Inquiry into the Promotion of Scotland Worldwide

Inquiry into the Promotion of Scotland Worldwide

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) is pleased to respond to the Scottish Parliament European and External Relations Committee Inquiry into the Promotion of Scotland Worldwide. This response has been compiled by the General Secretary, Professor Andrew Miller and the Research Officer, Dr Marc Rands, with the assistance of a number of Fellows with considerable experience in this area.

As Scotland’s National Academy, The Royal Society of Edinburgh is uniquely placed to promote the academic achievements of Scotland world-wide, and devolution has clearly given the RSE an important opportunity to further publicise the international excellence of research and scholarship in Scotland’s Universities and Research Institutes. The RSE established an International Committee in 1998, and the provision in 2003 of specific funding from the Scottish Executive to the RSE for international activities has enabled the RSE greatly to increase international activities promoting closer ties with countries of the EU including accession states, with the USA and also with other countries world wide including China and Taiwan. Current funded activities of the RSE International Committee include implementing signed exchange agreements with sister academies in three countries, consideration of similar agreements with other national academies world-wide, promotion of an open international research visit programme for young scientists and scholars, organisation of educational events on topics of current international importance such as human rights in collaboration with sister academies in Sweden and France, contributing to Tartan Day, and assisting with the British Council in Showcasing Scottish excellence in science by organising visits to Scottish centres of academic excellence by CEOs of major international companies. Currently a three-day workshop is planned in Peking in March 2004 to initiate joint research activities in a number of research fields of importance to both counties and the RSE welcomes the opportunity to assist the Scottish Executive in further promoting the excellence of Scottish science and useful learning world-wide.

The key questions identified by the Committee are now addressed below:

Definition and implementation of a coherent, co-ordinated and resourced strategy for external relations.

Although foreign affairs and the EU are not devolved issues, the parliament and the executive cannot ignore them as each has bearings on devolved issues such as agriculture and fisheries, environment and education. The RSE strongly supports the Scottish Ministers concept of promoting a modern, progressive Scotland abroad. There is much we can be proud of and that should have a higher profile and the Scottish Executive should build on its efforts to develop government-to-government links with the EU and internationally.

Success of efforts to develop government-to-government links with the European Union and Internationally

The RSE has three bilateral research exchange programmes, with Taiwan, Poland and China, supported by the Scottish Executive, which have been running for less than a year, as well as recently launching an "Open" Exchange programme, which will fund research visits to any country. One potential benefit from the research exchanges is that they can provide a platform from which longer term collaborations and partnerships can develop. For example one of the visits to China has led to two proposals, to the Royal Society and the BBSRC, for funding longer term collaboration between Scotland and China. In addition, the advantage of bilateral programmes is that there is shared cost, and shared commitment, from a counterpart Academy in the partner country, governed by formal agreements, which can also help to engage with the other country in specific events.

The RSE is also managing a partnership project with Scottish development International, Universities Scotland and British Council, entitled "Voyages of Discovery". This project aims to showcase the best of Scotland's research in areas such as energy and life sciences, to large multinational companies with the long term aim of encouraging them to form strategic partnership with Scottish research institutions.

Scottish universities and Research Institutes also have a number of international links. For example, the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh's (RBGE) links to China have had a "diplomatic" or representational role as well as a scientific and conservation role. The British Garden at the 1999 Horticultural Exposition in Kunming, which was created by RBGE was used as a part of the Britain in China campaign and led to close links between RBGE and successive British Ambassadors. The Horticultural Exposition site continues to operate as a major tourist attraction so that the British Garden still promotes the international connections (essentially with Scotland, since the interpretation refers to RBGE and Scottish plant collectors). More recently the new Botanic Garden and Field Station is a major new project in China which can be regarded as the only Sino-British joint scientific facility in China. China is only one out of 40 countries that RBGE has active projects, with others major projects in Chile, Nepal, Saudi Arabia and the Yemen.

However, the external representation by the Scottish Executive appears ineffective in many areas such as finance and central banking, finance ministries, government, trade, universities, economic policy or European integration. It is not that people don’t know about Scotland. They do; they are usually well aware of her existence. But once we have got beyond golf, whisky, holidays, very few people have any idea of why Scotland might be different and what we are trying to do. That suggests that the current set of initiatives don’t yet go very deep.

Analysis of the efforts to co-ordinate the Scottish Executive's role in the EU decision-making and in the implementation of obligations

In the European context, Scottish representation has had comparatively little impact, but this is because the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament, the two places where Scotland is represented directly, have struggled to make a real impact. By definition therefore, a strategy of linking with other provincial or regional governments cannot do very much, except in the sphere of cultural affairs perhaps, until the problem of creating some regional influence is resolved.

A more direct approach of lobbying on themes that really do matter to the Executive (financial regulation, trade, industrial and competition policy, immigration policies, the social chapter) might be more successful even if not strictly legitimate by the EU rules and even if it means diverging somewhat from the UK line. Explicit linking with countries of a similar economic size (e.g. Ireland, Denmark, Portugal, and a string of the new members such as the Baltics or Slovenia) that do have direct participation on these issues, might be one way to do this. It would help them build up a coalition of pressure, and it would give Scotland a voice where she has none today. The model of how Flanders has already been doing that would be worth investigating.

Success of efforts to promote Scotland abroad, including through tourism, economic development, trade, education links, culture and heritage and the attraction of a new populace to Scotland.

There seems to be an inherent and unavoidable conflict in asking how Scotland could be more effectively be represented and promoted abroad, when the UK as a whole already has a comprehensive system of representation which presumably includes Scottish interests. And it is not just because Scotland might have different interests or different priorities (or even competing commercial and political activities) as the letter of Inquiry implies, although that may very well be true in fact. To ask such a question prompts the response "why should Scotland need external representation?".

The answer presumably must be that either the existing all-British mechanisms are found not to represent Scottish interests adequately, or ignore them, or are somehow inefficient. And this is before we even consider clashes of interest. In which case, appointing a Scottish affairs officer within each of the current British external affairs organisations, as has been the strategy so far, will achieve very little. The incentives for the rest of those organisations to prevent that officer following a conflicting line, or deviating from official policy, or otherwise showing up the inability to represent all sections of the British community, will simply be too great. The Scottish affairs officer would inevitably be marginalised, if not diluted in terms of what he/she can do. All the more so, if this triggers demands for Welsh affairs officers, and London officers. I think if external representation is a genuine concern, then the Scottish Parliament and Scottish executive will need to go outside the existing system of representation.

What success stories do we have, what needs to be improved and what can we learn from other nations/regions?

In terms of an analysis of the successes of other nations in these areas, Scotland should pay careful attention to what Ireland has done. As a country, it has been far more coherent and self-confident about promoting its national identity than Scotland has been. In particular, it has been willing to help small producers and farmers to brand their products, and it has had none of the reluctance that Scottish firms sometimes have towards national branding. Ireland spotted 20 years ago that it was associated in the minds of markets in Europe and the United States with freshness, greenery and wholesomeness. Scotland should aim for a similar image, perhaps tinged with a certain Braveheart quality.

There is a need for a more co-ordinated approach to promote Scotland abroad. This applies to financial links such as tourism and investment and to cultural and educational links. The Scottish International Forum should be strengthened and given greater powers through the Executive. At a time when academic research opportunities cross frontiers, this would be particularly helpful for the Scottish universities to have direct representation, perhaps through Universities Scotland, in addition to the RSE and Education UK Scotland.

The two areas, in particular, which have a low profile are the size and strength of the financial sector (markets) in Edinburgh, and the range of activities associated with the electronic and IT industries. Both operate on world markets and therefore would never have any incentive to set up any promotional activities on a Scottish basis on their own. These may be areas where the Executive could promote Scotland's successes systematically.

What are the benefits of the ‘Scotland in’ series of events (Such as ‘Scotland in Sweden’, ‘Scotland in Brussels’ and ‘Scotland with Catalonia’), the coherency of the programme and the sustainability of this promotional tool?

When a number of agencies work together to put together a series of promotional events under a single banner, such as "Scotland in Sweden", the whole can be much bigger than the sum of the parts in that the audience assembled by one organisation can easily be reached by others, thereby multiplying the impact.

The resources for these events do not allow the campaign to continue indefinitely. However, it raises the energy level of engagement of existing relationships and also initiates new relationships. Some of these relationships will generate further activity, some of which may be self-sustaining. For example, the RSE participation in Scotland in Sweden generated a lot of mutual interest in the work going on in stem cell research in each country. This led to Swedish participation in an RSE event held in Brussels a year later. It has also fed into a networking meeting for young scientists which the British Council in Stockholm is planning to run in March 2004. That meeting, in turn, is likely to lead to further scientific joint work, possibly funded from the EU Framework 6 programme.

In this context, Scottish Ministers should travel more and personally carry the message of Scotland abroad. These visits can be very effective in building long term educational, scientific and commercial links.

Tartan Day and wider Scottish-North American links

What is or should be the purpose of the Scottish input into Tartan Day?

While Tartan Day has been an achievement it is important to move away from the heritage aspects and concentrate on the financial and cultural opportunities generated by its success in north America. The recent visit of the pipers in Catalonia is another good example of the need to build on the publicity generated by the event. In this respect it is important to take note of Scottish sensibilities with regard to the use of tartan and bagpipes. While these can be helpful as motifs, it is vital to present a more rounded picture of a modern and dynamic country willing and able to take a greater international role. It should also seek to channel the enthusiasm of these Scottish motifs into active support for Scotland's trade, inward investment and public diplomacy priorities.

There should also be scope for similar Tartan Day's in other countries such as Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

How can the co-ordination with others, both within Scotland and externally, be improved in relation to Tartan Day?

At present, difficulties can arise where there are gaps between the aims of the US/Scottish organisers and official representatives of Scotland such as the UK Embassy, Scottish Development International and the British Council.

What are the Executive’s broader plans for Scottish-North American relations, promotional events, trade etc?

The RSE is planning to work with Scottish Development International, the Scottish Executive and the British Council to provide a steady flow of high quality information and publicity material about Scottish scientific excellence. In doing so, it is intending that the outputs produced (paper and electronic magazines and directories and bulletins) will have a wider and longer currency than the one year North American campaign. The rationale behind this project is that a constant drip feed of information and news will be more likely to cause changes in opinion than a series of one-off events. At the same time, provision of this information will contribute to the impact of the events planned, and will also reach a wider audience through being distributed at such events.

Additional information

In responding to this inquiry the RSE would like to draw attention to the following Royal Society of Edinburgh responses which are of relevance to this subject: Scotland in Sweden. Report on the Proceedings of Realising the Potential of Life Sciences and Biotechnology (October 2002); Voyages of Discover. Showcasing research excellence in Scotland (Commercial innovation tours 2003-2004).


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