THE Scottish Government will spend more than £8 million on its international and overseas offices this year, newly published figures show.

The data, released in response to a Freedom of Information request, shows that the most expensive office to maintain is in Brussels, with a bill for the year 2021/2022 of £2.31m.

With 18 people working there, the Belgium office is also the most heavily staffed.

The next most costly office to maintain is in London, which, with 16 staff, will cost almost £2.2m to run this financial year.

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These two offices are the only ones with director-level employees. The Brussels director is paid between £95,930 and £103,495 annually, while the deputy director receives between £77,340 and £83,233.

The deputy director in London, who serves at the head of Scotland House, receives the same salary of between £77,340 and £83,233.

The remaining six overseas offices’ costs are as follows:

- Beijing, China: £550,000 for four staff.

- Berlin, Germany: £555,000 for three staff.

- Dublin, Ireland: £596,000 for three staff.

- Ottawa, Canada: £570,000 for four staff.

- Paris, France: £556,000 for three staff.

- Washington DC, US: £805,000 for four staff.

The total budget to run these international offices for the 2021/2022 financial year then stands at £8.134m.

Analysis from Stephen Gethins, Professor of Practice at the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews.

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Overseas offices play an important function for governments, both independent or not, across the world. They help build economic links that deliver jobs and investment domestically, educational partnerships that provide opportunities for our young people and cultural exchanges that enhance understanding. They are a vital and necessary part of the work of governments. This is not restricted to fully independent states and Brussels for instance plays host to almost 300 offices of “sub-state” actors, in other words nations and regions who are not independent. These offices are seen across Europe as good value for money and bringing vast benefits to taxpayers at home.

This is no different for Scotland where for decades successive Labour, Liberal Democrat, Conservative and now SNP administrations have invested in a network of overseas offices. These perform a range of important functions helping to drive investment and influence policy in an increasingly interconnected world. This is all the more important in the aftermath of the UK's decision to leave the European Union that has left us more isolated internationally than at any time in the post war period. Brexit is bad news for everyone in the UK, costing jobs, removing opportunities for young people and taking away rights that citizens in every other European country take for granted.

The Scottish Government is right to continue this investment in these offices. In fact the Scottish Government should consider how to expand its international footprint to deliver further benefits.

Scotland has perhaps the best brand recognition of any non-independent state in the world. That provides opportunities for our business community, educational institutions and other sectors. In neighbouring countries such as Denmark, Belgium and Germany the state works with its constituent parts providing resources and diplomatic recognition to enhance the impact and influence of these offices. Perhaps it is time to consider how we can further benefit from Scotland's standing in the world to deliver benefits at home just as others around the world do.

Stephen Gethins’ book "Nation to Nation: Scotland's Place in the World" was published by Luath Press in March of this year.