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Sturgeon in the States

Katie Armour

The First Minister will be spending Scotland Week – and the first week of parliamentary recess – on a six day visit to the United States. The trade and investment venture will take her from California to New York as she attempts to “reassure investors and visitors… that Scotland is an outward looking, welcoming country and remains open for business” as Brexit looms.

The trade mission scooped an early success when it was confirmed that US tech firm Xilinx Inc. was to invest a further £3.8m in its research centre in Edinburgh, to “develop the technologies that will enable next generation wireless communication”.

Nicola Sturgeon continued the investment plug by attending discussions with American firm Angel Investors alongside Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise, Lena Wilson. The meeting focused on how best to connect Scottish female entrepreneurs to US investors and culminated in the announcement of £120,000 funding for social enterprise, Investing Women. She also held talks with Apple CEO, Tim Cook, on Scottish research and development efforts in digital health and precision medicine and met with electric car manufacturers Tesla, to discuss energy storage.

Food and drink exports and tourism have been noted as other key focuses of the trip, and it is likely the First Minister will attend Scottish Development International’s showcase event on Thursday 6th, where Nairn’s Oatcakes, Thistly Cross Cider and Highland Spring will be served up to promote Scotland’s natural larder at the Astor centre in New York. 

There are no meetings with representatives of the Trump administration scheduled, which is not entirely surprising given in January the First Minister added her voice to those calling for President Trump’s state visit to be cancelled.

Most notably so far, on the opening day of her tour Ms Sturgeon signed a joint agreement on climate change with the Governor of California. The two agreed to share technology and best practice and discussed the importance of the expansion of offshore wind and ambitious domestic carbon cutting targets. She also offered Scottish support for the 2018 summit planned by the Under2 Coalition. The event will bring together the public and private sectors, and NGO climate enthusiasts, from across the world to further pressure governments to advance environmental legislation. The move has been praised by many including WWF Scotland Director, Lang Banks, who said he hoped she “returned from the US brimming with ideas on how to repeat the success we’ve had in generating electricity from renewables”.

The Governor, Edmund Brown, is an outspoken Trump critic who has called for a “countermovement” against the administration’s “mistaken” climate change stance. He has vowed to “double down” on California’s environmental commitments and promote clean energy in the face of Trump’s recent directive, which has put an end to “the war on coal” and eased emission reductions obligations on energy companies. Described by many as a “foe” of Trump, it is thought this collaboration will be interpreted as another snub to the new President.

On Tuesday, Nicola Sturgeon will address an audience of academics at Stanford University, talking about Scotland’s Place in the World. It is expected that she will use the opportunity to promote her renewed independence campaign, “mount a staunch defence of globalisation”, argue the positive case for free trade and highlight the challenges posed by climate change.

The sold-out event has however attracted some criticism at home, as Conservative Welfare Reform & Equalities spokesperson, Annie Wells, said the FM “seems determined to talk about independence at every opportunity she gets. Rather than going abroad to try and sell her plans for separation, she should accept that Scots don't want a second independence referendum and get back to the day job”. In a less serious tone Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader, Willie Rennie, remarked: “I hope the First Minister’s advisers don’t let her anywhere near Las Vegas. We’ve already had enough of her gambling with Scotland’s future”.

The close of her trip will coincide with New York’s 19th annual Tartan Day Parade.

What else will Nicola be up to…

The First Minister is not the only one abroad this recess…

  • Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, is travelling to Burma and Singapore, where he will promote Scottish whisky, technology and oil and gas.  
  • Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, Edward Mountain (Highlands & Islands) (Con) and Clare Adamson (Motherwell & Wishaw) (SNP) will meet with Scottish organisations in Winnipeg, Ottawa and New York and will represent the Parliament at the Tartan Day parade.
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