International network: monitoring and evaluation report 2022-2023

The Scottish Government's international network monitoring and evaluation reports for the financial year from April 2022 to March 2023.


Context for 2022/23

There is a relatively new Scottish Government Team in Ireland with the Head of Office, Deputy Head of Office, and Culture, Business and Events Manager having been appointed during 2022. This has been an opportunity for the Office to make new connections, whilst also engaging with the networks established by previous post holders. The team is based in the British Embassy in Dublin, alongside two Scottish Development International senior trade specialists.

Ireland and Scotland have a unique close relationship and share a rich history developed by close proximity, cultural affinity, shared communities and similar values.

The Ireland Scotland Bilateral Review (co-published by both Scottish and Irish governments in 2021) commits to increased cooperation on diplomacy, business and the economy, diaspora, culture, research and education, and rural and island communities. During the 2022 Ministerial Annual Review meeting, it was recognised that strong progress had been made on almost 60% of the Review’s 41 recommendations. Additional focus is also now being made on new policy priorities for both governments.


We have delivered a range of impactful and high-profile events over the past year in showcasing the best of Scotland, particularly Burns night. We hosted 3 ministerial visits in Dublin and supported other Ministerial engagements elsewhere in Ireland and at multi-lateral events. We facilitated 16 new engagements on emerging policy issues for both Governments, most importantly in relation to net zero and support for displaced Ukrainian refugees. SDI colleagues have facilitated new trade partnerships and successful trade missions, and further increased and diversified our Global Scot network in Ireland. We have increased our cultural diplomacy through partnership working and supported collaboration in academia.

It has been a challenge restarting in-person events as Ireland removed remaining Covid restrictions in early 2022 at time of large inflationary pressures. We continue to balance our resources and capacity with the extensive range of potential opportunities there are for collaboration between Scotland and Ireland.


  • Scotland already has a strong reputation in Ireland based on close historical and cultural ties, and is regarded as Ireland’s ‘Celtic cousin’.
  • We aim to build on this by promoting Scotland as a trusted partner to invest in, visit, study, live and do business with. It has further been key to promote a modern Scotland, which is welcoming and open. This all involves selling Scotland’s economic proposition, delivering cultural diplomacy, and connecting counterparts across the Irish sea to facilitate collaboration.
  • Promoting Scottish culture through events is well received in Ireland, given the high interest from an Irish audience and the similarities with Irish culture. The Office is well thought of for showcasing Scottish culture and in creating memorable experiences. For instance, we hosted an event to promote and celebrate the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and supported Scottish film makers to screen their films at the Dublin International Film Festival.
  • It has further been important to promote progressive action Scotland is taking on net zero. For instance, we presented Scotland’s hydrogen journey at the Irish Renewable Energy Summit in February 2023.
  • Ensuring that we focus our activities for the greatest impact, given the huge number of potential opportunities between Scotland and Ireland and small size of the team is a challenge.
  • 2.6% average Twitter engagement rate
  • 3,609 Twitter followers as at 31 March 2023 - 133 new followers
  • 1,908 likes and 503 retweets over the year
  • 270,900 impressions on Twitter over the year
  • 8 Ministerial bilateral meetings over 2022-2023 reporting year, with 4 Ministerial visits to Ireland.

Case study: Burns Night

  • Our Burns night event held in January 2023 was an opportunity to showcase Scottish traditions, produce, culture and values.
  • Our guests included influential contacts working across academia, media, government, industry, arts and the voluntary sector.
  • The evening involved poetry readings from Scottish and Irish high school students which they coproduced as a result of an exchange programme we supported delivered by the Scottish Poetry Library and Poetry Ireland. We further had renowned Scottish poets, Cat Hepburn and Kevin Gilday, provide a fresh take on Scottish poetry. The evening also included performances from singers Eddi Reader and Simon Morgan, which received huge acclaim.
  • The evening also included Scottish food and drink, and featured traditional bagpipes to welcome guests on arrival.
  • Marty Whelan (RTÉ Radio breakfast show host) was in attendance, and he described the event as “ridiculously brilliant” on his radio show, giving it 4 minutes of airtime. The show has a listenership of 56,000.
  • We also received 22 notes of thanks, describing the event as “outstanding” “spectacular” and “ the best national day celebration I have experienced”.
  • Our tweets issued over the evening covering the event received 10,135 views, 45 retweets, and 81 likes.
  • We are confident that this feedback demonstrates the extremely positive and lasting impression created by the event to a senior and wide-ranging audience. It also shows how well received and valued Scottish culture is by an Irish audience.
  • A number of new relationships were forged, leading to opportunities for future business and cultural projects.

International Trade

Our key objectives are to identify, develop and lead on strategic relationships that identify commercial opportunities and provide market insights for businesses within the science and technology sectors.

Our successes included:

  • Consistent and sustained focus on particular trade opportunities ensured that the activity delivered was focussed and effective.
  • With specific inward investment resource in place for the first time in a number of years, more rounded trade and investment team in place.
  • Regular and consistent engagement across broader ‘Team Ireland’ to align international trade activities with investment, policy and other strands of work.
  • Development of strategic partner relationships with e.g. Causeway to maximise our network
  • Strong and consistent engagement with GlobalScots in Ireland.
  • Going back to normal and having face-to-face events for the first time in 3 years.

In terms of challenges – as is always the case, networks fluctuate as key stakeholders move roles, which can disrupt continuity and momentum for existing projects and relationships, and requires investment of effort to build up contacts from scratch again.

Further challenges include having a small team with a broad and busy agenda, and building awareness and gaining traction in a busy and competitive market.

  • 45 companies supported
  • 191 international trade opportunities identified
  • £55,300,000 forecast international sales as a result of SDI support

Case study: Construction and property technology

SDI Ireland delivered an event for construction and property technology companies, focused on sustainability in the construction sector. We brought over 5 Scottish companies (EGG Lighting, iOpt, Sisaltech, Utopi and WHOLUS) who learned about Ireland’s national retrofit programme from Sustainable Energy Authority Ireland (SEAI) and the one-stop-shop for consumers and businesses looking to upgrade their buildings. We worked in collaboration with experts from the ‘Built Environment: Smarter Transformation’ innovation centre in Scotland who their wisdom who shared insights on sustainable practices, focusing on timber frame and sustainable insulation.

The Scottish companies pitched to an audience of 40 people which was made up of architects, designers, engineers, housing charities and property developers. We had a roundtable event in the afternoon with a smaller group to discuss collaboration and how to move forward with sustainability in the built environment.

Key feedback from the day included “inspired” and “best roundtable” they had ever participated in. This event resulted in the creation of several international trade opportunities and exposure to some key people in Ireland for the Scottish companies. Sales figures will be realised in the longer-term. The event was positioned as part of St Andrew’s Day activities in Scotland and was supported by the then Minister for International Trade, adding credibility and networking opportunities to the companies’ overall programme.

Research and Innovation

Strong and varied academic collaboration between Scotland and Ireland is a key part of the bilateral relationship, and the Ireland Scotland Bilateral Review commits to strengthening this even further.

Over the past year we have co-funded joint research projects along with the Government of Ireland, expanded our networks across universities in Ireland (allowing us to make introductions to academics in Scotland leading to partnership working), and engaged with policy counterparts to explore the development of future student mobility programmes.

Through connections made by the Office, a Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed between CivTech and the Western Development Commission to support collaboration in using innovative solutions from start-up companies in response to challenges faced by the public sector.

The Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs provided a keynote speech at an event facilitated by the Scottish Arts and Humanities Alliance in October 2022 on how fundamental arts and humanities collaboration is for Scottish and Irish relations.

We have played a role in raising awareness in Ireland that Scottish researchers are eligible to partner in the PEACEPLUS Programme, thereby supporting opportunities for Scotland to be involved in research which promotes peace and prosperity across Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland.

Uncertainty over the UK’s association to Horizon Europe continues to pose a challenge regarding international research and innovation collaboration.

  • 12 face-to-face engagements with universities and higher education stakeholders
  • £15,000 provided to fund joint research

Case study: Bilateral Network Grants

We provided funding of £15,000 to support collaborative joint research between Scottish and Irish academics via the Bilateral Network Grants.

This is delivered by the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Royal Irish Academy, and is match funded by the Government of Ireland.

This supported a valuable research project by allowing academics to examine the impact COVID-19 had on children’s and young adult literature – particularly around children’s wellbeing and how those working in literature responded to challenges.

Interviews and workshops were undertaken with cultural organisations, authors, illustrators, and school students.

  • The project highlighted the shared concerns and issues of Ireland and Scotland’s creative, cultural, and reading communities.
  • The project addresses the ongoing problem of the dominance by a limited number of bestselling authors in Ireland and Scotland; it examined the difficulties caused by the pandemic for authors and illustrators, including the issues in reaching and engaging virtually with young readers; and it emphasised the importance of community, collaboration, and networks for authors’ and illustrators’ mental health and wellbeing.
  • In establishing a network of organisations, the project demonstrates the potential benefits of cross-sectoral and international partnerships for fostering sustainable practices.
  • A report from the project can be found here.


As a market for foreign direct investment (FDI), Ireland is serviced predominantly on a reactive basis by the SDI London inward investment team.

With a remit that also spans the rest of the UK, the team’s objective is to engage with targeted Irish companies (both existing investors in Scotland and new prospects) aligned with the Opportunity Areas within Scotland's Inward Investment Plan to secure inward investment and create jobs.

Faced with the challenges of the adverse impacts on FDI flow arising from the economic climate, and increasing competition from other countries and UK Regions, the market has continued to contribute towards the maintenance of Scotland’s leading position in the UK (after London) for the attraction of FDI.

  • 1 inward investment project landed as a result of SDI support
  • 11 planned total jobs
  • 11 green jobs
  • 11 jobs created/safeguarded paying RLW
  • £1,886,831 planned R&D investment

Case study – EnviroPET

  • EnviroPET Ltd is a privately owned micro business based in Dublin that is developing liquid process additives (LPAs) and an innovative method of dosing to allow for a greater proportion of recycled polyethylene terephthalate (rPET) to be used in the production of plastic bottles.
  • This is in response to growing pressure on the plastic packaging industry to reduce plastic waste and increase the use of recycled materials.
  • The company was interested to explore using Scotland as a location to further its experimental development and transition from pilot processes to production scale.
  • SDI held multiple meetings with EnviroPET to advise on locating this project in Scotland and support included a Scottish Enterprise R&D grant and the identification of a suitable site within Glasgow.
  • In June 2022, the company formally confirmed its decision to establish an operation in Glasgow initially creating 11 new ‘green’ R&D jobs.
  • With additional support from Interface Scotland and from the UK Government agency, Innovate UK, the company announced it would partner with scientists from Heriot-Watt University and University of Strathclyde to develop the new additives that will enhance the recycled content of plastic bottles.
  • The company joins Scotland’s growing industry supply chain base in supporting the energy transition: Scottish universities to 'drastically' increase recycled content of plastic bottles

Scotland’s Interests

  • In addition to enhancing Scotland’s reputation, we have sought to promote Scotland’s interests through exchanging learning on policy development, seeking areas for mutual collaboration, and increasing representation of Scotland through our Global Scot network.
  • Given Scotland and Ireland’s close proximity, similar geography and population size, and shared priorities – there is a strong appetite and rationale from both Scotland and Ireland in learning from one another and working in partnership to deliver on policy objectives.
  • However, it is worth considering Scotland's exit from the EU which removes access to some multilateral mechanisms under which Scotland and Ireland could collaborate on.
  • Nevertheless, Scotland and Ireland’s participation in the British Irish Council provides a forum for ministerial engagement, consultation and cooperation on policy matters along with other member administrations.
    • 14 Global Scots in total – 2 new recruits in 2022/23
    • Facilitated 16 new engagements on emerging policy issues for both governments.

Case study: Policy Engagement

  • Over the course of 2022-23 we have facilitated several introductions between government policy counterparts in Ireland and Scotland to allow them to have discussions and share learning on common opportunities and challenges.
  • This included issues such as how future population and demographic projections will impact on public expenditure; challenging demand for prostitution; support for innovative tech start-ups; delivering on trade strategy; developing the space industry; and delivery of government budgetary processes.
  • We have further hosted virtual roundtable discussions between policy counterparts on emerging policy priorities – most notably on support for Ukrainian refugees and advancing offshore wind as a primary source of renewable energy.
  • Making introductions to policy counterparts has provided a valuable opportunity for officials to gather evidence on policy development and delivery in Ireland, and to consider how this could apply in a Scottish context in order to deliver on policy objectives of the Scottish Government.
  • To give an example, a roundtable discussion on resettlement of Ukrainian refugees resulted in sharing learning on:
    • how data was being gathered on recent trends in arrivals and estimating future arrivals of refugees;
    • the provision of support services;
    • safeguarding in place; and,
    • ensuring effective in-country communication.
    • Further, discussions facilitated around offshore wind has allowed counterparts to share learning on the similarities and challenges Scotland and Ireland face in developing sustainable plan options for the future development of commercial scale offshore wind energy.

This was followed up by a Ministerial bilateral and continued engagement at an official level which is informing decision making on how both Governments will respond to the ongoing need to provide support to displaced Ukrainians.

Medium to long-term impact

Cooperation between Scotland and Ireland is creating impact across each of the six areas in the Ireland Scotland Bilateral Review. To give a specific example relating to culture, the Scottish Government Ireland Office have been engaging collaboratively with the Museum of Literature Ireland since 2021. This resulted in a temporary exhibition (Literary Cities Edinburgh) which focused on the literary history of Edinburgh from past to present, with an emphasis on overlaps with Irish writing. Over 43,000 visits were made, of which 40% were Irish, 11% UK, 25% European and 19% North American. To coincide with the exhibit, the Museum also curated a series of four high profile events, featuring some of the most important established and up-and-coming names in Irish and Scottish writing and music. These events were collaborative - writers from both countries interviewed each other, while musicians from Scotland and Ireland collaborated on performances for each event.

Considering other areas of the Bilateral Review:

  • Government-to-Government Relations - We saw beneficial cooperation between respective government counterparts on efforts to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic and in sharing learning on gender issues in international development which resulted in informing policy development.
  • Business and Economy – Along with SDI’s work to promote trade and inward investment, our support for the Causeway business network is allowing it to become financially self-sustainable and has helped to create lasting connections between Scottish and Irish businesses.
  • Community and Diaspora – We have worked to establish a strong and diverse network of influential Global Scots in Ireland who are advocates for and representatives of Scotland in Ireland, and we have further facilitated learning on successful diaspora engagement which has informed Scottish Government research into diaspora policy.
  • Research and Academia – Our agreement with the Government of Ireland to support collaboration between the Royal Society of Edinburgh and Royal Irish Academy is now helping to drive joint research and innovation for years to come.
  • Rural, Coastal and Island Communities – As of 2022, Scotland’s Rural College co-authored 90 original research articles with Irish researchers. The majority of which are with Teagasc and are built on a long-term collaborative partnership and Memorandum of Understanding. Forestry Land Scotland and Coillte also regularly engage on sharing best practice.

Lessons learned for FY 2022/23

  • We would have benefited from more regional visits throughout 2022-23 to expand our networks even further outside of Dublin. Therefore, we will prioritise this in 2023-24, and intend to visit a range of stakeholders in Limerick and Galway.
  • One of the key lessons learned from this year is the impact we can create and the reputation we can build from hosting in-person events, and so we will look to expand on this next year. We will further seek to maximise the impact and reach of partner events which promote Scotland and Ireland’s bilateral relationship, particularly in relation to culture and academia.
  • We are also aware of the valuable role we can play in facilitating sharing learning and cooperation between Scottish and Irish policy counterparts. We intend to make a more targeted approach to supporting this next year, with a particular focus on net zero economy and issues relating to social justice.



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