond to international challenges and opportunities.


Investing in Scotland’s people is key to developing the skills and tools they need to engage effectively with the world around them. Prioritising modern language capability and international student exchange, including for school teachers and pupils, will create a more highly skilled population, better placed to participate in an increasingly global society and economy. In turn, this provides visitors and investors coming to Scotland with the confidence to operate in a destination which increasingly speaks their language.

Published in 2016, our strategy Delivering excellence and equity in Scottish Education underlines the importance of developing the provision of language skills within education. We see language learning as key to achieving a more successful Scotland and remain committed to creating the opportunity for every child in Scotland to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue, in accordance with the “1+2” European model of language learning. By 2021, every child will begin to learn an additional language when they start Primary One (age 5) and a second from Primary Five at the latest (age 9). In addition this will embed the learning about cultures other than our own within every child’s school education.


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