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Scottish Clan & Family Forum: Getting Serious About A Scottish Diaspora Strategy

Last June in Stirling, Scotland, Scottish Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Fergus Ewing convened a Scoping Meeting to define the direction and initial topics of interest for a new Scottish ancestral tourism stakeholder’s committee. After discussion it was agreed that the name of the group ought to be the Scottish Clan & Family Forum and it should undertake discussion and work related to the promotion of Scottish ancestral tourism and, even if only indirectly as a requirement of the foregoing, a strong and vibrant Scottish ancestral diaspora. The various stakeholders present included regional Scottish clan and family representatives, Scottish ancestral tourism business leaders, representatives from relevant corners of Scottish government, the Standing Council of Scottish Chiefs, and the Council of Scottish Clans & Associations (COSCA) and the Scottish Australian Heritage Council (SAHC) representing the global Scottish ancestral diaspora. The Scoping Meeting was a good one and the first full meeting of the Scottish Clan & Family Forum was set for late November 2014.

We are delighted to report that the first full meeting of the Scottish Clan & Family Forum convened on 28 November 2014 in Perth, Scotland, with a few individuals (including yours truly) joining via telephone. The Forum remains under the chairmanship of Fergus Ewing, who, under the new Scottish First Minister’s government, is now styled just a bit differently as Minister for Business (formerly ‘Enterprise’), Energy and Tourism. We had a productive and wide ranging meeting that resulted in specific take aways and action items.

Airfares To Scotland Are Painful! From the perspective of the Scottish diaspora, there is an interest in making Scottish ancestral tourism as rich, comfortable and accessible as possible and so we are pleased to participate on the Scottish Clan & Family Forum to discuss that topic. Along those lines, I am delighted to announce that one of the take aways from the November meeting is that the Scottish Government will be pursuing potential special programs, discounts and other advantages that may be possible in the air travel industry for a well organized, collective Scottish ancestral diaspora. Initial inquiry indicates that there may be opportunities for significant savings for Scottish Americans traveling to Scotland especially with an organizational infrastructure such as COSCA and the 100+ clan/family/SAS members of COSCA.

Clan Event Fund: We discussed a promising recently initiated program called the Scottish Clan Event Fund. This is a fund, established by the Scottish government in 2013, intended to help support individual Scottish clan & family gatherings in Scotland held in traditional clan and family lands. The fund was not well understood or broadly embraced during the 2014 application process and a few other complications having to do with the application form have been sorted out for 2015. We will be bringing additional details regarding this fund and what it can be used for. Be sure to pay particular attention to upcoming developments now through the spring if your clan or family society is planning a clan gathering or other event in Scotland in the next few years.

ICGs and the Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology: The Forum stakeholders were interested in general thinking by the diaspora about future International Clan Gatherings. COSCA’s recent report on that subject informed the discussion as it flowed into a more specific discussion about Scotland’s 2017 Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology. Presently, there is no plan on the table or in the wings by any stakeholder to initiate another International Clan Gathering although many opportunities and approaches have been discussed and examined by the COSCA ICG Working Group and others. It appears that additional and likely expanded discussion and exploration of future ICGs will occur before any dates begin to be discussed with seriousness.

Beyond the topic of future International Clan Gatherings, 2017 presents some really awesome possibilities (and excuses!) for trips to Scotland during the “Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology”. We will be working with the Scottish government to develop ideas about ways that Scottish clan and family societies with ancestral archaeological and historical projects – or that want to develop such projects – can take advantage of the resources and opportunities offered during 2017.

Scottish Diaspora Strategy – NOT. Finally, the Forum discussed the fact that Scotland presently lacks a cohesive, modern and effective Diaspora Strategy. Specifically citing the examples of a few other national diaspora strategies that are enjoying success, we discussed the possibility of a reexamination of those Scottish policies that do exist and exploration of others that might be beneficially adopted. Although this discussion is potentially beyond the original scope of the Scottish Clan & Family Forum, Minister Fergus Ewing has left the door open for further consideration and encouraged further submissions. We are extremely pleased by the Minister’s welcoming approach and we will do everything we can to open a discussion that ultimately benefits Scotland and her ancestral diaspora.

Next meeting of the Scottish Clan & Family Forum will be held in May 2015. We will report on additional developments that occur in the interim.  Want to do some Diaspora Strategy homework?  Check this out:  2014 Global Diaspora & Development Forum Report  by Kingsley Aikens of Diaspora Matters.  Good stuff and there is alot more.

Slainte!

2 responses to “Scottish Clan & Family Forum: Getting Serious About A Scottish Diaspora Strategy”

  1. April Thompson says:

    I’d love to see a citizenship reciprocity for Scottish Diaspora members, just to take the strain off of getting visas! I’m also happy to see kinsman Fergus (I’m also a member of Clan Ewing) heading this forum!

  2. Sir Malcolm MacGregor says:

    This is an interesting article. The current Diaspora engagement plan is something of a ‘one way street’ with the road leading to Scotland. Scotland needs to look at ways in which it can assist its own diaspora in their home countries.

    The Scottish culture page of the Scotland.org website in its reference to a piper on a tin of shortbread is, indeed, a backhanded compliment. The fashion industry has, of course, taken tartan and kilts to places that the clan chiefs have not. Equally the clan chiefs have taken those venerable artefacts of Scotland to places the fashion industry never dreamed off. Really, we should all team up.

    Any diaspora engagement plan ought to be about people, as in there are 40 million people around the world of Scottish descent. But who are the people in Scotland that can make such a plan work and ‘engage’ with the diaspora? The following are in a position to do that:
    Scottish Government,
    Diplomatic, (including UK Foreign Office)
    Business, (Global Scots)
    Ancestral (Clan & family associations, Chiefs)
    Societal (St. Andrews, Burns, Scott)
    Military (Scottish Regiments,)

    With an overlay of functions such as:
    Travel & Tourism, Homecoming,
    Heritage & History
    Culture & Music
    The Arts
    Education
    Food & Drink
    International Aid & Charitable Operations
    Business, IT
    Oil & Gas,
    Events (Tartan Week)

    If any plan is Scotland-centric, why should the diaspora buy into it? It has to work both ways. To paraphrase JFK: ask not what the diaspora can do for us, but what can we do for the diaspora. It must be long term and revolve around relationships rather than the bottom line. The latter will follow the former.

    Any diaspora engagement plan should, in part, promote ‘Brand Scotland’. That brand was rightly pushed to the limits, as demonstrated by the ‘tartan spectacular’ at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, for all to see. The Canadian team was wearing tartan, as was Scotland, and teams from the West Indies. The Clans and Families of Scotland are in the vanguard of this brand. In addition overseas groups like COSCA, SAHC (Australia), and CASSOC (Canada), St. Andrews Societies, and Burns Clubs are constantly advancing the brand, which is why any engagement plan needs to be a two way street.

    Malcolm MacGregor

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