JANUARY marked the launch of the Joint Bilateral Review of Scottish-Irish Relations, as Ireland’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney, TD and the Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs Michael Russell, MSP unveiled the results of the wide-ranging consultation which examined the relationship between Scotland and Ireland.
With 41 recommendations for the future of the relationship of the two governments and the cultural exchanges across the Irish Sea, the report will define the Irish-Scottish governmental relationship over the next five years—with hope that a close and fruitful exchange can help meet the challenges of the Brexit transition and the impact of Covid-19 restrictions.
“The end of the Brexit transition period has brought change. In this new context, we both want to see the closest possible relationship between Scotland and Ireland, and the UK and Ireland, for the mutual benefit of the people in our countries, and, more broadly, on these islands,” Simon Coveney and Michael Russell said in the report. “The review considered what we do together: as governments, as trading nations, through our research bodies, our cultural institutions and our communities. We heard from many people and organisations whose ideas, experience and energy for further cooperation are reflected in this report. The response to our public questionnaire was overwhelmingly positive and provided a rich seam of information on connections across all themes of the review.
“Listening to many voices, we have agreed recommendations of what more we should do. This is a starting point for the next five years, and indeed beyond. We have created the signposts which point the way for our ambitions to work together, rather than narrowly defining future outcomes.
“By creating further opportunities, we know we will see new ideas emerge, as the relationship continues to evolve. Moreover, in order to ensure that the ambition in our recommendations is realised, we are committed to meeting annually, when we will not only look at what we have done, but also set new, ambitious, shared objectives.
“As we continue to live with COVID-19 and rebuild our societies and economies, this new and focussed cooperation will support our broader recovery. We look forward to shared endeavour in many fields, from the arts, science, business, across government and between our people.”
The review focuses on five main themes, business and economy; community and diaspora; academic and research links; culture; and rural, coastal and island communities, with a commitment to collaborate in these areas and explore new opportunities to develop the relationship.
Giving her view on the publication of the review, Ireland’s Consul General to Scotland, Jane McCulloch spoke to The Irish Voice about the new future for Scottish-Irish relations thanks to the opportunities presented by the bilateral review.
“For the review, we undertook consultations across government, with a breadth of stakeholders, and the wider public,” she said. “I would like to express our shared appreciation to the Irish community in Scotland for their participation and engagement. Responses to our online questionnaire exceeded our expectations in terms of numbers and the richness of the contributions.
“The shared geography of Ireland’s and Scotland’s rural, coastal, and island communities was considered the strongest area for collaboration by 73 per cent of respondents to the online questionnaire, generating the highest number of comments.
“The Rural, Coastal and Island Communities strand of the review presents some of the most exciting opportunities for future collaboration. All recommendations stemming from this joint bilateral review will include a focus on rural, coastal and island communities.
“There were also high levels of engagement in the review process under the culture theme, which underlined its importance, with most focus on the arts, language and sport. Recommendations on culture comprise a series of cultural exchanges and collaborations, including joint programming in support of the Colmcille 1500 celebrations, reflecting the international legacy of this pivotal figure in our shared cultural, legal and ecclesiastical history.
“We will also work with the Scottish Government to explore together how to increase participation and inclusivity in sport, and will host an online TV festival, in partnership with the Celtic Media Festival, to celebrate Scottish-Irish co-productions in both Irish and Gaidhlig, and English.
“We are excited to start work on 41 recommendations, working together with the Scottish Government and our colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs, and collaborating with a wide range of great partners to benefit both Scotland and Ireland.”
For more information, to read the report in full, and to keep abreast of developments on the review’s ongoing work, you can visit www.dfa.ie/Edinburgh and follow the Irish Consulate in Edinburgh on Twitter or Facebook: @irlscotland