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1302 days have passed since the Salisbury incident - no credible information or response from the British authorities                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     1294 days have passed since the death of Nikolay Glushkov on British soil - no credible information or response from the British authorities

SPEECHES, INTERVIEWS, ARTICLES

28.12.2011

Russia and Scotland: new opportunities for old friends

I guess I will not reveal a big secret by saying that we look with confidence into the future of the Russo-British relationship. Dramatic increase in contacts of all sorts as well as Prime Minister David Cameron’s recent visit to Moscow with a number of essential documents signed is just a clear proof of us being right in our optimistic feelings and our vision being shared by the British partners.

What we should not forget though is that cooperation between Russia and Great Britain is not only the interchange of the top state officials and CEO’s but also the genuine and fruitful interaction between every part of our multi-national and diverse countries.

No need to say in this relation that one of the most distinctive regions of the United Kingdom that played special role in British history but also has historical relations with Russia is Scotland.

We have indeed long tradition of notable interchanges and friendship between the two nations full of exciting and encouraging examples of enterprise, hospitality and dignity. For the centuries the close links were maintained both at the level of individuals and entire communities, and many would agree that this was possible due to the similarities in the national character traits, rich cultures, harsh natural and historical environment. Since the XVI century Russia proved to be the second home for many Scots who were in turn ready to offer their knowledge and skills to the state that faced numerous challenges at the time. Among the prominent Scots who served in Russia were soldiers like Patrick Gordon and James Bruce in Peter the Great’s army, sailors like Catherine the Great’s admiral Samuel Graig, doctors like Sir James Wylie who governed Russian military medical bodies for a long time, architect’s like Charles Cameron who designed splendid Tsarkoe Selo palace not far from St Petersburg. All this people delivered remarkable services to Russia and were highly honoured and rewarded for that. Russians in their turn adored visiting Caledonia and were welcomed wholeheartedly by Scots. Princes Ekaterina Dashkova’s stay in Edinburgh in 1770s is still remembered as a highlight of the city’s social life at the Age of Enlightenment. Emperor Nicholas II was the colonel-in-chief of the famous Royal Scots Greys regiment. XVIII and XIX century saw intense and ever-growing exchange of ordinary people - merchants and craftsmen between the two countries: communication with Scots was the part of day-to-day life of Russia’s North and West, while people of Scotland’s East Coast made friends with Russian sailors and tradesmen. Even today there is Scotland Avenue not far from the port of St Petersburg, while one of the churches in Leith – Scotland’s busiest port at the time - is said to have ceiling copying this of one of the churches in Russia with design being brought home from Russia by the local artisans.

More recently, in the XXth century, our country and Great Britain proved to be not only allies but brother-in-arms during the World War Two. Scotland played special role here again. While its people have shown great support to the fighting Soviet Union, the region became a base for a numerous Arctic Convoys delivering important supplies to Murmansk and Archangel and even for some Soviet Navy units.

No doubt, the records of relations between Russians and Scots featured great mutual intellectual interest. It has been based both on the cultural heritage, be it Sir Walter Scott or Leo Tolstoy, but also on the encouraging events happening in the two countries, be it national development or fight against common enemy. Scottish higher education gained then reputation for their Russian studies while we are still proud of Robert Burns’ translations by the best Russian poets.

Despite the major changes of the recent past very good relations has been kept with the beautiful Northern land. 2011 alone saw a few major events. An official visit by the head of the Council of the Federation, one of the two chambers of the Russian Parliament, was paid to the Scottish capital in March. Representatives of the Scottish local authorities had traveled to their partner cities in Russia. On the other direction world famous Mariinsky company was once again the guests of the Edinburgh International Festival with Maestro Valery Gergiev being appointed the Festival’s Honorary President. The Arctic convoys were traditionally commemorated through the year with special attention to the 70th Anniversary of the first convoy sailing to the Soviet Union in August 1941. Close cooperation was shown by the universities, charities, museums and the links got broader and diverse. More and more tourists have been enjoying exciting journeys between Scotland to Russia in both directions.

 Yet, we are certainly able to reach further. There is a task of preserving the heritage of friendship but we should also develop new links or restore the old ones, as it’s not enough to remember the beauty of the past, but necessary to create the successful future. I believe the economic aspect is quite important in this respect. It goes indeed along with the recent trend in Russo-British relations where most dynamic area of cooperation is economic ties through trade and innovative investments. This point was particularly stressed by  President Medvedev and Prime Minister Cameron signing in Moscow the declaration on a knowledge-based partnership for modernisation as one of the most important documents of the visit.

So, I’m certain that there is a great potential for developing broader links between business partners in Russia and Scotland, and it’s the right moment now to do that.
We see that both Russian and Scottish business have shown impressive endurance at the time of the world economic crisis. It’s also obvious that due to the global economic situation there are still major challenges to deal with and success may be guaranteed only through expanding the external cooperation. At the same time both economies have today much to offer and would readily accept foreign contributions both in form of markets or export and in form of investments. It’s a pleasure to note the approach of the Scottish administration that welcomes and assists strengthening economic ties with the region and promotes it as a rewarding economic partner and investment destination. My meetings with Scottish officials earlier this year absolutely confirm that. As I know, energy with particular focus on renewables, IT, financial and business cervices, biotechnologies, tourism, food and drink producing are recognised as key sectors for cooperation in Scotland. This fields are definitely of great interest for Russian business too. Expanding and intensifying economic co-operation is also naturally supported by the Russian government. I’d stress that we don’t start from scratch here. There are already sustainable ties within quite a few fields, most notably in oil and gas sector where Scotland is so prominent with Aberdeen considered deservedly one of  the oil capitals of Europe. Scottish companies’ expertise and high-quality services, particularly dealing with oil and gas, are very much appreciated in Russia. At the same time we can provide our partners with best practices, resources, unique goods and services. There are Russian scientists who work both at the Scottish universities and major Russian-based innovation projects.

So, here we definitely have a solid common ground for mutually beneficial enterprise and multiple opportunities for the exchange of skills and technologies. That’s why I’ve recently invited the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth in the Scottish Government to have a meeting with the senior representatives of the major Russian companies and investment funds at the Embassy of Russia in the United Kingdom to present the overview of the regional economy and share his expert vision on the prospective fields for economic cooperation with Scotland. I believe this event and other similar steps will encourage Russian and Scottish business to establish and develop close and beneficial ties that will provide for successful overall relations between Russia and Scotland and Russia and the United Kingdom. For my part, I would also like to reassure both Russian and Scottish business that Russian diplomacy in Britain is always here to give any support possible to the companies willing to explore and enter either market.




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