SCOTLAND has a “premier brand across sectors” and a “brand that opens doors”, the ambassador for the Scottish Business Network (SBN) in Washington DC has said.

Ian Houston, who formerly worked in the US Congress on policy staff, said leaders in Scotland “do not realise how well received the brand is”.

And former SNP MP Stephen Gethins (below) – who spoke to Houston as part of his research for the second edition of his book Nation to Nation: Scotland’s Place in the World – has insisted the brand goes beyond that enjoyed by most countries or states which are fully independent and better use must be made of it when it comes to economic recovery.

The SBN is a non-profit membership organisation for Scottish entrepreneurs and business leaders around the world. It aims to facilitate greater communication and connectivity between companies and a network of the leading Scottish diaspora around the globe.

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Houston’s comments have also been complemented by other former British diplomats and ambassadors in the book.

Former British diplomat and now journalist David Mac Dougall is quoted as saying it helps there is a “brand identity” about Scotland in terms of its international recognition while Frances Guy, a former British ambassador and UN Women’s representative, said “there is something about Scotland” people know and referenced conversations she has about the country with taxi drivers all over the world.

Gethins, who served as an MP for North East Fife between 2015 and 2019, said his research had proved to him Scotland has “considerable traction” throughout the world.

He told The National: “Scotland has a significant international identity and brand that goes beyond that enjoyed by many states that are fully independent.

The National: Former MP Stephen Gethins, Professor of Practice in International Relations at St Andrews, who is releasing a new bookFormer MP Stephen Gethins, Professor of Practice in International Relations at St Andrews, who is releasing a new book

“Not only should we be using that brand in terms of international diplomacy but there’s a real benefit for people living and working in Scotland.

“The Scottish brand has considerable traction throughout the world, not just with the tens of millions that make up the Scottish diaspora, but with those who know about the country and the quality of its products.

“During a cost of living crisis and at a time when the UK as a whole is suffering because of the self-inflicted damage of Brexit, we need to use all the tools at our disposal for economic recovery and it would just make sense to use this globally-recognised brand.”

In a chapter entitled Britain Divided: the UK’s Foreign Policy Divergences, Gethins reflects on the way in which Scotland is increasingly seen as having a role to play in peacemaking and conflict resolution and how it is viewed affectionately by former Soviet Union countries.

He harks back to a visit by the speakers of the parliaments of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to Moray in 2003 for peace talks and speaks of how they perceived Scotland to be a “safe space” where politicians could speak openly with each other away from tricky politics at home.

“George Reid, then presiding officer, who had himself worked in the region hailed the South Caucasus Parliamentary Initiative as a ‘great honour’ for a Scotland whose devolved institutions were still new,” Gethins states.

And having worked in the Caucasus – a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea – he talks about how even in the most remote parts of the former Soviet Union, people have an understanding of Scotland and a positive view of the country.

Gethins said his nationality was always a great conversation starter and most Scots he had spoken to who had worked in the region felt the same way.

“No matter where I went – in even the most remote parts of the former Soviet Union – people had an awareness and understanding of Scotland,” Gethins said in the chapter.

“In South Ossetia, I discussed Scotland’s constitutional journey with local leaders and Scottish whisky with senior Russian officers stationed there.

“It was also helpful to use my own Scottish identity in some of the breakaway entities, be it in South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh or Abkhazia.

“Regardless of their views on Scotland’s constitutional future, most Scots I know who have worked in the region talk of their nationality as being a help.

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“One senior NGO [non-governmental organisation] official who works on some of the most intractable conflicts told me being Scottish is an ‘easy-opener’.

“Former diplomat and foreign correspondent, David Mac Dougall, said that it helped that ‘there is brand identity’ and former British ambassador Frances Guy said ‘there is something about Scotland’ people know and she talked about conversations with taxi drivers around the world.”

Gethins added: “I have been constantly struck by how emerging leaders, from around the world, have embraced Scotland as a small but vibrant, soft power nation with an extraordinary historical brand and important constitutional journey to tell.

“Its strong and separate identity appears to exercise a powerful hold over the world’s collective imagination.”