UofG partner in Scottish Council on Global Affairs

Published: 9 June 2021

New think tank will lead discussion and debate on global issues

The University of Glasgow is part of a pan-Scotland consortium working to create a Scottish Council on Global Affairs. Working with partner institutions the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the University of St Andrews and the University of Edinburgh, our aim is to create a global affairs think-tank with international reach and reputation.

The Council will harness the power of Scotland’s world-leading university sector and marry it to the energy and resources that exist in civil society, industry and government. It will place this expertise at the service of public policy while at the same time constituting a non-partisan forum for discussion and debate of global issues.

The experience of the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020-2021 has further underlined the need for international cooperation and multi-disciplinary expertise to address the political, economic and public health challenges of the twenty-first century. The Scottish Council will contribute to this enterprise by providing an institutional setting for discussion and debate of international questions.

A core mission of the new Council on Global Affairs is to support ambitious research projects aimed at informing public policy and promoting public discussion. In pursuit of these goals it will forge partnerships with cognate civil society and cognate research institutions in the UK, Europe and beyond to amplify the global reach of Scottish expertise.

Among the many issues that require evidence-based research and public debate are the new political, economic and trading relationships that must be forged with Europe and the rest of the world as the UK leaves the European Union. The regional politics of northern Europe and Scandinavia are of particular importance given Scotland’s ancient political, cultural and economic ties to this region, ties that continue to thrive well into the twenty-first century. 

Climate, economic and security developments in the Arctic and elsewhere pose further challenges that affect Scotland more and in different ways than any other UK region. There is also a distinctive Scottish voice in the realm of international development, where Scotland’s partnership with Malawi provides a success story for the effectiveness of targeted international aid.

Quite apart from these specific questions, Scotland also has a long civic tradition of support for international institutions and a rules-based world order that defends the fundamental rights of both nations and individuals. It thus has an important role to play in strengthening these institutions as they come under threat from the politics of populist nationalism in Europe and beyond. 

The Labour, SNP and Liberal Democrat parties all pledged to support the creation of the Scottish Council on Global Affairs in their manifestos during the recent Scottish parliamentary elections. The new Council will be launched at the University of Glasgow in the autumn of 2021 but will work across Scotland in pursuit of its core aims of placing expertise at the service of public policy and promoting informed public debate on international affairs. 

The creation of a Scottish Institute of International Affairs is long overdue. It is needed now more than ever, to explain the complexities of world politics to Scotland, and, just as importantly, to explain Scotland to the rest of the world. 

You can read more about the Scottish Council on Global Affairs on the Centre for Constitutional Change website.

If you want to know more about the Scottish Council on Global Affairs, please contact Professor Peter Jackson or Dr Rachel Chin.

First published: 9 June 2021