When President-elect Biden finishes the 35 words of the U.S. presidential oath of office on January 20th, cannons will fire as the United States Marine Corps Band begins playing “Hail to the Chief.” Few will know that the famous piece of presidential music finds its origin from Scotland, and the romantic poem “Lady of the Lake” penned by Sir Walter Scott in 1810. 

The reminder of the unique historical connection lays out a new sheet of paper to compose innovative verses that deepen modern connections between Scotland and the United States.

A first important step is for the United States to deploy more diplomats and resources in Scotland, and for Scotland to expand personnel and funding in the United States. With a myriad of key foreign policy questions before President-elect Biden, Vice President-elect Harris, a nominated Secretary of State Blinken, their diplomatic, trade, and national security teams, analysts might question the value of investing time and energy into Scotland. Many will often view Scotland as nicely wrapped within a lovely box, tied with a charming tartan bow. Of course, such a positive view is not harmful, in fact, it can be beneficial.

What is lacking in America is a depth of understanding about Scotland as an innovative, entrepreneurial, and progressive nation. The Biden Administration is listening and seems to understand the gift Scotland offers the world is so much more profound than to simply view it and the Scottish people as merely delightful.

First Minister Sturgeon, numerous Scottish ministers and MPs representing Scotland have made important connections with U.S. leaders over the years and reinforced this message. 

One excellent connection the FM Sturgeon made was with then Deputy Secretary of State Blinken. It is valuable that Scotland and the United States have an existing relationship between the FM and the future Secretary of State on which to build.     

The U.S. Government would be wise to expand its presence in Scotland for strategic and economic reasons. Currently, the U.S. has one Foreign Service Officer based in Edinburgh who serves effectively in the U.S. Consulate as Principal Officer.

A new U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. should make a tactical stroke to relocate a handful of commercial, political, and economic officer positions from London to cover regions across Scotland. Doing so will significantly enrich the ambassador’s knowledge as an advisor to President Biden and Secretary Blinken.

The ambassador would better comprehend the political and economic dynamics in the U.K. and Europe, position the U.S. for the COP26 in Glasgow, improve the grasp of understanding of the U.S. Scottish trading relationship, and aid in forging more partnerships between U.S. and Scottish entities across sectors.

Further, with a wider tactical presence, U.S. leaders will see how Scotland is leveraging sectors and offering a policy blueprint for other nations, businesses, and communities when it comes to hydrogen and net-zero policy, tech innovation, inclusion, wind-power, healthcare, human rights, life sciences, and caring for vulnerable populations.  

While these are difficult budget times in Scotland with an historic need to prioritize caring for those impacted by the pandemic, a fundamental international question is on the table. Should Scotland commit more resources to widen strategic relationships throughout the United States? The Scottish Office within the British Embassy in Washington, DC continues to do outstanding work. I am always amazed by how much they shoulder, lift, and achieve.

Also, the broader teams in the British Embassy and British Consulates around the U.S. are an  effective voice for all nations comprising the United Kingdom. Scottish interests in the U.S. are also aided by a wider community of Scottish groups, societies, organisations and advocates including Scottish Development International, Scottish Business Network, the GlobalScot network, ScotWeek, Entrepreneurial Scotland, among many other actors.

Clearly this capacity is having a positive effect, but a greater potential impact is being left unrealized. Scotland must find a way to build on a strong existing foundation and invest more into scaling up in the U.S. Doing so will secure tangible benefits for Scottish enterprise, culture, trade, tourism, research, and academia at a key moment.

A fresh foreign policy vision by President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the incoming team for Europe and beyond offers an opportunity for the United States and Scotland to forge modern links. Scotland can build on its own ‘special relationship’ with the United States by launching a more assertive, strategic, and creative plan backed with more capacity building resources. And as the United States develops a renewed global approach, it can enlarge its footprint in Scotland while fully respecting and expanding its key connection with the U.K. A deeper partnership between Scotland and the U.S. is not only mutually beneficial, but valuable for the U.K., Europe, and the larger global community.        

Ian Houston has spent his career in Washington, DC as an international non-profit leader, a policy advocate for diplomatic engagement and global poverty alleviation, and intercultural dialogue. He formerly worked in the U.S. Congress on policy staff. He currently serves as a consultant and as the Ambassador for the Scottish Business Network (SBN) in Washington, DC. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of SBN.