Tartan Day parade: Definition of the 'Scottish diaspora' is broad and welcoming as Scotland seeks to win new friends – Angus Robertson

Tonight the Empire State Building in New York will be lit up in blue and white, the colours of the Saltire, and tomorrow I will join the annual Tartan Day parade down 6th Avenue.

Both events are part of the Tartan Week celebrations in the city and reflect the importance of Scotland’s diaspora and its contribution to the United States. Recent research suggests upwards of 40 million people across the world consider themselves to have Scottish heritage.

For centuries, Scots have crossed the globe, sharing their skills, ingenuity and influence. Today we are an open and outward-looking country with a proud history of intellectual, cultural and economic exchange. Our diaspora is an extension of Scotland itself – our living bridge with people, organisations and communities around the world.

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That is why the Scottish Government has launched an initiative this week to build on our global relationships. The Scottish Connections Framework seeks to expand links and networks with Scottish people living elsewhere in the world. However, our approach will transcend bloodlines. We value anyone who has, or wants to have, a connection with us. Our definition of ‘diaspora’ is broad and welcoming. We will connect with alumni of our world-leading educational institutions, anyone who has ever called Scotland their home, and also with those who have cultural links with us.

We will be inclusive, linking with historically marginalised communities, minority ethnic Scots and our LGBTQ community, and we will promote women’s and young people’s participation. At the same time, Scotland cannot shy away from its past. We must acknowledge both the positive and controversial aspects of our history, including Scots’ involvement in the transatlantic slave trade, empire and colonialism.

There are many ways we already engage with these communities, from in-person events hosted by our international network, Scottish Development International and VisitScotland, to digital opportunities on social media channels and through newsletters. Our next step is to expand on this outreach by focusing on more substantial relationships to help members of our diaspora build their own networks and engage directly with the Scottish Government and our public bodies.

As part of the framework, a number of projects will be launched or expanded on, including a Scottish Connections Challenge Fund to support initiatives that promote Scotland’s reputation and interests. During the lifetime of this parliament, a recognition award to highlight the achievements of the Scottish diaspora internationally will be launched and an external advisory group established to shape proposed and future work with them.

I am confident that this new framework will unlock many opportunities for Scots and those with links to our country. Making contact with our international diaspora will enable us to learn from their skills, experiences and achievements. As a celebration of Scotland and Scottish-Americans, Tartan Week itself provides an ideal starting point to take forward discussions with our friends and partners in New York City about how we can work more closely together for the benefit of all.

Angus Robertson is Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture and SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central



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