Publication - Research and analysis

The Scottish Diaspora and Diaspora Strategy: Insights and Lessons from Ireland

Published: 29 May 2009

In both Scotland and Ireland sustained attention is now being given to the potential benefits which might flow from renewing and refreshing relationships with overseas diasporic populations. The objective of the report is to contribute to the development of such thinking by identifying and reflecting upon Scotland's approach to its diaspora relative to its Irish counterpart.

The Scottish Diaspora and Diaspora Strategy: Insights and Lessons from Ireland


5.1 There are clear constitutional differences between Scotland and Ireland. Whilst it is obvious that stronger international branding creates a greater sense of global presence and contributes to nation building and diaspora building, it is clearly a matter of debate whether the differential constitutional status of Scotland helps or hinders its capacity to formulate a diaspora strategy. Unlike Scotland, Ireland is an independent state and in principal has legal sovereignty over the setting of taxes, the allocation of all state expenditure, the establishment of law, order, and defence, and the setting of international relations. Scotland in contrast has historically been a full member of the United Kingdom and subject to the British Parliamentary system. Since 1999, it has had its own parliament with full authority over most public services and a limited amount of power to vary tax levels. A number of key reserved powers however remain at the British level including the governance of both emigration (consular and embassy services) and immigration (immigration policy, rules and systems). In addition, whilst Scottish Development International and Scottish Enterprise have overseas offices, the Irish Development Agency and Enterprise Ireland would appear to have a more extensive international presence.

5.2 Beyond the powers invested in state institutions, the methodologies adopted by states when engaging with diasporic populations is also of critical importance. Scotland chooses to present itself as a Celtic Lion, in waiting to match and perhaps surpass the achievements of the Celtic Tiger. What does it mean to aspire to the status of a Tiger or Lion economy? Whilst for Scotland the Celtic Lion appellant might mean little more than an aspiration to achieve world class rates of economic growth, for Ireland the concept of Tigerhood is taken more seriously to imply a commitment to a certain kind of state and certain kind of approach to policy making. What are the defining features of Tiger states? Can anything be read into Ireland's alignment with the label 'Tiger'? If so, how do Tiger states implement diaspora policy and what might Scotland learn, if anything, from such a modus operandi?

5.3 Most commentators trace the label Tiger to the economies of the Pacific Asian region. This region has been witness to three waves of world class economic growth, with Japan pioneering the first wave, the four 'dragon economies' of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore taking up the mantle in the second, and finally, the three South East Asian 'cubs' of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia rising to announce the third wave. Subsequently, the economic success enjoyed by Vietnam, Myanmar, and China has been taken to constitute a fourth wave. Beyond Pacific Asia lie a number of other contenders. Whilst Brazil, Mexico, and India have sought to claim Tigerhood for some time, more recently countries as diverse as Ireland and Israel, and even Chile, Mauritius, and Botswana have attracted the label.

5.4 What have these countries got in common? As the label 'Tiger' increasingly came to be associated with Ireland so too its growth strategy has come to be compared with its Pacific Asian counterparts. According to Sean O'Riain 11 this comparison is useful as Irish economic growth was marshalled by a type of developmental state that derives from the same family of command capitalism practised in the dragon economies. In place of the highly centralised and interventionist roles played by state technocrats in Pacific Asia however, the Irish state has operated with a more flexible and decentralised command structure and has exercised a much lighter touch. O'Riain argues that whilst the Pacific Asian economies are characterised by a bureaucratic developmental state, Ireland has grown under the governance of a new type of flexible developmental state or developmental networked state.

5.5 The flexible developmental state concept recognizes five ways in which states might intervene to promote the development of business. These are:

Absent - Beyond its legal obligations the state withdraws and allows the market to dictate business opportunities.

Custodian - The state provides protection for business start ups, policing and regulating infant industries.

Midwife - The state attracts private enterprises into new sectors.

Husbandry - The state teaches, cultivates, nurtures, and prods entrepreneurial forces that have already been activated.

Demiurge - The state has direct involvement in productive activities, often with the intention of denationalizing later.

5.6 According to O'Riain, as a flexible developmental state, the Irish state performs more midwifery or husbandry functions. It does so through the principal of 'embedded autonomy', networking within the business community and placing state interests into business networks whilst remaining outside of the business community and its imperatives. The Irish state is a light state in terms of the number of civil servants per capita and consequently has honed a talent for building capacity and working in partnership with the business community, trade unions, the voluntary sector, and civil society. Embedded autonomy has served as a useful strategy for getting things done without orchestrating or determining in an overly centralized fashion.

5.7 Whether Scotland can be classified as a developmental state and indeed whether it aspires to such a classification is beyond the scope of this report. What is relevant nevertheless, is the application of this approach to diaspora policy. When applied to diaspora policy this typology leads to at least five different ways of engaging diasporic groups:

Absent - The state leaves the formation of links between the homeland and the diaspora to the market or to autonomous social, cultural and political movements.

Custodian - The state nurtures, protects, regulates, and polices new and emerging diasporic connections.

Midwife - The stateidentifies new sectors and locations it wishes to connect with and mobilizes and cultivates key individuals and communities to make these connections happen.

Husbandry - The state reenergizes and rebrands existing networks and plays a formative role in the shaping the trajectory of networks.

Demiurge - The state directly creates and runs diasporic initiatives and networks, perhaps with the intention of letting the market assume responsibility at a later date.

5.8 From our discussions with Scottish and Irish managers of various diaspora schemes, and our analysis of policy documents, it seems that there is a discernible difference in the ethos and practices underpinning the administration of the various diaspora programmes. Both countries clearly have initiatives which have been instituted by organisations outside the state, either from the homeland or from the diaspora. Whilst important exceptions exist, in the Scottish case, where the state does get involved it functions largely as the lead player and most significant manager, whilst in the Irish case the state primarily seeks a midwifery or husbandry role lightly incubating existing initiatives or seeding new initiatives. Irish diaspora policy is more light in touch and consistent with its status as a flexible developmental state; meanwhile Scottish diaspora policy is more muscular and has a greater degree of state involvement at all stages of the process.

5.9 All the schemes that Scottish Government agencies engage with, as far as we are aware, are funded and managed by those agencies. The Scottish schemes are underpinned strongly by new managerial structures and processes that emphasise accountability, transparency, productivity and value for money. The Scottish Government initiatives are accompanied by defined targets and associated metrics for measuring progress and success. A scheme is therefore defined as a success or failure depending on how much economic value it can be demonstrated to have leveraged over a specific (usually very short) period. There is clearly an important rationale for moving to new forms of public administration and placing greater demands on measuring value for money and ensuring transparency and accountability in the expenditure of public funds. Democratic systems require public confidence in the efficiency of state run organisations. Nevertheless, such managerialism can circumscribe how schemes are conceived, structured and run, and for all its benefits may potentially limit the development of schemes that would have a multitude of intangible benefits.

5.10 The Irish schemes are slowly transferring to this form of managerialism, especially with regards to accountability and transparency of spend 12, but there remains a greater recognition of the intangible benefits gained by fostering an engagement with the diaspora and an appreciation of the timeframe over which dividends will be returned. Rather than manage a small set of highly controlled schemes, the Irish strategy has been 'to let a thousand flowers bloom'. To that end, Ireland supports existing organisations without seeking any control and encourages the development of new social networks run by the diaspora for the diaspora (using the diaspora's own resources). This approach uses of the ideas of light incubation and does practice forms of 'embedded autonomy' wherein the Irish state leaves an organisation/network to run itself, providing some minimal resources when needed (basic funding, advice, speakers, etc), and only steps in when the organisation/network needs to be re-energised.

5.11 The idea is to foster the organic growth of networks with as light a government input as possible. This is partly to keep investment at a low level, but is mainly because it is believed that organic networks are more likely to succeed than those that are highly managed. For instance, and with specific respect to business networks, Enterprise Ireland invests selective but light resources (some of which are in-kind rather than financial) into over sixty Irish business networks around the world. This strategy is believed to enhance a sense of Irish-mindedness across a very large number of business people and produces all kinds of tangible and intangible benefits that trickle back to Ireland through inward business investment, high quality economic or political advice, tourism visits, and philanthropy. The metrics used to assess this strategy focus on the quality and strength of the network, feedback from clients, number of quotations and contracts, but there is no rigid and robust economic metric. For Ireland, the challenge will be to find appropriate ways of undertaking more value for money assessments without calibrating measures of success so that they undermine the schemes they are intended to assess.