SCOTLAND’S burgeoning space sector is putting more small satellites into orbit than anywhere else in Europe – a fact that amazed the world’s first female commercial space explorer when she visited as part of an investment mission.

Anousheh Ansari said: “I cannot believe that this Scottish ecosystem is here and I didn’t know about it.”

Yet efforts to show the nation is not all tartan and shortbread appear now to be under threat from Westminster even though Scotland is outperforming the rest of the UK outside London when it comes to attracting inward investment.

EY’s Annual Attractiveness Survey 2022 showed that Scotland once again is leading the UK in that category. The country has maintained its position as the top-performing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) destination outside London and is outperforming the rest of the UK and Europe in terms of growth in the number of FDI projects attracted – up by 14% from 2020, compared with a 5.4% increase in Europe and a 1.8% increase in the UK. This was achieved despite the significant economic challenges of Covid and especially the UK’s exit from the EU.

Much of this is down to the work of Scotland’s enterprise agencies supported by Scottish ministers on trips abroad.

However, now UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has said all meetings between SNP ministers and international governments must be organised through the UK and attended by UK officials.

Former chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost has called on the minister to go further and forbid the Scottish Government to use British embassies abroad or receive diplomatic status.

Cleverly’s ruling has caused widespread outrage – with the Scottish Government accusing Westminster of again trying to undermine devolution.

Fresh from representing Scotland in New York for the 25th anniversary of Tartan Week, external affairs minister Angus Robertson, left, said that promoting Scottish trade and investment opportunities was more important than ever now the country has been forced out of the EU.

In New York, he met firms such as XPO, Mirador, Rockstar North and Amp Energy and said Scotland had long benefitted from the investment and domestic benefits its international network had helped to deliver.

“As EY reported, Scotland continues to outperform the UK as a whole for foreign direct investment, driving the creation of new jobs and economic opportunities for local businesses,” Robertson said.

“Ministerial engagement to promote Scotland is a key driver of this, alongside the efforts of our international network. This is more vital than ever given the damage of Brexit to the Scottish economy and trade.

“We will of course resist any move by the UK Government to curtail these types of visits and reduce opportunities to promote Scottish trade and investment opportunities.

“There is, rightly, nothing in the Scotland Act that prevents Scottish ministers from undertaking overseas visits to promote Scottish interests.”

Written evidence provided to the UK Parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into the UK Government promotion of Scotland internationally revealed that key organisations are unhappy with the UK Government’s efforts to promote Scotland’s distinct strengths.

NFU Scotland said: “There is concern from members that there can be, on occasion, no real Scottish separation at international events, with Scottish identity being diluted as part of a UK offering.”

The Scottish Chamber of Commerce (SCC) complained: “The Scotland Office, along with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), could do much more to promote Scotland internationally and this could be done by utilising relationships with the SCC Network.”

The Scotch Whisky Association added: “At present, the UK punches below its weight in showcasing its food and drink products, such as Scotch whisky, through its diplomatic network.”

In his written submission, Reuben Aitken, managing director of international operations at Scottish Enterprise, suggested that UK Government partners could engage more strategically with trade and inward investment agency Scottish Development International’s (SDI) overseas teams and increase the promotion of Scotland’s strengthened capabilities.

“We are not selling off the crown jewels here,” he pointed out. “We are trying to make sure we plug strategic gaps in supply chains, improve Scotland’s productivity and look for strategic partnerships where international partners can add real value.”

Speaking to the committee, he said: “I think there are some practicalities – and some nervousness, at times – around people not really understanding the substance of devolution.”

Neil Francis, also of Scottish Enterprise, said that support from the agency along with support from the UK Department of Industry and Trade (DIT) and the FCDO could “only ever help” companies.

“We believe there is scope for our UK Government partners to increase promotion of Scotland’s strengths and capabilities,” he said, adding that one example would be around energy transition – specifically offshore wind and hydrogen.

Last week, it was reported that a Japanese company is preparing to build a large factory in the Highlands to make sub-sea high-voltage cables.

Sumitomo Electric manufactures the cables which can be used to connect hundreds of offshore wind turbines now being planned for Scottish waters. The announcement was made during a visit to Japan by Energy Secretary Neil Gray.

SPEAKING to the Sunday National, Aitken said: “Whether it’s encouraging businesses to choose Scotland for global growth or supporting Scottish companies to achieve their ambitions through overseas exports, a joined-up approach that sees all partners work together to promote our country’s international capabilities delivers optimum results.

“Working collaboratively is embedded within the approach of our international arm, SDI, to ensure maximum impact for the firms we support.

“As I advised the Scottish Affairs Committee, SDI would welcome the opportunity to deepen the engagement and understanding across the FCDO and Department for Business and Trade, either here at home or with our teams based in 30 locations across the world, to raise even greater awareness of Scotland’s unique strengths and propositions when it comes to international trade and investment.

“Scotland’s incredible workforce, world-renowned universities, competitive cost base, supportive business environment, magnificent natural resources and unparalleled quality of life immediately put Scotland on the radar of investors.

“The innovative products and services of Scottish companies are globally renowned and enjoyed by consumers across the world. SDI will continue to work closely with all partners, across the public and private sectors, to promote the very best Scotland has to offer, delivering transformational economic opportunities in the process.”