March 3, 2015
by blog administrator
The Scottish Government places enormous value on our membership of the European Union and on fostering strong economic, social and cultural links with other nations.
Over the last week, Ministers were involved in several events that demonstrate our commitment to these relationships and how we’re actively working with other Governments on initiatives that support the future prosperity and success of our respective nations.
Fiona Hyslop addressing the BICC in Dublin
On Monday I attended a dinner hosted by the Irish Consul General to mark the visit of the Irish Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources Alex White to Scotland. Minister White led an Irish trade delegation to the Low Carbon Scotland conference and also met with Minister McLeod to discuss potential co-operation between Scotland and Ireland. Then on Friday I joined Irish and UK Government Ministers at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce (BICC) Conference in Dublin, delivering a speech on the importance of the EU to Scotland, the UK and Ireland. The Irish Government agrees with us on this and the Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald, made clear that their ‘best friend’ – the UK - should not leave the EU.
During the course of my visit, I was delighted to announce that one of Scotland’s most iconic buildings, Edinburgh Castle, will turn green to mark St Patrick’s day this year – a fitting symbol of the importance we place on our commitment to a stronger relationship with our Celtic neighbours.
Edinburgh Castle to go green for St Patrick's Day
During the week, the First Minister and I met the French Ambassador to the UK, HE Sylvie Bermann, where we discussed our ongoing cooperation on education, culture and marine energy, and opportunities for greater links between our two countries. I also had a constructive meeting with French MP Christophe Premat, who represents French citizens living in Scotland.
On Thursday the Enterprise Minister, Fergus Ewing, and I addressed business leaders at a conference in Edinburgh which showcased economic opportunities in Poland for Scottish firms. Exports from Scotland to Poland are worth £265m to Scotland’s economy and the event focused on further strengthening trade and investment links between our countries.
Fiona Hyslop with Ambassador Robin Barnett and Ambassador Witold Sobków at the business conference.
As well as trade links, Scotland and Poland also have a significant shared history – this was highlighted during a Parliamentary reception on Thursday evening, which commemorated the Polish war hero General Stanisław Maczek, whose Polish 1st Armoured Division defended the east coast of Scotland from 1942-1944 and then took part in the invasion of Normandy. Europe Minister Humza Yousaf addressed the reception, which remembered the remarkable achievements of General Maczek, who following the war made Scotland his home.
On Friday another major event was taking place in Glasgow to promote the Milan Expo 2015. Running from May to October, the Expo will centre around two main themes ‘feeding the planet’ and ‘energy for life’ and is designed to spark a global conversation towards finding a balance between the availability and the consumption of resources. Our Europe Minister opened a conference during the day on Fair Trade and Energy attended by senior pupils from a number of schools and in the evening the First Minister hosted a reception with Italy’s Ambassador to the UK attended by some 400 guests.
Humza Yousaf with school pupils at the Milan Expo event
Scotland has some great examples of sustainability and renewable energy and the event provided an opportunity to demonstrate how everyone can get involved from May.
Through major events and gatherings such as the Expo, there’s an opportunity for us in Scotland to strengthen our cultural and economic links, not just with Italy but with other countries exhibiting at the event, and that is why the First Minister announced that there will be an event each month promoting Scotland during the Expo.
It’s important we maximise all opportunities to showcase Scottish culture, innovation and sectoral strengths internationally and it’s that vital that our efforts to strengthen relationships with other nations are not put at risk or diminished by negative attitudes to Europe and a potential in-out referendum on Europe.