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Scotland’s Place in the World

A ground-breaking new book examining Scotland’s foreign policy footprint by Stephen Gethins, Professor of Practice at the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, is published this month (Wednesday 17 March 2021).

Professor Gethins has used his extensive network of contacts worldwide and across the political spectrum to bring together a unique insight into Scotland’s future place in the world. Nation to Nation: Scotland’s Place in the World draws on the views of parliamentarians from across Europe, government ministers past and present, diplomats, academics and members of the new White House Team at a time when Scotland’s future is at a crossroads.

The book has received wide acclaim:

    • Mark Muller Stuart, Senior Mediation Advisor to the UN Department of Political Affairs, describes it as “timely and important”
    • writer and broadcaster Billy Kay said the it is “a hugely important book about Scotland’s global reach…”
    • Mariot Leslie, former British Ambassador to NATO, described it as a “substantial and timely contribution”
    • Tom MacLeod, Sky News, called it “a vital contribution to the burgeoning debate surrounding Scottish foreign policy, within or outside the United Kingdom”.

Professor Gethins is particularly well placed to comment on this issue: during his time in Parliament he was at the heart of events in the UK and meeting leaders throughout the world. He spent several years in the House of Commons as the SNP Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Europe during the tumultuous years before and after the UK’s Brexit Referendum. He was also the SNP’s first member of the influential House of Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee.

Before his time in Parliament Professor Gethins worked in the international NGO sector spending time in areas affected by conflict. He worked in European institutions before returning to Scotland where he was a Special Adviser to Scotland’s First Minister, focusing on International Affairs and Europe as well as Energy and Climate Change.

With Scotland at a crossroads as to its own future, Nation to Nation will help shape debate and discussion as the country seeks a greater role in the world. The book covers a wide range of issues, including:

    • Engaging with Scotland’s diaspora communities and working with them to improve business, education and other links
    • Scotland’s foreign policy development throughout the centuries and in the aftermath of the reestablishment of the Scottish Parliament
    • Experiences from other non-sovereign entities and how they engage in foreign policy, including the Faroe Islands, Québec and Flanders
    • The future of Scottish foreign policy and how the UK could make more of Scotland’s brand and international profile
    • The impact of the UK’s decision to leave the EU on Scotland’s future place in the world and the divergence between Holyrood and Westminster.

Professor Gethins said: “Scotland has a long history of international engagement with partners around Europe and the rest of the world. With the UK leaving the European Union, against the wishes of people living in Scotland, the divergent views that exist between Scotland and the rest of the UK have come into sharp focus.

“Whether we remain part of the UK or not it is important to consider Scotland’s place in the world and how our international affairs evolve over the coming years. I was grateful for all those who spoke to me from around the world, including those from both sides of the constitutional debate in Scotland. I hope that this will help inform the debate going forwards.”


The School of International Relations will be hosting an online launch event on Wednesday 17 March at 4pm. If you would like to attend please contact irevents@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Comments on Nation to Nation: Scotland’s Place in the World:

“Stephen Gethins’ book is so timely and important – it sets the scene for one of the most important debates that Scotland is likely to face for generations. He should be applauded for his even-handed inquiry and for placing this important debate within it’s proper historical and contemporary context.” Mark Muller Stuart QC, Beyond Borders Scotland

“This is a hugely important book about Scotland’s global reach, which reminds us of our past and explores our options in the present. Most importantly though, this is a book which is intensely relevant to our future as an independent and sovereign European nation.” Billy Kay, writer and broadcaster

“Stephen Gethins brings deep knowledge, wide experience and sharp insight to the consideration of not just what the current relationship is between Scotland and the rest of the world, but to what it could be if we spoke for ourselves and looked to our own interests like every other normal nation in the world. Debating how we achieve that and what we do to develop it is a key task for the next few years as we build forward from the pandemic and Gethins has kicked off the debate in a constructive and informed way.” Michael Russell MSP, Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs

Nation to Nation is a vital contribution to the burgeoning debate surrounding Scottish foreign policy, within or outside the United Kingdom. Stephen Gethins uses his experience and expertise to present a clear-eyed view of where Scotland’s interests lie and how best to advance them.” Tom MacLeod, Sky News

“Just as individual states in the United States pursue their own foreign policy, it is important, and timely that Scotland begins to articulate its own foreign policy as it seeks to establish itself as an entity committed to justice, rights and cosmopolitanism.” Professor Caron Gentry, Head of the School of International Relations, University of St Andrews

“As the debate on Scotland’s international ambitions gathers pace it is great to have this substantial and timely contribution. Stephen Gethins’ research is enriched by his own direct insights into international relations as a practitioner in Southern and Eastern Europe and a parliamentarian at Westminster.” Mariot Leslie, former British Ambassador to NATO

“This book is both authentically Scottish and borne of Gethins’ own eclectic international experience – a political hinterland stretching from Brussels to Nagorno-Karabakh. Nation to Nation is a perceptive, highly readable and very timely reflection on the place which Scotland has always had on the world stage, as well as on the role that beckons her in future.” Dr Alasdair Allan MSP (Scotland’s Minister for International Development and Europe, 2016-18)

“If you are curious about Scotland’s role in the world – what it is today and what it could be in the future – then this engaging, informative book is what you need. Full of new ideas, helpful examples, and fun historical details, from an author who knows the ins-and-outs of Scottish foreign policymaking first-hand.” Dr Taylor St John, School of International Relations, University of St Andrews

“How Scotland projects itself to the world has always been a national effort that transcends political fault-lines. Stephen has written a book that not only reflects that, but offers valuable insight on how it can be built on. He’s one of the most thoughtful people I know and that is evidenced in every page of this book.” Stewart McDonald MP, Member of the House of Commons Select Committee

Nation to Nation: Scotland’s Place in the World is published by Luath Press, Edinburgh.

Stephen Gethins is available for interview. To arrange an interview please contact the Communications Office in the first instance.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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