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

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.


8.1 Given constitutional, economic, demographic and managerial differences, variances in the nature of their respective diaspora and the level of their nation-mindedness, and differing social, economic, cultural and demographic trajectories it is perhaps no surprise that the Irish and Scottish existing diaspora policies and concrete projects of engagement are relatively dissimilar. These differences can be categorised in terms of support for overseas populations, business networks and ties, policies towards returnees, policies towards affinity diaspora, philanthropy, and the social and cultural building of the diaspora. Using these categories, Table 3 provides an overview of the main differences between both countries.

Table 3 - Summary of Scottish and Irish State supported diaspora policies




UK Department of Foreign Affairs: Foreign & Commonwealth Office

Department of Foreign Affairs - Irish Abroad Unit

Political representation abroad through network of British embassies and consulates around the world

Network of embassies and consulates around the world

Participation in EU, UN, WHO, OECD and OECD

Participation in EU, UN, WHO, OECD and OECD

British Council

Díon, the Irish Government's advisory committee on Irish emigrant welfare in Britain

The Department of Education and Science - overseas child abuse victim redress

Irish Council for Prisoners Overseas

The Emigrant Advice Network (Éan)

The Department of Social and Family Affairs


Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International ( SDI)

Enterprise Ireland, Industrial Development Agency ( IDA) Ireland

Specialist Knowledge Networks : Specialist sectoral interests within within Global

Specialist Knowledge Networks : the Irish Technology Leadership Group, Biolink USA-Ireland, Techlink UK-Ireland

Professional Knowledge Networks : Scots in London/ScotsIn: the Scottish Business and People Network ( )

Professional Knowledge Networks : Irish Network New York, Irish Network San Francisco, Irish Professional Network of London

Transnational Business Networks : "British-other nationality" business associations, work of Scottish Council for Development and Industry ( SCDI) and Scottish Development International ( SDI)

Transnational Business Networks : "Irish-other nationality" business associations

Global Knowledge Networks : Globalscot and The SaltireFoundation

Global Knowledge Networks : Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum, The Ireland Funds.


Fresh Talent Initiative's Relocation Advisory Service and TalentScotland

FÁS sponsored international recruitment fairs

The web portal

The Emigrant Advice Network (Éan)

Homecoming Scotland 2009 campaign

Safe Home

Crosscare Migrant Project (Emigrant Advice)

The Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government - voluntary housing capital assistance scheme


Scottish Networks International ( SNI)

IBEC: Irish Business and Employers Confederation and IBEC's Export Orientation Programme ( EOP)

Fresh Talent Initiative including Fresh Talent: Working in Scotland Scheme and the Relocation Advisory Service

No equivalent

Scotland's International Development work

Ireland's International Development work

Other diasporas' organisations in Scotland

Other diasporas' organisations in Ireland


The Scotland Funds (inactive)

The Ireland Funds

The American-Scottish Foundation

The International Fund for Ireland

The Atlantic Philanthropies


Scottish Cultural Policy and Creative Scotland

Ireland's Cultural Policy and Culture Ireland

Scottish clubs and local organizations abroad

Irish clubs and local organizations abroad

Worldwide celebrations of Tartan Day and Scotland Week, St Andrew's Day, Burns' Night

Worldwide celebrations of Saint Patrick's Day

Scotland.Org web portal

Emigrant Media including Emigrant News Online and RTÉ: Ireland's Public Service Broadcaster

Research Centres such as The Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies (Universdity of Edinburgh)

Research Centres such as the John Hume Institute for Global Irish Studies (University College Dublin), Irish Diaspora Forum

Scottish University Alumni Societies

Irish University Alumni Societies

Scottish socio-cultural websites such as the US Scots website

Irish socio-cultural websites such as and

Visit Scotland, Homecoming 2009, and EventScotland.

Tourism Ireland

Global Friends of Scotland website and ScotlandsPeople Resources

National Archives of Ireland and Irish Ancestral Research Association

8.2 Vulnerable groups

Since 1984 the Irish Government, through the Díon Committee, has provided grants to support the employment of professional workers in the UK to offer advice and practical assistance to disadvantaged members of the Irish community. Since 2003, the Díon Committee has been supplemented by the Irish Abroad Unit in the Department of Foreign Affairs. The Irish Abroad Unit runs the Emigrant Groups Programme under which grants are provided to voluntary organisations that support vulnerable Irish citizens abroad. In 2006 over 220 welfare officers in UK were supported along with a number of capital projects. Other grants support the social, sporting and heritage activities of Irish emigrants ( e.g.GAA clubs, Kennedy Library Irish-American collection) and the Emigrants Advice Network ( EAN). The Department of the Environment, Local Government and Heritage provides funding to voluntary housing bodies to make up to 25% of accommodation available to elderly returning emigrants who satisfy eligibility criteria and are on the waiting list of the Safe Home Programme. The Department of Education and Science supports a number of schemes designed to investigate and redress past abuse of Irish children within state agencies who subsequently emigrated, supplies outreach services to such citizens, and until recently provided an educational grant scheme for former residents and their families. The Irish Commission for Prisoners Overseas supports Irish citizens incarcerated abroad. The Aisling Return to Ireland Project provides an annual supported holiday and aftercare for long-term, vulnerable Irish migrants to Britain. We are not aware of any such similar schemes operated by the Scottish government directly, although it maybe the case that some are operated by the UK government on behalf of all UK citizens.

8.3 Business Networks

Scotland and Ireland have both put significant resources in the past few years into building business relationships with their respective diaspora. As noted above, how they have gone about this is recognisably different. Indeed, it is here that differences in the methodologies used to engage the diaspora most depart. In the main, the Scottish approach focuses on fostering high quality relationships between specific individuals and businesses, whereas the Irish approach focuses on developing broad-based social networking and community building. Ireland then has a more plural strategy that aims to foster a number of business networks and to grow a wide base of contacts and expertise. At present, Enterprise Ireland ( EI) supports, through in-kind or financial aid, over sixty Irish business networks around the world. Some of these were initially seeded by EI such as Techlink and Biolink and others were started by Irish business people abroad. In the main, networks are owned and run by their members and function as social networking sites, many of whom also organise regular face-to-face meetings. In Scotland, the focus to date has been upon building up one particularly critical network, Globalscot, a widely cited exemplar of an impressive network of global elites. This network, managed by Scottish Enterprise, does not function as a social network but rather as a broker, linking Scottish businesses and specific Globalscot members.

8.4 Business networks play a critical role in the emerging knowledge economy. Diaspora knowledge networks are overseas networks that mobilise the skills, expertise, contacts, knowledge, business acumen, and financial and political resources of diasporeans as a collective resource to benefit the local and global diaspora as well as the homeland. It is useful distinguishing four kinds of diaspora knowledge network 30:

8.5 Specialist Knowledge Networks

These are networks which are sector specific (for instance biotechnology, ICT, law) and which generate dense and specific ties to the homeland to aid the expansion of respective sectors, for instance through providing knowledge, mentoring, expertise and finance (venture capital). In the Irish case examples include the Irish Technology Leadership Group in Silicon Valley (an elite network of Irish corporate leaders who support the Irish ICT sector through the soliciting of Irish business ideas in a Dragon's Den format 31), Biolink (a network of biotechnical professionals spread across the USA), and Techlink UK (a network of Irish scientists based in London looking to commercialise laboratory breakthroughs). Whilst there would appear to be no obvious example of such a network in the Scottish diaspora, GlobalScot does have a variety of sector interests and specialisms

8.6 Professional Knowledge Networks

These are regional and local networks of professional and highly skilled expatriates located in cosmopolitan cities. The focus is upon dual social and business networking and the exchange of contacts, skills, advice and ideas. The nearest Scottish example that we are aware of is the 'Scots In' network. This social networking site describes itself as a global Scottish business and people network. Originally based in London, it is now transforming itself into a global network and already has over 5,000 members. As well as online services the network has started to organise face to face events. In the Irish case examples include the Irish Network New York, the Irish Network San Francisco, and the Irish Professional Network of London, each with over 1,000 members.

8.7 Transnational Business Networks

These are networks whose primary purpose is the fostering of economic ties between the destination region and the homeland. Here the diaspora plays the role of a broker of relationships to a particular country. The network resources produced include knowledge of markets, cultural knowledge and access to transnational opportunities. In the Irish case examples include the Irish Hungarian Business Circle, the Norwegian Irish Business Association, and the Irish Business Club of Finland. Whilst Scotland has specific offices in Brussels and other world centres, it also would have access to such networks through British diasporic ties between regions of migration and Britain.

8.8 Global Knowledge Networks

Global knowledge networks are transnational networks linking global regions with the homeland, including trade missions, business forums, philanthropy, mentoring, advice and access to decision makes. In Scotland, the emphasis has been put on establishing an elite business network, Globalscot as part of a Global Connections Strategy. Globalscot targets high achieving members of the Scottish Diaspora (almost 50% of the 840 Globalscot members operate at company Chairman, CEO or President level) who are specially selected and invited to join. In Ireland, examples would include the Asia Pacific Business forum which links 11 Irish business groups in Asia Pacific and the Gulf to facilitate an exchange of ideas and resources and to leverage reputation and connections. In addition, the Ireland Funds is a global philanthropic, but also business and social, network with 23 chapters spread across 10 countries, whilst the Irish Chamber of Commerce USA is a transnational economic network with 13 chapters across the USA.

8.9 Returnees

As noted, Scotland and Ireland both have sizable overseas populations. Both countries are seeking immigrants who have desirable skills and talents. Both have only made marginal efforts to encourage their respective disapora to return to the home country to live permanently. Through the web site, the Fresh Talent Scheme, the work of the Relocation Advisory Agency Scotland, and TalentScotland, Scotland has put in place an infrastructure through which those who want to relocate can secure information and advice. Whilst returnee Scots have been only one of five priority groups for the Fresh Talent Initiative, and whilst to date arguably greatest attention has been given to attracting overseas students, it remains the case that the apparatus is available to all overseas Scots. In addition, the organisation of the Homecoming Scotland 2009 event has resulted in a new prioritisation of the Scottish expatriate community. An important feature of Homecoming 2009 will be the capacity of agencies to translate holiday visits into longer term business, social, and cultural ties, and perhaps then to relocation.

8.10 In the Irish case, proactive programmes were perhaps not needed given that the strength of the Irish economy and the lure of well paid jobs was enough to entice people back. In general, Irish returnees were treated in the same fashion as other desirable skilled migrants. For example, from the mid-1990s, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and FAS (the state training agency) organised a series of overseas trade fairs aimed at attracting talent to Ireland. These fairs were mainly aimed at potential overseas immigrants, but also encouraged Irish diasporeans to consider returning home. To aid those thinking of returning, the Department of Social and Family Affairs funded a number of organisations that provided advice to returnees. For example, Emigrant Advice provides information through its 'Returning to Ireland' service on the statutory services and entitlements available to those 'coming home'. In addition, the Safe Home Programme was established to help vulnerable Irish abroad to return to live in Ireland and the Aisling Return to Ireland Project helps them visit on short-term holidays.

8.11 Affinity diaspora

Both Scotland and Ireland have attracted significant numbers of immigrants to live in their respective countries. As a result, there are significant sized diaspora of other nation states residing in Scotland and Ireland. These populations are clearly a target for other countries' diaspora strategies, but they also represent a potential affinity diaspora for Scotland and Ireland. Scotland has sought to develop this relationship through the Fresh Talent Scotland programme and the Scottish Networks International programme. Fresh Talent Scotland aims to attract skilled migrants to the higher education sector in Scotland and to encourage them to stay afterwards by offering favourable visa conditions that will enable them to work after their course has finished. Scottish Networks International seeks to partner postgraduate students with Scottish companies for work placements. By developing a relationship with the company it is hoped that if and when the student leaves Scotland they will help their partner company and other Scottish companies do business in their home country. In effect they will continue to play for 'Team Scotland' when they leave. Scottish Networks International is currently being restructured but its ethos is a valuable lesson for Ireland. In Ireland there has been little attempt to build an affinity diaspora although some Irish-Other Country business networks based in Ireland perform this function. For example, the Ireland Turkey Business Association ( ITBA) builds links between Turkish businesspeople in Ireland and Irish businesses and also helps Irish businesses seeking to do business in Turkey. In this latter sense, the ITBA is playing for 'Team Ireland' overseas. Of course more generally, the international development work both states do in countries such as, among others, Malawi is part of the sowing of goodwill.

8.12 Philanthropy

There is a well developed network of philanthropic enterprises based in Scotland supporting Scottish society but the anecdotal evidence collected in the course of the research suggests that there is relatively little overseas Scottish philanthropy contributing to Scotland. In contrast, Ireland has a very poorly developed indigenous philanthropic set-up, but has successfully cultivated philanthropy in the diaspora. The Ireland Funds, International Fund for Ireland ( IFI), and Atlantic Philanthropies ( AP) are the prime examples. Over the past thirty years, the Ireland Funds have raised more than â'¬300m to be spent on projects in Ireland, IFI more than â'¬850m and AP more than â'¬500m. It is hoped that with the newly generated wealth in Ireland (there are 33,000 cash millionaires in Ireland [not including the value of their main property]) that indigenous philanthropy will grow rapidly in the next 5 to 30 years. The Ireland Funds are currently going through a period of introspection as the Peace Process in Northern Ireland and the economic success enjoyed by the Republic of Ireland has largely removed some of the rationale for expenditure in Ireland. It is likely that the Ireland Funds will increasingly seek to position itself in terms of a number of global responsibilities and will channel donations to trouble spots and needy regions. It is unclear what Scotland's strategy for developing overseas philanthropy will be given the recent winding up of the Scotland Funds (mirrored on the Ireland Funds) but there is clearly a potential, untapped reservoir of financial goodwill that needs to be explored.

8.13 Cultural and Social Building

Both countries have cultural policies which pay due cognisance to the value of the diaspora as a generator and audience for Scottish and Irish culture. In Scotland, as observed above, a raft of initiatives is now underway which will contribute to building a heightened awareness of the country among its diaspora. Homecoming 2009, a year long tourist oriented 'festival' and hallmark event, will be the flagship campaign in the near future and the challenge will be to harness the attachments to the country which will be generated during the year so as to secure a lasting legacy. Scotland has perhaps more work to do to re-energise its diaspora which is commonly believed to be less engaged. In contrast, Ireland's challenge is to ensure that the historical affiliation which the diaspora has had to the country is maintained in achangin set of circumstances. Ireland already has an important set of media connections to the diaspora, not least through the popular weekly e-mail bulletin of the Irish Emigrant online which is sent to over 30,000 addresses. In addition, there is an interesting debate continuing as to how RTE, through its service charter, might cater for the diaspora including the use of a free to air Satellite Channel in the UK.

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