Scotland, UK and the USA: International Partnerships Need More Than Personalities

Earlier this week, my wife and I were honored to be the guests of UK Consul General Robert Chatterton Dickson and Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and MSP Fiona Hyslop at a reception at the Consul General’s residence in Chicago.

The reception, part of a whirlwind Scotland Week tour of the US and Canada by Minister Hyslop, Parliamentary Undersecretary of State for Scotland the Rt Hon David Mundell MP, Glasgow’s Lord Provost Bob Winter and various trade delegates from Scottish businesses, was one rich in conversation about…St. Louis.

It was exciting to discuss the future potential for my adopted home city, and possible connectivity with Scotland and the UK. We talked about the recent establishment of Emerald Automotive in St. Louis, building vans for the Royal Mail. We chatted about the efforts to establish a China hub in St. Louis, which may bring a new connection point between the UK and China, a huge market for many things including Scotch. We talked about the St. Louis Rams upcoming visit to London. And we discussed the potential for a future trade mission from the UK to St. Louis.

It was also quite interesting to discuss the use of social media in politics and Minister Hyslops recent success in defending and continuing the use of bagpipes in Vancouver through social media. She discovered the issue online, followed up offline with the mayor since she happened to have just arrived in Vancouver, and then shared the results with the world via her Twitter account.

From left to right: MSP Hyslop, Lord Provost Winter, MP Mundell & Consul General Dickson

But the most profound statement of the evening was made by the Lord Provost, and was one that I wanted to clap and cheer for.

He said in talking about the pending friendship agreement between Chicago and Glasgow, and I paraphrase, that partnerships between cities have to be built on more than the relationship between a mayor and a Lord Provost. They have to be built on common sense business connections that will continue long into the future.

Amen and amen. I could not agree more.

In recent conversations I have had with Mayor Slay and his office, here in St. Louis, we have been in agreement on that same key partnership issue. Too many times, the status of a friendship city is based upon someone who likes another country. However, that, in my opinion, is a complete waste of time. A real city partnership has to be built on educational, economic, cultural and personal exchanges that make sense for both economies and that are designed in a way that will long outlive those who begin things.

And there are plenty of those already taking place between St. Louis and the UK. The focus now needs to be on helping them grow, to the benefit of the country of my birth (Scotland), the country I grew up in (England) and the country that has adopted me as their own (USA).

There is a long and vibrant relationship between the UK and the US. I fully believe it is time for St. Louis to help this relationship grow even more, in education, business, culture and friendship.

Oh, and Happy Scotland Week!