More should be done to promote Scotland globally ‘beyond the tartan’ but positive signs of collaboration between governments, MPs find.

Published: 13 September 2023

Promoting Scotland Internationally report launched and features evidence from Professor Murray Pittock of the College of Arts and Humanities.

MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee found evidence the UK and Scottish Governments often collaborate well when promoting Scotland’s interests abroad but more work is needed to highlight modern Scottish successes in sectors such as Science and Space.

In Promoting Scotland Internationally, a new report published today, MPs found more traditional Scottish associations such as tartan, whisky and golf act as useful hooks to create interest but the UK Government needs to do more so the country's international profile reflects contemporary success stories such as Scotland’s world-leading scientific research, space and energy sectors.

While foreign affairs is reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government also has an interest in how international obligations are met in respect of key devolved areas and have established a presence in a number of international locations including Paris, Brussels and Dublin.

Commenting on the report, Pete Wishart MP, Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said: “This inquiry demonstrated how constructively the Scottish and UK Governments can work together to further the interests of Scotland, which I hope can serve as a template for other areas on which our objectives are the same.

“Where a lot of the international promotion of Scotland can at times seems to be characterised by tension and relationship difficulties between the UK and Scottish Governments, we found that the work on the ground is largely collaborative and constructive with a focus on serving vital Scottish interests."

The Committee visited the USA to see first-hand how Scotland is promoted abroad as well as taking evidence at Holyrood including from the University of Glasgow's Professor Murray Pittock.

In describing the Scottish brand, there was an acknowledgement from witnesses to the committee that so-called “traditional” associations with Scotland, be it whisky, tartan, golf or its heritage, were still resonant with many around the world.

Professor Murray Pittock of the University of Glasgow, as Co-Chair of the Scottish Arts and Humanities Alliance, described the Scottish brnad as “a brand that is in some ways simpler, and in that sense more easily sold in certain markets, than the UK brand”.

Reuben Aitken, Managing Director for Overseas Operations at Scottish Development International (SDI), the overseas-facing arm of Scottish Enterprise, said the brand could sometimes still be viewed as “tartan and shortbread”.

Anthony Salamone, Founder of European Merchants, a Scottish political analysis firm, wrote that it was “still the case that many people around the world recognise Scotland more for its past than its present, and know Scotland’s cultural traditions but not its scientific excellence”.

In relation to international tourism, Vicki Miller, Director of Marketing and Digital at VisitScotland, explained how those traditional “hooks” were still important to get cut-through, immediate awareness and recognition in overseas markets where Scotland is less well-known. 

Overall however, witnesses thought that more could be done by the UK Government to platform more of Scotland’s innovation and contemporary strengths and sectors on the international stage as well as the traditional brand, something which Professor Pittock described as “not currently happening optimally”.

First published: 13 September 2023