Scotland needs to improve its business, educational and cultural links with China and the Scottish Government should be spearheading these efforts, according to a European and External Relations Committee report published today.
The report follows a committee inquiry into the Scottish Government’s China Plan – the policy document which sets out the government’s aspirations for Scotland’s engagement with China and what it hopes its efforts will achieve for the future.
The committee called for the plan to be strengthened so that Scotland’s “visibility” was maximised in a country which is quickly emerging as a dominant global economic force.
Proposed measures for the Scottish Government and its agencies to drive forward include:
- better support for Scottish businesses in China from organisations such as Scottish Development International
- more support for Scottish tourism businesses to enable them to handle Chinese tourists, to be co-ordinated by VisitScotland
- an improved international profile for Scottish colleges as potential education providers for Chinese students
- establishing direct flights between Scotland and China
- improved networks between local authorities and the establishment of cross-sector working groups to share experiences of working with China
- improved involvement of stakeholders, particularly Scottish SMEs and Scotland’s ethnic Chinese business community, in the development of the China Plan.
The committee also said there was a need to build specific and measurable targets into the plan to improve business and academic collaborations and to attract Chinese students to Scotland.
The Committee suggested that these targets were required so that the Plan’s delivery could be measured and success levels evaluated.
Convener of the European and External Relations Committee Irene Oldfather MSP said: “The committee welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to engage more with China, particularly as the country develops a strong economy and moves into a prominent global position.
"However, more work is required to grow new long-term links and to strengthen existing ones, particularly in areas such as business, education and tourism. It is important that these areas of interest are underpinned by cultural links and understanding between the two countries.
"It is also crucial that politicians across Scotland become proactive and support, where they can, the work being carried out to strengthen these links.”
In May 2008, the Scottish Government published its refreshed strategy for engagement with China. The document built on the previous administration’s China Plan which was published in August 2006 and outlined the Government’s aspirations for Scotland’s engagement with China and what it aims to achieve.
The China Plan was developed by the Government in consultation with a group of around 20 stakeholders from the public and private sectors in Scotland.