British diplomats should receive special lessons on Scotland to help them more effectively represent Scottish interests abroad, a committee of MPs has said.

In their new report, 'Beyond The Tartan,' the Commons’ Scottish Affairs Committee also called on the UK’s network of embassies and consulates to host Burns Nights and St Andrew’s Day celebrations to help promote Scotland internationally.

The new paper comes after a year-long probe — which involved MPs taking a trip to New York for Tartan Week — found that the work on the ground between the UK and Scottish governments was “largely collaborative and constructive."

However, they noted that much of the international promotion of Scotland could at times seem to be “characterised by tension and relationship difficulties.”

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The MPs said that while Scotland benefits from having a “distinctive brand identity which is an advantage on the international stage” it was often “traditional attributes of the Scottish brand such as tartan, golf and its history” which were the most prominent. 

“These remain important hooks for creating interest in or drawing international visitors to Scotland," the report said. 

“However, the challenge today is to ensure that Scotland’s current international profile reflects modern Scotland and its strengths—for example, its scientific research, or space and renewable energy sectors, in which it is world-leading.”

The committee said traditional Scottish celebration dates such as Burns Night and St Andrew’s Day could be “obvious starting points to profile Scotland’s strengths which could be employed more consistently across the UK’s global network.”

They called on the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to publish “a strategy, to be circulated across its international diplomatic network, which sets out guidance and expectations for embassies on holding events to mark Scotland’s key dates."

They also said the UK Government should “agree a definition of the Scottish brand to be advanced by it internationally.”  

A similar exercise should also be adopted by the Scottish Government. 

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The MPs said their trip to the US was “a unique opportunity for us to meet with Scottish diaspora groups and British Embassy officials to find out how effectively Scotland is promoted in the US.” 

The Herald: As well as New York they also visited Washington DC, where a Scottish Government team is based within the British Embassy building. 

The report states that committee members “found the two governments’ teams were working constructively together” and that the “UK Government’s larger international footprint enabled Scotland’s interests to reach a wider audience than Scottish Government bodies and that this had a positive impact for Scottish trade.”  

However, for the UK Government to do more to reflect Scotland's “contemporary success stories" the FCDO should “enhance its programme of training for relevant embassy staff at all band levels to improve the knowledge base of UK officials of the Scottish market and industry landscape, as well as the current priorities of the UK Government in relation to promoting Scotland internationally.”

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Commenting on the report, the SNP's MP Pete Wishart who chairs of the committee, said:   “This inquiry demonstrated how constructively the Scottish and UK Governments can work together to further the interests of Scotland, which I hope can serve as a template for other areas on which our objectives are the same.  

“Where a lot of the international promotion of Scotland can at times seem to be characterised by tension and relationship difficulties between the UK and Scottish Governments, we found that the work on the ground is largely collaborative and constructive with a focus on serving vital Scottish interests.  

“It’s critical the international view of Scotland keeps pace with the world-leading industries which set us apart.

"As a Committee, we really want to see more promotion of Scotland’s contemporary strengths – for example, its outstanding science and space sectors – with a clear strategy which sets out how we will use our national days to build Scotland’s reputation.  

“While visiting the USA, we found there was a huge amount of potential and, with a clearer direction from the UK Government as well as ongoing collaboration with their Scottish Government counterparts, Scotland’s standing in the world can certainly continue to grow. 

“Events such as Tartan Week in New York give a massive opportunity to promote Scottish business and tourism as well as nurturing vital relationships with our diaspora. We hope that both Governments can explore the possibility of expanding this initiative and develop effective strategies to maximise the benefits of such events.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “We welcome this report which illustrates the work of the UK Government in promoting Scotland internationally.

“The UK Government has a strong record of working constructively and collaboratively with the devolved governments and continues to provide appropriate support overseas for devolved policies. The 800 staff based at FCDO’s joint HQ in East Kilbride are at the very heart of shaping and delivering UK foreign policy.”