By Clare Adamson

THE Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee, which I convene, has just completed an inquiry into the Scottish Government’s international work.

During the evidence-taking stage of our inquiry, we heard about innovative initiatives, policies and strategies which drive much of this work. These support Scottish businesses trading internationally, educational and cultural links, and work to improve the lives of some of the world’s poorest people, not least through our own special relationship with Malawi.

The Scottish Government’s international work on the ground includes a network of nine hub offices in Europe and key countries such as Canada, China and the USA, which promote Scotland’s economic and cultural interests; a Climate Justice Fund, supporting work in the developing world to adapt and respond to climate change; and the building of educational links between Scotland’s universities and colleges and their overseas counterparts.

And that’s not to mention the work undertaken focussing on our relationship with Europe and the EU, including specifically our Nordic, Arctic and Baltic neighbours.

While we heard many positive stories about this work, and plans to do more – including a likely extension of the international hubs – our Committee is of the view that the Scottish Government must be clear on its strategic intent, and ensure all of its current initiatives and policies flow from that.

The Scottish Government is currently reviewing and refreshing its overall International Framework. This would seem to be the ideal opportunity to ensure its overseas work is coherent and aligned with the Government’s priorities as outlined in its National Performance Framework.

As with any work, it is fundamental to be clear on what we are doing, why we are doing it, and how well we are doing it by having measurable outcomes.

And it is important that the Framework is not in a silo. We believe that issues prioritised in external relations should be driven by, match and inform domestic priorities. Be that working towards a wellbeing economy, sustainable development, promoting gender equality, or protecting human rights

We believe that a Framework along these lines would help the Government mainstream the international agenda and ensure policy coherence, and allow for better scrutiny by the Parliament, not least from our Committee.

In the Framework, we would also like to see an explicit prioritisation on which countries, regions and policy themes will be the focus of our attention, and the rationale behind this. And time should be allowed for a consultation on the International Framework while it is still in draft form, allowing stakeholders to have their say.

Lastly, the Scottish Government should also clarify how it interacts with the UK Government on international work, as it is not clear what formal arrangements are currently in place between the governments.

Our inquiry heard from witnesses who were broadly positive about what the Scottish Government has achieved internationally on a modest budget – we believe bringing strategic clarity and measurable outcomes can only enhance this work.

Clare Adamson is SNP MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw