Date lodged: 1 November 2017
To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on the ministerial visits to Dublin and Belfast in October 2017 and information on the meetings and engagements undertaken.
Answered by: Fiona Hyslop 2 November 2017
The First Minister visited Dublin between the 5 and 6 October 2017 in order to build on Scotland’s bilateral relations with Ireland, promote Scotland’s strengths as a destination for Irish investors, build our links with the Irish business community and encourage collaboration in areas of shared economic and cultural interest. Ireland is an important partner for Scotland and further strengthening our bilateral relationship continues to be a priority for this government.
During the visit, the First Minister held her first full bilateral meeting with the Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar since his appointment in June 2017. Discussion focused on matters of shared interest across a range of policy priorities including the economy, particularly inclusive growth, how we continue to ensure fair access to high quality education, and social issues, including public health provision, where it was agreed there was substantive scope to share experiences.
On Brexit, the First Minister explained Scotland’s position, and both agreed it was in our common interest that the UK remain in the Single Market and the Customs Union. On Northern Ireland, the First Minister stressed that any outcome of the Brexit negotiations should protect the Good Friday Agreement in its entirety, promote peace and stability, and ensure no change to the current open border on the island of Ireland. Both parties agreed on the continued strategic relevance of the British Irish Council and the importance of a strong, high level UK Government attendance at this year’s Summit meeting in Jersey.
The Taoiseach and First Minister also discussed the role of devolved administrations in the Brexit negotiation process. The First Minister reassured the Taoiseach that the Scottish Government is committed to safeguarding Scotland’s interests, continues to act in good faith and is determined that Scotland’s voice should be heard through the Joint Ministerial Committee process.
Following the meeting with the Taoiseach, the First Minister attended the Dublin Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner, where she delivered the keynote address to an audience of some 1500 Irish and international business leaders. In the First Minister’s address, she set out the Scottish Government’s vision for Scotland’s economy, outlined why Irish based businesses should continue to invest in and trade with Scotland, opportunities for economic collaboration and that despite Brexit, Scotland remains open for business and continues to be an attractive place for investment as well as a close partner and ally for Ireland and Irish business.
The following morning, the First Minister attended a private working breakfast where she had the opportunity to directly relay this message to some of the largest Irish investors in the Scottish economy, as well as major international investors in the Irish economy.
Concluding the trip to Dublin, the First Minister visited the Ark (a Dublin based children’s theatre and Ireland’s only dedicated space for children to engage in the creative arts and cultural development), where she met with a Scottish children’s theatre and dance company, which has been supported by Scottish Government and was in Dublin to perform as part of the Dublin Fringe Theatre festival. This was an excellent opportunity to restate the importance of Scottish- Irish cultural links, and how these links can support cultural and educational opportunities for children, teachers and families.
The First Minister’s visit was followed by a visit from the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution to Dublin on the 12 October, where he met with the Irish Government Minister for Financial Services and Insurance to discuss the potential for future collaboration between the Scottish and Irish financial services industries. Later the same day, the Cabinet Secretary participated in a conference hosted by PWC Ireland, at which key leaders from the Irish and Scottish financial services sectors came together to discuss in more detail the development of closer collaboration. Mr MacKay was also in Belfast on 6 October to deliver the keynote address to the annual dinner of the Belfast Homecoming conference, in which he focused on the links between the Northern Irish and Scottish diasporas, and the potential to further strengthen our economic links.