UK embassies across the world failed to promote Scotland this St Andrew’s Day.
Ahead of this important day for Scotland in the world, Business for Scotland directly contacted UK embassies across the world to establish what they were doing around St. Andrew’s Day to promote Scottish exports or Scotland as a destination for tourists including the diaspora. Having previously been invited to St Georges Day events at embassies whilst working internationally, I thought it would be interesting to see the result of this reseach.
20 embassies. 0 events.
Not a single UK embassy had planned any function or wider form of activity to promote Scotland’s national day. 20 embassies were contacted from Paris and Berlin to Brasilia and Tel Aviv, including embassies in many of Scotland’s key export markets. Scotland’s exports in the top nine destinations alone total £10.5 billion. The UK’s Embassy in America has confirmed an event is taking place in Washington but this is being organised by the Scottish Government’s First Secretary of Scottish Affairs.
As outlined in the White Paper, an independent Scottish diplomatic service would have greater opportunities to represent Scotland globally and promote Scottish goods and services. The Independence Prospectus “Scotland’s Future” proposes a network of 70-90 overseas offices costing £90-120 million pounds a year, a saving on what Scottish taxpayers currently contribute to the UK embassy network.
Scotland poorly represented by Westminster
The failure of UK embassies to promote St Andrew’s Day demonstrates that Scottish business and trade is poorly represented by Westminster institutions. Ireland, in comparison, has successfully used its diplomatic network to promote St Patrick’s Day across the world – and in doing so boosted the Irish brand and Irish exports.
The Scottish Government has a target in the independence prospectus to boost Scottish exports by 50% by 2017. This includes global promotion of key sectors such as food and drink, life sciences and tourism. Opportunities in this area are best served by a diplomatic network that promotes Scotland’s unique strengths and interests.
Commenting on the findings, Business for Scotland CEO Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp said:
” David Cameron and Alistair Carmichael can’t even find the time to attend their own St. Andrew’s Day event in Downing Street never mind ensure the promotion of specific Scottish economic interests in the world. We are talking about people’s jobs and hard earned taxes here. We more than pay our way in the UK yet we get limited gain from our contribution. Scotland deserves better.
“Scots firms trade in an increasingly globalised and competitive marketplace whereby it is crucial to have direct representation by government in support of business, jobs and inward investment.
“Scotland is the top performing part of the UK outside London for inward investment from around the world but this comes on the back of extensive work by the Scottish Government and its agencies rather than the Westminster Government. Imagine what we could achieve with the full international powers of independence to promote Scotland around the world and boost our economy at home.”
No evidence for Westminster claims
Owen Paterson (the UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), said last year that “there was a big advantage to Scottish firms in having UK embassies promoting exports”. He said “There’s a real positive for great Scottish firms like Walkers and those in the Scotch whisky industry in using the British government”.
Yet upon investigation this claim is clearly bogus. On St Andrew’s Day there was absolutely no effort to promote Scotland from UK embassies. This follows previous criticism that the UK network was refusing to support Scotland’s Development body in promoting Scottish whisky. Instead Scotland Development International were charged £3,000 to access UK facilities while UK Trade and Investment received access free of charge.
Compare the lack of global promotion of Scotland on St Andrews Day as part of the UK with St Patrick’s Day promoted by an independent Ireland. Would Ireland sell more Guinness as a region of the UK ruled from Westminster? Of course not. A nation’s business community, especially its exports, benefits from the unique strengths and global status of being an independent country.
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Sources: Business for Scotland contacted UK Embassies and Consulates in Berne, Paris, Stockholm, Rome, Brasilia, Berlin, Budapest, The Hague, Amsterdam, Warsaw, Brussels, Prague, Vienna, Lisbon, Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Madrid, Oslo, Dublin and Tel Aviv.
Export Figures – Table 9.1 and page 180 of ‘Building Security and Creating Opportunity: Economic Policy Choices in an Independent Scotland’ http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0043/00438277.pdf
Scottish Diplomatic Network – pages 466-468 in ‘Scotland’s Future’ http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2013/11/9348/0