Kirsty Hughes responds to UK attack on Scotland’s international relations


Dr Kirsty Hughes of the Scottish Centre on European Relations posted a significant Twitter thread explaining Scotland’s relationship with other countries in the wake of the UK government’s attack on Scotland’s international connections, especially our office in Brussels.

Dr Hughes kindly agreed to Newsnet publishing the Twitter thread of her response to the UK government so that it is available in permanent form and to those outside the confines of social media. Twitter abbreviations are retained in the text below.

By Dr Kirsty S Hughes

UK govt gearing up to pressure Scottish & other devolved admins on European & international offices. A sort of crazed control-freakery (not sure what happened to love-bombing). More seriously, perfectly normal for regions & sub-states to have Brussels & international offices. 1/8

Bavaria has a Brussels office, so does Quebec, Catalonia etc. This is more about rampant Tory unionism, & fear of Scottish govt para diplomacy, including not least its successful Brussels, Berlin, Dublin & Paris offices & manifesto commitment to open a Nordic/Baltic hub 2/8

These Scottish hubs promote Scottish interests in diverse ways, such as research links, culture, climate change cooperation (eg discussions in Germany on hydrogen power). And yes ministers may sometimes touch on politics when talking to European & international interlocutors. 3/8

Scotland House Brussels, Scotland Europa

Frost expects devolved govts to support UK position in international meetings. Sure, foreign policy is reserved. But Scottish govt well advised eg not to back UK govt’s threats to break international law on NI protocol. And international affairs much wider than foreign policy 4/8

Scottish govt is committed to aligning with EU laws in environment where possible – UK govt is not. So, apart from internal market act making that more difficult, of course Scottish govt will have different policies to discuss w EU contacts. 5/8

Real issue here is that while EU govts & officials are neutral on independence, they are sympathetic to Scotland voting remain but getting Brexit. And they appreciate dealing with a more pro-European, rational government than Johnson’s. Scotland is popular in EU, UK is not. 6/8

Scottish para diplomacy can also easily promote independence indirectly. Scotland as a serious, small European country/devolved govt focused on trade, climate, rights, well-being builds positive external relations & shows iScotland will be an EU asset not a problem 7/8

UK govt wants to inhibit Scottish govt from doing its best to build positive European & international relations despite Brexit. Ironically, this clumsy control-freakery is likely simply to increase understanding & appreciation of Scotland internationally 8/8

Scotland House Brussels

Note on Scotland Europa: The partners of Scotland House Brussels are the Scottish Government, Scotland Europa and Scottish Enterprise/Scottish Development International. Scotland House Brussels has well established teams covering diplomatic engagement, economic development and cultural promotion.