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Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee

Written submission from the Scottish Government

Written submission from the Scottish Government to the Committee, 16 December 2021

The Scottish Government submitted written evidence to the Committee for the Inquiry into the Scottish Governments international work on 16 December 2021.


The Scottish Government currently has offices in London, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Dublin, Washington DC, Ottawa, and Beijing, while Scottish Development International (SDI) also has a network of more than 30 overseas offices globally. The external network of offices supports activity by the Scottish Government, its agencies and public and private sector partners, in key locations outside Scotland. The network supports international collaboration which delivers economic benefits and helps address societal and global challenges. 

These aims are grounded in Scotland’s National Performance Framework, in particular these national outcomes: 
We have a globally competitive entrepreneurial, inclusive and sustainable economy; and, 

We are open, connected and make a positive contribution internationally. 

The work of all of the offices includes improving Scotland’s international profile, attracting investment, helping businesses to trade internationally, promoting and securing research and innovation capability, partnerships and funding, facilitating cultural exchanges and events, and protecting and enhancing Scotland’s interests in the EU and beyond. 

The Programme for Government, published in September 2021 following the Cooperation Agreement with the Scottish Green Party, is clear in its commitment to internationalism and to Scotland continuing to work with friends and partners in Europe and beyond to reaffirm diplomatic ties, improve our global networks, enhance international collaboration, and unlock new economic and trading opportunities. The PfG includes commitments to strengthening the base in Brussels, opening a Scottish Government Office in Copenhagen next year, and increasing Scotland’s economic and cultural visibility in the Nordic regions. The PfG also commits to the opening of an office in Warsaw over the lifetime of this Parliament, as part of the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to enhancing our external reach and voice.

Scottish Government’s Offices: Brussels, London and Berlin – Background

The Scottish Government EU Office was established in 1999, and works in partnership with Scotland Europa. It is located in Scotland House, Brussels, in the European quarter of the city. The EU Office has 19 staff currently, two of whom are intern staff who work jointly to Scotland Europa. Scotland Europa has a further 8 staff. Scottish Government staff are a mix of Scotland/UK-based staff with diplomatic status, and locally engaged (LE) staff. The EU Director Martin Johnson also has joint oversight – along with the Director for External Affairs – of the Scottish Government’s EU Secretariat (EUS). EUS is based in Edinburgh and has 11 staff. 

Scotland House London (SHL) opened in April 2017 and is a collaboration between the Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise/Scottish Development International (SDI), Visit Scotland (VS) and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) – the four Partners.

The Scottish Government’s Germany office works in partnership with the SDI Düsseldorf office as the Scotland in Germany Network. Established in Berlin with three members of staff in 2018, it promotes engagement with Germany across devolved matters, to strengthen Scotland’s economic, research, and cultural relationships, and to open doors in priority sectors by strengthening networks and fostering cooperation.

Wider EU Network

The Scottish Government also has offices in Paris and Dublin, and new offices are planned in Copenhagen and Warsaw. 

Our office in Paris was established in November 2018. It has three members of staff - a Head of Office, a Deputy Head of Office and an Office and Events Manager. It is co-located with the Scottish Development International team in Paris and is based at the British Embassy. Our Dublin office was established in early 2016 and is based at the British Embassy. The Dublin team comprises five members of staff - a Head of Office, a Deputy, two Scottish Development International Trade and Investment Officers and an Events and Cultural Diplomacy lead. 

We plan to open a Scottish Government office in Copenhagen in the first half of 2022 to increase Scotland’s economic and cultural connections and cooperation in the Nordic region. In this parliamentary session, we have also committed to open an office in Warsaw, as part of our continued commitment to enhancing our external reach and voice.

Scottish Government Network beyond Europe

The Scottish Government also has offices in Beijing, Ottawa, and Washington D.C. Our Washington D.C. office was established in 2001 and is based at the British Embassy. It is comprised of four members of staff – a Head of Office, a Deputy and two LE staff. Our office in Canada was established in 2018 and is based at the British High Commission in Ottawa. It has four members of staff – a Head of Office a Deputy and two LE staff. Both the Ottawa and Washington offices work alongside the Scottish Development International’s Trade and Investment teams located across multiple geographies in North America. Our office in Beijing was established in 2005 and is based at the British Embassy, it is comprised of four member of staff – a Head of Office and three LE staff and works in partnership with Scottish Development International colleagues located in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Priorities and Areas of Focus: Brussels, London, Berlin

The EU Office in Brussels promotes Scottish interests and expertise by: 

focussing on key policy areas and themes such as: net zero and biodiversity, inclusive growth and the wellbeing economy, research and innovation, Scotland’s distinct legal system, and trade and investment opportunities for Scotland; 

providing advice and support to ministers and officials, including directly engaging with EU institutions, European parliamentarians, member states, regional representations based in Brussels, EU based networks and other stakeholders; 

providing support to Ministers and officials visiting Brussels on EU business, including preparation of official programmes; 

building Scotland's influence and reputation through policy events, participating in networks, making new contacts and connections, sharing Scottish good practice and leadership, and learning best practice from others; 

working with colleagues in the UK Mission to the EU, the Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Executive offices based in Brussels; 

working closely with colleagues across the Directorate for External Affairs (DEXA) and all relevant areas of the Scottish Government, ensuring information flow between teams, and supporting policy officials on knowledge of the EU policy agenda, including upcoming EU proposals and funding opportunities, initiatives and developments; 

taking forward a programme of cultural events (for example around St. Andrew’s Day, Burns Night) to engage contacts in existing networks, showcase Scottish cultural excellence, promote themed years and build relationships; and, 

working closely with Scotland Europa to deliver our shared Business Plan objectives, including supporting delivery of Programme for Government commitments. 

The EU Office in Brussels has policy expertise across a range of areas, including net zero and biodiversity; marine; research and innovation; trade policy; the digital economy and AI; inclusive growth; justice and home affairs; and engagement with EU institutions. The Office works in an integrated way with Scotland Europa, a membership based organisation which is part of Scottish Enterprise, and collaborates across a range of work areas, through thematic teams, and joint working on events, engagement via networks, and supporting engagement by Scottish stakeholders with EU counterparts. Scotland House Brussels provides a platform and physical space to bring stakeholders together across a range of business, cultural and networking topics, enabling dialogue and connections between Scottish and EU interests. The programme of cultural, networking and policy events which Scotland House runs through the year is a good example of use of this platform, and the office has innovated over the last 18 months to ensure we continue to facilitate high quality, impactful engagements, despite the restrictions linked to the pandemic. 

The Committee Clerks suggested it may be helpful to the Committee for this note to say explain how the EU Office supports Scottish Government objectives on the following specific issues:

SG’s policy commitment to align with EU law: The EU Office in Brussels provides strategic insight and advice on EU policy priorities, and the direction of EU policy, working closely both with colleagues in the EU Secretariat in Edinburgh, and across the range of policy Directorates in SG. It reports regularly on developments, both set-piece moments in the EU cycle, and ongoing developments (e.g. through different EU Council formations or developments in the European Parliament). The EU Office also gathers information and facilitates discussions with EU institutions, where this can help colleagues, for example in understanding the detail behind a policy, or even providing evidence from Scotland where this can be of benefit. 

SG’s input into the Trade and Co-operation Agreement (TCA) and future relationship with the EU more generally: The framework created by the Withdrawal Agreement (WA) and Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) touches upon a wide range of SG interests and devolved responsibilities - from manufacturing and law enforcement to 

agriculture, environmental standards and fisheries. The Scottish Government actively engages with the UK Government on these issues, and the EU Office has a key role in helping shape and drive that input. The TCA is governed by a Partnership Council with 18 technical Specialised Committees and a Trade Partnership Committee sitting under it. The EU Office works with the EU Secretariat in Edinburgh to co-ordinate Scottish input to the preparation of TCA meetings. In advance of these meetings we engage with the lead UK department to seek to ensure Scottish interests will be properly represented. Depending on the topic, team members from the EU Office may attend TCA Committee meetings, as SG representatives within the UK delegation. 

Working with UKG on EU issues, in the post-Brexit context: the main formal structures for working with UKG on EU issues are those created by the governance structures of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA). As outlined above, SG officials, including those from the EU Office, will be key members of the SG team engaging with UKG counterparts to promote Scottish interests, and in some cases attend Specialised Committee meetings. More generally, the EU Office team has regular dialogue with counterparts in the UK Mission in Brussels, across a range of EU facing topics. This dialogue is both structured (i.e. via regular meetings), and more ad hoc and informal. Examples of this dialogue from the recent period include: 

o EU-UK relations including negotiations on the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol and TCA specialised committees; 

o COVID related issues - for example the question of the inter-operability of COVID vaccination QR codes from Scotland/UK with the EU Digital COVID certificate; 

o Climate policy and the EU’s Green Deal package - there are benefits in regular information sharing on these areas, including preparations for COP26 in Glasgow and now the latter part of the UK Presidency of COP, and other specific areas including promotion of events, and potential sharing of platforms; 

o Horizon Europe association - liaising with UKG counterparts to discuss the situation as regards legal association, and what further steps if any might be taken to seek to expedite it; and, 

o Priorities of the EU Institutions including foreign policy issues - discussions on issues of interest to Scottish Ministers and Parliament, and perspectives on the positions of the EU and its Member States. Recent examples would include the situations at the Belarus/EU border and Ukraine. 

Scotland House London delivers on its aims by: 

pursuing economic and business benefits for companies; 
raising the profile of Scottish investment opportunities; 
supporting the development of international collaborations and research partnerships; 
providing opportunities to secure funding for innovation and research; 
strengthening our inter-governmental relations; 
developing Scotland’s international profile through engagement with the London based diplomatic community; and, 
supporting Scottish Ministers and senior officials on official engagements in London 

The SHL teams cover Operations; Economic Policy and Networks and UK, EU and International Relations. SHL is a business, events and networking hub, integrated into London’s commercial, innovation, cultural and governmental environment. It provides a strong platform and entry point for Scottish businesses seeking to use London to pursue their growth ambitions, and a window to Scotland for London based investors, innovators and policy-makers, including through a programme of events to showcase Scotland’s business, research and innovation and cultural strengths. We have a growing membership of over 200 Scottish business members who seek to secure new business, access new investment and undertake increased collaboration in London. 

SHL provides a platform to allow us to improve the range and depth of engagement with the UK Government, the diplomatic community and other stakeholders based in the city. SDI pursues global trade and inward investment interests through SHL given its concentration of global and European HQs. HIE uses Scotland House including to support engagement with UK Government and UK Space Agency in London, in pursuit of ambitions around vertical-launch and the proposed spaceport in Sutherland. VisitScotland uses the platform to provide a springboard for Scottish tourism businesses to connect with international operators. 

The Scottish Government’s Berlin Office seeks to: 

deliver a relevant programme of ministerial engagements in Germany, in particular in the areas of trade and investment, higher education, research and innovation; 
provide analysis on political and economic developments in Germany, and identify strategic opportunities for engagement and cooperation; 
engage with economic and political stakeholders to raise awareness of Scotland’s export growth plan and promote Scotland as an attractive location for inward investment; 
promote Scotland’s economic, cultural and academic strengths through strategic communications and a rolling programme of cultural events; 
engage with the Scottish diaspora and other networks in Germany, and create opportunities for German partners to engage with Scotland; and 
promote Scotland’s credentials in the areas of higher education, research and innovation, and engage with relevant German partners in support of continued academic exchange with Germany. 

Together with SDI, the Germany office promotes economic engagement, trade and investment between Scotland and Germany. It works with a number of economic organisations, supports cross-sectoral ministerial visits and trade missions in both directions, and provides advice and support to Scottish companies seeking to expand into the German market and to German businesses seeking to invest in Scotland. 

It supports exchange and collaborative working in areas such as climate change, the low carbon economy, renewable energy and green technologies – with a particular focus, in response to Germany’s hydrogen import requirements, on identifying opportunities and intensifying collaboration across offshore wind and green hydrogen in support of net zero and economic development goals. 

It promotes Scottish innovation, higher education and research interests, supporting Scottish HEIs and other stakeholders in maintaining and strengthening their ties with German HEIs, research institutes and innovation partners. It achieves this partly by deepening partnership working with focus Länder in support of key priorities and sectors. It promotes and supports key Scottish connections and friends of Scotland networks, including Global Scots, alumni networks and affinity diaspora, and showcases Scotland's distinct cultural heritage through events, including Scotland’s food and drink, music, indigenous languages and literature. 

The office takes an integrated approach to its activities, building on the connections between priority areas and its use of soft power to support its business outcomes. To support this, it communicates with German audiences in order to maintain and enhance an awareness of Scotland, support SG and SDI messaging and delivery, and promote Scottish strengths and priorities. It additionally ensures that Scottish Ministers, colleagues and stakeholders understand relevant aspects of German politics, business and events that might impact on Scotland.