Scottish Connections Framework

This Framework sets out a cohesive and cross-cutting approach to diaspora engagement. It outlines a series of commitments and ambitions to strengthen and expand our relationships with, and between, Scotland’s international communities, and expand on existing work with our established networks.

Picturing and Understanding Scotland’s Diaspora

The true scale of Scotland’s diaspora is unknown. Scots have traversed the globe for centuries. Their descendants are many and a key characteristic of the Scottish diaspora has been people’s ability to assimilate and integrate into their local communities. Estimates suggest that upwards of 40 million[5] people around the world consider themselves to have Scottish ancestry. Many more will be unaware of their heritage, and some – for good reason – will have complex views about it.

But our diaspora goes beyond bloodlines. We value anyone who has, or wants to have, a connection with Scotland. The Scottish Government’s definition of “diaspora” is therefore broad and welcoming. Just as we consider Scots as being people who were born here, who have lived here, or have paid us the compliment of choosing to live here, so do we consider our diaspora to be self-selecting and inclusive.

That is why we use the term “Scottish Connections”. We want to embrace and encourage just that – connections with and between people linked to Scotland around the globe.

Scotland’s diaspora includes:

  • people of Scottish heritage – by ancestry, marriage or other family connection, however distant. They may belong to St Andrew’s or Caledonian Societies or other explicitly Scottish-themed organisations, or have no connection other than their own history.
  • our lived diaspora – those who came to live in Scotland at any time for any reason. This means those born in Scotland and who later emigrated, or equally those born elsewhere who have returned home or moved elsewhere after a period working in Scotland.
  • our educational diaspora – alumni of Scottish educational institutions, and Scots studying or working in international institutions. Our international alumni network is substantial: some 82,0006[6] international students entrust Scotland’s world-leading ancient and modern universities and colleges with their education each year, creating a community of educated professionals in 180 countries. Scottish students, academics, and researchers at international institutions help to increase awareness of Scotland, even if studying or working there for a short time.
  • affinity – those who feel a connection to Scotland, who may be active through cultural, linguistic, friendship, or professional links, or who may simply be attracted to Scotland’s heritage or culture.

We want to include them all.

Our approach to diaspora will be inclusive and reflect our commitment to the promotion of equality, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We will deliberately reach out to historically marginalised communities and groups, such as minority ethnic Scots and our LGBTQ community, and will promote women’s and young people’s participation. Our International Network of offices will have Scottish Connections objectives with inclusiveness and equality in diaspora relations at their core.

In progressing this policy, we will be confronted with uncomfortable truths, which we must face with humility and a willingness to listen, learn, and heal. Scotland cannot shy away from its past. In reaching out to our heritage diaspora, we must acknowledge our history, both positive and negative, especially Scots’ involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, empire, and colonialism.

In recognising that Scots were themselves forced to emigrate as victims of the Clearances, we must also understand the impact of our historical outward migration on indigenous populations in their countries of destination, an impact which recent debates show are keenly felt today.

We will therefore work with appropriate academic partners to better understand Scots’ involvement in these chapters in our history.

Genealogy and heritage

Having Scottish heritage or ancestry is a primary reason that many of our diaspora engage with Scotland. Whether their link to the homeland is seen as something current or historical, there is a keen curiosity from many to investigate their genealogy and family history.

National Records of Scotland (NRS) is one of Scotland’s five national collections, holding records spanning the 12th to the 21st centuries and touching on virtually every aspect of Scottish life. Its ScotlandsPeople website[7] provides a wealth of information, with over 25 million images of records so people can explore their personal Scottish history.

Within the ScotlandsPeople resource, users from anywhere in the world can discover many different records of people’s lives – tracking their own family history or learning about aspects of life in Scotland in years gone by. Ancestral tourists can visit the ScotlandsPeople centre in Edinburgh or one of the Local Family History Centres across the country as part of a visit to Scotland.

NRS has worked to develop a range of resources to support use of ScotlandsPeople and access to its archives. National Records of Scotland will continue to prioritise developing online and digital resources to help people from around the world engage with their records and services.

We will work with NRS and other organisations like the Scottish Council on Archives to promote their services to diaspora wishing to undertake genealogical research.



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