More to tartan week than pipes and drums - Ian Murray

There is so much more to Tartan Week in New York than the famous Sixth Avenue parade. The incredible sight of the pipes, drums and swirling kilts inevitably dominate the media coverage – with Hollywood star Dougray Scott taking the role of Grand Marshal of the parade this year.
Bagpipers march along Sixth Avenue during a previous Tartan Day Parade in New York City (Picture: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)Bagpipers march along Sixth Avenue during a previous Tartan Day Parade in New York City (Picture: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Bagpipers march along Sixth Avenue during a previous Tartan Day Parade in New York City (Picture: Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

But away from the parade and the ceilidhs, there are also business meetings and outreach events involving the Scottish diaspora.

This week I will be travelling to New York, along with colleagues from all political parties, to help with the promotion of Scotland. This is vitally important for businesses here in Edinburgh and across Scotland.

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Last year whisky exports to the US were £978 million – the top market for the sector – while Scottish salmon exports to the country were up 7 per cent to £140m, only behind France.

Given the tens of thousands of supply chain jobs which rely on whisky and salmon, as well as our other key exports, showcasing Scottish products, education and culture around the world helps to create more employment and higher tax revenues at home.

So while I welcome the UK and Scottish Government’s continued support for Tartan Week – and particularly this year’s progress in widening the concept of Scottish diaspora to include African-Americans – there is so much more we could be doing as a country at all times of the year to promote “Brand Scotland” around the world.

Too often, the SNP focuses on simply selling Scotland to the Scots. A Labour government will change that and sell Scotland to the globe. If I have the privilege of becoming Scottish Secretary, I commit to undertaking trade missions to promote our amazing Scottish products and the wider Brand Scotland. If Labour wins the next election, the Scotland Office will be Scotland’s voice at the heart of government, advocating for our nation’s interests and helping to deliver pledges benefitting Scotland. It will work constructively with the Scottish Government, using co-operation instead of conflict to deliver for everyone.

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And, crucially, it will strengthen Scotland’s role in the world by promoting Brand Scotland internationally and supporting our world-leading industries, educators and cultural organisations. Scotland’s brand is more than just a marketing campaigning – it involves a recognition of the strength and depth of Scotland’s cultural assets, produce, and natural environment. So we must capitalise on Scotland’s significant soft power.

And while the Scotland Office can take the lead on this by being Scotland’s window to the world, it is only possible when backed by the strength of the UK’s global embassy network. This is how we can promote Scottish produce internationally, driving up exports, while at the same time driving inward investment into our country.

A Labour government will take a coherent approach to international trade, ensuring UK trade negotiators engage meaningfully with Scottish businesses to ensure our nation thrives. We want to bring back Scotland’s outward-looking perspective, as opposed to the SNP’s inward-looking stance, which would scrap British embassies.

This week we learned that the SNP and Tories have presided over a decline in the number of Scottish VAT registered business, with 2,000 fewer in 2023 than in 2022. The importance of creating an economic environment that works for businesses could not be clearer – and selling Scotland to the world is a key part.

Ian Murray MP is shadow secretary of state for Scotland