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.

Visiting Scotland – Haste Ye Back

Tourism is one of Scotland’s most important industries, creating wealth and jobs and strengthening our international reputation. In 2019, almost 3.5 million people visited Scotland from around the world.[18] The majority of visitors came on holiday, with a significant number visiting friends and relatives, and more than 350,000 people travelling for business. The latest insights from the International Passenger Survey[19] indicates that visitor numbers have recovered throughout 2022, with figures for Q3 (Jul-Sept 2022) showing that Scotland out-performed the rest of the UK.

The industry-led national tourism strategy Scotland Outlook 2030: Responsible Tourism For A Sustainable Future[20] was launched in 2020. It sets out a vision for Scotland to be “the world leader in 21st century tourism”, including a commitment to provide high-quality, memorable experiences that benefit visitors. Encouraging people to visit Scotland forms one of the key pillars of our Brand Scotland partnership approach.

Our visitors

People choose to visit Scotland for many and varied reasons. VisitScotland research has consistently shown that Scotland’s traditionally recognised attributes – scenery and landscapes, and history and culture – are the strongest motivations for choosing to visit. The proportion of people citing these factors is higher than average when it comes to North America and Australasia, which have the highest numbers of Scottish diaspora.

These reasons are often given by our international students too, when they are asked why they chose to study in Scotland. Those who study here often develop a deep affinity for Scotland, leading them to make return visits themselves, and to encourage their friends and family to visit and develop their own love of the country.


One of the primary ways the Scottish Government supports tourism is through the sponsorship of VisitScotland, Scotland’s national tourism organisation. VisitScotland leads a range of activities to encourage tourism to Scotland, and provides information for visitors while they are here.

Ancestral or diaspora tourism features as an integral part of VisitScotland campaigns. These have been consciously broadened in recent years to reach younger travellers, including those with ancestral links. VisitScotland will continue to engage with heritage diaspora to illustrate the rich experience of exploring their ancestry, as well as encouraging diaspora groups to act as ambassadors, spreading these messages more widely to their members, followers, and wider personal networks.

VisitScotland also works with commercial tourism in-market such as tour operators and travel agents, providing them with tools and information to help inspire bookings to Scotland.

Heritage and ancestry

Many visitors identify their Scottish heritage as a key motivation for choosing to travel to Scotland. In VisitScotland surveys, between a quarter and a third of visitors to Scotland from the US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand cite their ancestry as the main reason, or at least one of the reasons, for choosing to travel.[21]

Post-pandemic travel has seen an emerging trend of people using travel advisors to organise their trips; a desire for more meaningful travel; and multi-generational trips, all of which fit well with encouraging ancestral tourism visits.

Working collaboratively with VisitScotland, we will encourage those with Scottish heritage to travel here and explore their own history. Through our digital offering, we will highlight tourism opportunities in Scotland with a heritage link.

Our national tourism strategy commits to help people explore more of Scotland while they are visiting. We will work with the National Records of Scotland to encourage use of the ScotlandsPeople website – promoting the opportunity for heritage Scots to trace local records and ‘follow in the footsteps’ of their ancestors while visiting Scotland. We will also continue to work with public bodies including Historic Environment Scotland and National Museums Scotland, which play a vital part in maintaining and educating visitors about our heritage sites and artefacts.

We will collaborate with partners – and where applicable, our International Network of offices – to continue to engage with key heritage events around the world such as New York Tartan Week, using these gatherings as an opportunity to promote Scotland as a tourism destination.

Cultural tourism

Whether the traditional or more pioneering aspects of Scotland – or a combination of both – culture is a theme that runs through most tourist itineraries. Our cultural appeal is twofold – both Scotland’s heritage, and our dynamic arts and cultural scene, bring visitors to Scotland.

Our thriving summer festivals attract a huge number of visitors, creating an affinity diaspora of performers and contributors. Cultural moments including St Andrew’s Day, Hogmanay and Burns Night not only encourage visitors but are celebrated internationally by those with a connection to Scotland.

In recent years, film and literature have emerged as key drivers for tourism. Screen Scotland estimated that in 2019, 656,000 overnight visits in Scotland were linked to screen tourism, generating nearly £65m for the Scottish economy.[22] VisitScotland research has shown that the films and TV shows most quoted by visitors are those with strong Scottish connections: Braveheart, Highlander, Outlander and Shetland, while others such as Skyfall and Marvel’s Avengers are known for their inclusion of Scottish film locations.

From traditional haggis to sustainable gin, food and drink are a key part of Scotland’s culture. Aligning with the Food Tourism Action plan, we will showcase the varied opportunities for visitors to experience a true taste of Scotland – from restaurants to distilleries to farm shops.

Whether people share our heritage themselves, or have developed a strong affinity to our arts, music, or traditions, Scotland’s diaspora communities are passionate about culture. Through VisitScotland and the wider Brand Scotland partnership, we will capitalise on these cultural opportunities to encourage people from across the world to explore their own Scottish connections.

Homecoming and themed years

Homecoming 2009 and Homecoming 2014 were two year-long events held to celebrate Scotland, led by the Scottish Government and VisitScotland along with a wide range of partners across Scotland.[23] Together, the events generated around £190m for the Scottish economy.

The “themed years” tourism and marketing approach – formed after the success of Homecoming 2009 – is designed to drive the sustainable economic growth of Scotland’s tourism and events industries. Through co-ordinated national activity, it spotlights some of Scotland’s greatest assets such as Scottish arts, culture, food and drink, nature, activities, history, and ancestry.

A second “year of homecoming” was designated in 2014, while recent themed years include the Year of Coasts and Waters (2020-21) and Scotland’s Year of Stories 2022.

The Outlander Effect

With stunning mountains, lochs, islands, historic cities, and castles, Scotland’s locations have played a starring role in a wealth of productions.

A series of novels and short stories by author Diana Gabaldon gave Scotland a boost on the world stage when they were adapted for the TV series Outlander, which launched in 2014. Production is based in Scotland, prompting visitors from across the world to join the increasing trend of “set-jetting” by visiting the film locations and real life historic sites featured in the show, and for many, to more purposefully explore their connections with Scotland.

The Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University, through their Visitor Attractions Monitor, revealed that from the start of Outlander broadcasts in 2014 through to 2020, visitor numbers at 23 Outlander-related attractions throughout Scotland rose by an average of 19%. In 2014 overall visitor numbers numbers at these 23 attractions totalled 1.47 million. By 2020, the total number of visitors had increased to 3.2 million. Being a location for Outlander also led to additional benefits for sites, including the opportunity to develop of new products and themed events, and interest from other productions. The varied filming locations means that economic benefits have been distributed throughout Scotland.

Outlander has also played a hugely valuable role in the growth of the screen sector in Scotland, including through talent development.

Supported by Screen Scotland, the Outlander training programme was established to foster TV production skills training for young people to help them progress in the film industry. Traineeships are offered in many creative and technical roles, helping young people to get a start in the sector.



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