Scotland’s First State Visit 68

Who should an independent Scotland invite to pay the first State Visit to the country after independence?

I intend to do a series of posts at intervals over the next few weeks on some of the diplomatic needs of an independent Scotland. Before tackling some of the weightier questions, I thought today I might look at the exhilarating question of who Scotland should invite to pay the first State Visit after independence.

A State Visit is made by the Head of State to another Head of State, as opposed to just the Head of Government (so monarch or President as opposed to Prime Minister). Head of Government visits are quite frequent, but State Visits are generally just a couple a year. The recipient state extends the invitation, though it is not unknown for a message to be sent to indicate that an invitation would be welcome. A reciprocal visit the other way usually follows within a year or two.

State Visits are affairs of great pomp and pageantry, but also the highest level of expression of political amity. Behind the parading and banquets is a huge amount of government to government diplomacy and of trade and business discussion.

The first State Visit to an independent country is a matter of huge symbolism. So who should Scotland invite to be the first Head of State to greet their Scottish counterpart as an equal, after over three hundred years?

Fortunately we can rule out WENI (Wales, England, Northern Ireland), as the issues involved in the Queen visiting herself are over-complex. I expect the Prime Minister of WENI will pay the first Head of Government visit, as the relationship will be extremely important to both countries. But State Visit, no.

The same consideration rules out other countries which have the Queen as Head of State. Otherwise New Zealand might have been a good choice. A similar size to Scotland, a thriving democracy and a population very heavily of Scottish descent.

I think we can rule out the United States too. The US will probably need to back up the Tory Prime Minister of WENI by pretending to be hacked off about the relocation of Trident missiles from Scotland (in fact the US really finds Trident more a distraction than a serious part of the arms equation. Trident is of no interest to anybody except the Westminster politicians it makes feel important). But Scotland’s strategic position in the North Atlantic will remain vital to the USA, and post independence may increase the heritage awareness of the massive number of US voters of Scottish descent. So an early State Visit for the USA, but not the first.

One way that Scotland can immediately mark a more moral foreign policy than WENI is by recognising Palestine, now that its statehood has been accepted at the UN. Palestine should be invited to open an Embassy in Edinburgh, as opposed to the “Mission” it is permitted to the Court of St James. An early state visit to Scotland by Palestine would be a great event, but not I think the very first such visit, which Scotland might need to promote its own interests as it embarks on the path of statehood.

Much the same goes for other countries with which Scotland has a close historical connection, of which Malawi has very close links. But the human rights situation there is deteriorating.

Norway is a country with strong historical links to Scotland. Its management of oil wealth is viewed as the best practice example. It shares a key maritime boundary. A good relationship with Norway will be essential to Scotland.

The overwhelming interest must be for Scotland to use the honour of the very first State visit to cement a relationship with one of its key EU partners.

Ireland is an obvious candidate, Scotland’s sister nation. But nobody wants to stir the sectarian divide and further alarm the benighted bigots of the West coast. So I don’t think Ireland will be high on the list.

Scotland’s EU neighbours in Scandinavia – Denmark, Sweden, Finland – are those with whom Scotland is likely long term to share interests and a voting bloc. These relationships will be essential.

Italy and Poland both have a great many human ties to Scotland. It has been estimated that 25% of all Scots have some Italian blood, like my good self. Poland is sending its second wave of welcome immigrants, seventy years after the first, and has strong historic links through the Baltic trade.

But in the end Scotland’s interest must be best served by inviting the first visit from one of the most powerful European states, either Germany or France. There is a wealth of historical and emotional resonance for France to be first in the queue. The French may not remember the Auld Alliance as readily as the Scots, but they are ready to play a helpful role on Scotland’s uninterrupted EU membership. I would opt for President Hollande as the first state visitor to Scotland.

There are many reasons why it is a bad idea to have a monarch, not least the entrenchment of an aristocratic elite and the sheer insult to democracy. But having a Head of State who is also Head of other States whose interests are different is a limiting factor. The Queen dislikes State Visits immensely. She only receives 2 a year for the UK, 4 at most, and getting her available to host them for Scotland will be difficult. Just a minor one of very many reasons we need a Republic.

68 thoughts on “Scotland’s First State Visit

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  • OldMark

    Scotland’s EU neighbours in Scandinavia – Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland – are those with whom Scotland is likely long term to share interests and a voting bloc. These relationships will be essential.

    Craig- take Iceland off your wish list; they aren’t in the EU and the populace there have no desire to join.

  • Jon the Philosopher

    The obvious State is the that of the Auld Alliance – France. The Scots lost large numbers of soldiers over years fighting for the French, including 120 hanged after capture at Limoges in 1420. Walter Scott wrote Quentin Durward about a Scots Guard in Louis XI’s army in the 1480s. A Scot – MacDonald – was one of Napoleon’s sixteen Marshals. History gives lots of back stories, and can be claimed as a reason so as to not let anyone feel snubbed.

    The only trouble is that French Presidents have been going downhill in the last decades. Is Hollande better than no-one?

  • kininvie

    I’ve long considered France the prime candidate for the first state visit (if nothing else, it would be a wee nudge in the direction of the English to remember their history). It might also be a good opportunity to suggest the reinstatement of the ‘garde eccosaise’ in their ceremonial role as bodyguard to the French head of state (a role finally abandoned only in 1830)

  • bunter

    I have to say when I read the beginning of you post, I thought of Germany right away, then as you say, France, for historical links.

    Germany came to mind, for as well as being the most powerful state in the EU, I would like to think they have resisted taking part in any London/BBC managed stunt against Scotland, a la Obama. I find it hard to believe Merkel has not been approached to say something negative, though I guess there is still time.

    Aye, Germany or France.

  • Robert

    I can tell you that many French people know about and are happy about old links with Scotland including ‘La vielle alliance’. The Scots are very well thought of, at least down in the South-West. I have a saltire car sticker on my car window and get quite a few favourable comments.

    A few anecdotes: a while ago I was looking at houses and the estate agent was a bit unenthusiastic. ‘There are other English owners in the region’ he said. Me: ‘I’m not English – Scottish’. His eyebrows danced around a bit – ‘Really?’. ‘Yes – look’ (pointed at car sticker). His attitude changed immediately, and we got to look at quite a few other places on very jolly terms. In the north of France (Lille, I think) in a restaurant, the young waiter heard my partner (who is French) and I speaking both French and English. ‘So are you French or English’ he asked, with a smile. When I told him I was Scottish, again the big smile, and **he** said (in English) ‘Ah yes, the auld alliance!’. Again, I was addressed at a rest area on a main autoroute south, and the chap said “You have the scottish flag on your car!’. Me: ‘Yes’. I then got a long lecture on the ancient links between France and Scotland and how there was once a Scottish enclave (somewhere in the Loire valley) gifted by a French king as a result of some favour or other.

    Finally, there are thriving cultural links (music, dance) with the celtic traditions of scotland, in Brittany but also all down the west coast of France as far as the Occitan region. I have even drunk whisky distilled in Brittany. It was … drinkable.

  • Just saying

    Its a no brainer really, it has to be Vladimir Putin(Ooops) – he has single handedly stopped the Great Satan from warring against Iran (via IAEA negotiations) and bombing Syria (via the chemical stockpile deal). In addition, despite the PRC holding two trillion in US Treasury Bills they were unable, only Putin had the cojones to give refuge to Snowden – a slap in the face of the satan e buzurg. Lastly the ENTIRE Scottish offshore industry may be kept in infinite employment as the Russians access unlimited Arctic oil reserves.

    There is a simpler reason, if a killer of JFK Jnr (remember Bill Clinton cremated the remains)is so much after his ass, Putin has to be an angel. In addition to have completely vanquished bandars wahabi Chechen separatists despite billions given to them like ISIL now, who will fester for years now.

  • Tony_0pmoc

    Ask Putin. Can’t think of anyone else with so much respect at the moment. That would put the Cat Amongst the Pigeons. Have you got any Doves in Scotland?

  • Dan Huil

    Definitely France. Our heads of state should then make a pilgrimage to the birthplace of [Citoyen] Thomas Muir of Huntershill.

  • domhnall ruadh

    I’m not an expert on international law, but I’m attracted to inviting that Snowden fellow myself..

  • Cide Hamete Benengeli

    Aren’t you taking this all a bit too seriously?

    You are proposing to leave the UK while remaining in the EU. If that is what the people of Scotland want, well, good for you. But what’s the big deal? Coming out of a smaller unit (in this case the UK) to be an equal partner in a larger union (here the EU) happens all the time.

    If you look at the history of India (history after 1841 I mean) you will see some interesting parallels. India has a federal system of states. In recent years, some regions of states have devolved to become independent states within the Indian union. The Indian central government is stronger, compared to the states, than the EU centre. And of course India is much poorer than the EU. But still, the states of Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh are comparable to Scotland in some respects. They are less densely populated, yet richer in natural resources, than the states they were previously part of, and so they separated out.

    Here’s blog in English from Jharkhand:
    Nothing about State Visits, but lots about birds.

  • pete fairhurst

    Craig you are missing the elephant in the room I fear. An “Independent” Scotland will have the queen as head of state! And she is not a Scot! She’s German/English surely?

    Shouldn’t you have a Scot as head of state if you are to be truly “Independent”?

    And the same goes for your currency I think. You’ll surely not join the failing Euro mess? That would be madness. So that leaves £sterling. How will you be truly “Independent” with the £sterlng as your currency?

    The usual answer that I get to these questions is along the lines that Scotland will fix these problems later on. But that is surely an inadequate answer. If Scotland intends to change these things later, then why is this not made clear before the vote is taken? Anything else is disingenuous isn’t it?

  • Republicofscotland

    Not really sure who we should invite, I’ll leave that to others to decide, what I think we must do though after independence, and this is very important as I’ve read many articles on the matter, and have witnessed the EU and Westminster go downhill because of it.

    You may well be wondering what on earth I’m babbling on about well I’ll get to the point “Lobbying” as soon as independence is declared, big business will begin setting up offices all around Holyrood, for one purpose only to lobby, this of course leads to corruption and unfortunately politicians become guns for hire.

    It was announced today that there’s not enough actual seats in the House of Lords, to accommodate all of the lords, David Cameron, I think is due to create more peers sometime soon, of course its all in aid of lobbying powers, to sway the crucial votes his way.

    I just hope that Holyrood, doesn’t end up going down that road, the road of corruption and no return, we must nip it in the bud before it begins.

  • Kempe

    Well Hollande might not be around for too much longer, the German’s will probably want to come over, go through the books and approve the budget at some stage but if an independent Scotland is going to join the Euro then the chance to de-brief the ruling parties in Greece, Portugal and Cyprus might be enormously helpful.

    By the way I’ve never met a French person who’s even heard of the Auld Alliance let alone cares much about it. I don’t think they cared about it much at the time outside of exploiting Scots to help them fight they’re various wars against England.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    I’m most surprised at the rather conventional, power- and advantage-conscious thinking which appears to underlie Craig’s musings on who should get the first state visit.

    An independent Scotland will be – so it’s been indicated by Craig and certain commenters – an independent minded, even iconoclastic state, wedded to great principles based on equity and ethics and free from sordid calculations of economic advantage and who to suck up to.

    Surely, therefore, Scotland should think boldly?

    Admittedly Presdent Mahmoud Abbas might be bridge (President?) too far, but about President Nicolas Maduro Moros of Venezuela? Or the Presidents of India or Brazil, eminent members of the BRIC group? Or would not a doughty fighter against the evils of colonialism be appropriate – perhaps President Kirchner of Argentina (lots of people of Scottish descent there and she’s a woman as well)?


    Any thoughts, anyone, on the first President of Scotland?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    should that have been “WHOM to suck up to”? Please advise.

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !


    What on earth are you going on about? What’s your point – there should be no second chamber in Scotland, should lobbyists not be allowed? Both? Something else?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !

    Pete Fairhurst re Her Gracious Majesty

    “She’s German/English surely?”

    Yes, yes,yes, The Queen has German ancestry. Craig has some Italian ancestry. John Goss’s great-grandparents were probably Russian (Bolseviks, of course!).

    Here’s your task for this evening:

    “The Queen’s German ancestry is of merely historical interest and of absolutely no relevance to the manner in which she performs her constitutional functions.

  • craig Post author

    Pete Fairhurst

    I think you should have read to the end of the article!

    First President of Scotland? Well, I hope it will be a non-Executive President with a Prime Minister. I can think of several good potential Presidents. I think we should rule out all career politicians. I should like to see a female President. How about Elaine C Smith or A L Kennedy?

  • Habbabkuk (La vita è bella) !


    “Evo Morales”

    A bold suggestion there, Mike.

    But surely the first President of Scotland should be Scottish, shouldn’t he?

  • Resident Dissident

    Pete Fairhurst

    Couldn’t agree more – you can add membership of NATO to the list of questions that those favouring independence will not answer clearly for the present.

  • DomesticExtremist

    Putin – for tips on:

    i) maximising your natural resources income

    ii) world class statesmanship

    iii) how to reannexe the nuke bases

    Plus it will wind up the WENIes.

  • Resident Dissident

    “Putin – for tips on:

    i) maximising your natural resources income”

    Yep give a great big slice to your chums so they can ship it out to Cyprus, the City of London, Switzerland and other tax havens. I think you will also find that Putin locked away the first guy who tried to anything about all the oil and gas that was just leaking away.

  • Tony M

    Pete Fairhurst (4 Aug, 2014 – 7:22 pm) wrote:

    In voting Yes it is implicit that other things might be changed where it is desirable, in Scotland’s people’s interest, and determined, ideally by further referenda, by Scotland’s people as and when required. If you think this is some great secret then you just don’t get this democracy thing and how it ought to work outside this bastard composite UK state. The only disingenuity is your’s in presenting such tiresome ludicrous arguments for the status quo where there can be no possibility of change, except by Westminster, and based on long precedent, invariably for the worse for most of Britain’s peoples outside the privileged set, as some sort of inspired thought, rather than Better Together/UKOK or whatever they’re called now, fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) and that you are probably yourself a fud.

    No surprise, quite amusing actually to find Persistent Pissstain agreeing with you, like some lobotomised nodding dog, in between sniffing its own backside and licking its balls. And he’s thrown NATO into the mix so we have a full-house in FUD-Bingo.

    Perhaps this will help:

    “The rain washes off the Naw stickers that appeared on the lampposts after the Orange Walk. The Carntyne rain on the British parade.

    And then I grow angry. Angry at those who tell us there is no other way, who insist that we cannot change things that can be changed. Angry at those who choose hopelessness, who coccoon themselves in the comfort of cynicism and think that it makes them wise. The wisdom of the fools who don’t know the difference between the things we can’t change and the things we can. The fools who protect themselves with an ersatz umbrella of bunting and parades and the PR smiles of a Prime Minister who isn’t paid to care, the narrow horizons of those whose only aspiration is to feel superior to those who have less than themselves. The chained souls who believe their foolishness is wisdom.”

    The argument you make (weakly) is already crushed under the weight of its own absuridty, the result, a strong Yes to Independence is so certain now that such arguments, even seconded by your canine chum: the fiend of Odessa, are as if already of the distant past.

    I liked Habbaduk’s suggestions, South and Central America, Iran, Russia, China, Palestine, maybe Fidel Castro (check he;s still alive), for the duration Queen Betty rules the airwaves we could pair her up the most unlikely and uncomfortable reign-mates and watch the corgis and sparks fly.

  • Tom

    There’s only one problem – Scotland wouldn’t be in the EU at that point, so a visit from the heads of state of either Germany or France would be out of the question in the medium term.
    More likely, Salmond would be the one heading to Brussels or Berlin to be told what the terms of EU entry would be and the economic reforms Scotland would need to undertake to make it possible.

  • Rehmat

    There are many Scottish whose ancestors were Muslims from India. I had a welder in Toronto from Scotland who spoke very good Urdu which he claimed he learned from Muslim workers at docks.

    However, the most famous Scott Muslim was Abdul Karim, Queen Victoria’s servant. a few years ago, British Channel 4’s documentary, titled ‘Queen Victoria’s last love’ shed light on one of many secrets about England’s longest reigning monarch. The documentary features interviews with relatives of both Queen Victoria’s household and Abdul Karim, as well as extracts from Queen Victoria’s diaries and journals.

  • mark golding

    4 Aug, 2014 – 6:31 pm

    I agree Tony – I would proffer the idea to Vladimir Putin in the interest of friendly bilateral relations; can one be certain that the head of state for Scotland will act as the official host in this case?


  • guano

    What about first state visit to independent Kurdistan? Could we have the Pope please? We would look after him very well. There might be a little unfinished business between UK protestantism and Scottish treasonous attachment to Roman Catholicism we could sort out at the same time.

    Craig why do you complain about Prince William’s chauvinism when you constantly ‘ somewhat loudly sweep the string ‘ for Scotland?
    UK protestantism opened the fountain of wisdom of the Gospels which the Papacy locked and buried in dead languages and the Scots constantly tried to plug that fountain.

    The sun does not shine out of the backside of any nation, so why?

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