By Anthony Salamone

If Scotland became an independent state, it would be fully responsible for representing itself in the rest of Europe and the wider world.

Many different kinds of diplomacy exist these days – digital diplomacy, public diplomacy, cultural diplomacy, to name a few – and government officials from all departments can connect directly with their counterparts in other capitals with greater ease than in years gone by.

Such trends lead some to question the continued value of the normal diplomatic network of embassies, consulates and other offices. The reality is, however, that diplomatic missions still perform a variety of essential roles – and the diplomatic network of a Scottish state would be a foundational part of its foreign policy institutions.

Scotland would be a European small state. Its diplomatic network, in size and distribution, would need to be proportionate to its ministry of foreign affairs, the department’s budget and the number of diplomats available. As a result, it would not be feasible for Scotland to maintain an embassy in every state with which it had diplomatic relations. Instead, the objective would be to make strategic choices in the design of a tailored diplomatic footprint.

The Herald:

A map drawn up by Anthony Salamone of which countries Scotland may choose to situate embassies and consuls. 

Inspiration could be found from comparable European states and their foreign policy choices – in particular, Denmark, Ireland, Finland and Norway. Based on their diplomatic networks, Scotland might operate around 70 embassies (the United Nations currently has 193 members). However, the aim would not be to replicate their decisions in every detail. In the end, a Scottish diplomatic network should meet Scotland’s specific circumstances.

The purpose of a diplomatic network is to serve the state’s foreign policy. In practice, diplomatic missions fulfil that purpose in different ways, including through political representation, economic coordination, trade and investment promotion, defence and security cooperation, consular services and, in the case of international organisations, participation in policy-making.

If Scotland joined the EU, shared membership would add an important dimension to its bilateral relations with the other EU members.

The type of diplomatic mission shapes its function. Embassies are bilateral representations located in the host country’s capital. Consulates general, also bilateral in nature, can be situated in centres of commerce, regional capitals or places with a large home country diaspora. Permanent missions are multilateral representations to international organisations, located in the same city as the organisation – Brussels for the EU and NATO, for instance.

In my Global Blueprint report, I propose a diplomatic network for an independent Scotland consisting of 110 missions: 72 embassies, 29 consulates general and 9 multilateral and other representations.

Its locations are based on the dual goals of making strategic investments in core partners (the EU, the US and the UK) and providing adequate coverage of all regions of the world (including global and regional powers). This diplomatic footprint assumes that Scotland joins the EU. It is an ambitious, yet realistic, model.

Like its comparator states, Scotland would make its largest diplomatic investments in Europe. Under the proposal, it would open an embassy in every EU member state – an approach adopted by Ireland.

With those embassies, Scotland would be in a strong position to develop its bilateral relations with all EU members, initially as part of its EU accession process and later in the context of EU policy-making. As a new small state, Scotland would benefit from engaging with all member states to some degree.

The model includes Scottish consulates general in a select number of major EU non-capital cities: Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Munich, Marseille, Milan, Barcelona and Bilbao.

Scotland would open embassies in non-EU European states, including Switzerland, Norway, Ukraine and, of course, the UK. Most of its multilateral missions (including at the EU, NATO and the UN in Geneva and Vienna) would also be in Europe. All told, around half of Scotland’s entire diplomatic network would be situated in Europe.

Outwith Europe, the United States would be the essential strategic partner for Scotland, across geopolitical cooperation, trade and investment, defence and security, academic exchange, diaspora relations and beyond.

Given that importance, the proposal features an extensive Scottish diplomatic footprint in the US. Scotland would have a large embassy (for its size) in Washington, DC and seven consulates general – in Boston, New York, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Denver and San Francisco.

Each mission would provide consular services for those states within its consular district. For instance, the New York consulate would cover New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

Closer to home, Scotland’s diplomatic presence in the residual United Kingdom would be a vital conduit for maintaining good relations with its neighbour.

Its embassy in London would one of the largest Scottish diplomatic missions worldwide, likely surpassed only by Scotland’s permanent representation to the EU, given the range and depth of the bilateral relationship.

Incidentally, if Scotland joined the Commonwealth (presuming it still existed by then), its London representation would be called a “high commission” instead of an “embassy”. In the proposal, consulates general in Manchester, Newcastle, Cardiff and Belfast would support the embassy and provide consular services in their respective areas.

The rest of Scotland’s diplomatic network would span the globe and should be focused on states which are powers or partners.

Accordingly, the Global Blueprint envisages a representation in China consisting of an embassy in Beijing and consulates general in Shanghai and Hong Kong; in Canada, it includes an embassy in Ottawa and consulates general in Montréal, Toronto and Vancouver.

Embassies would be situated in states ranging from Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Kenya to India, Pakistan, Japan and South Korea.

Building this diplomatic network would be one part of the transition to independence and the establishment of a Scottish state. It would require investment and take time to construct.

On an expeditious timetable, the full network of 110 diplomatic missions might be in place around two years after the date of independence. The Scottish Government’s current representative offices are not comparable to the diplomatic missions of a state, so they could not simply be relabelled – and only nine exist at present, in any event.

Like its wider foreign policy, an independent Scotland’s diplomatic network would have to be strategic for it to be successful as a small state in the world.

Anthony Salamone is managing director of European Merchants