SCOTLAND already has a Foreign Secretary and they sit in the UK Cabinet.

That is the common refrain when the Foreign Office is criticised for putting the fetters on the Scottish Government’s international engagement.

But the SNP are challenging these restrictions – which have included UK ministers holding follow-up meetings with foreign officials who have met with Scotland’s External Affairs Secretary Angus Robertson (below) – by appointing one MP as the country's unofficial diplomat.

The National: Angus Robertson

Chris Law was appointed as the party’s first international engagement ambassador in March and has told how he is using the role as a chance to circumvent the Foreign Office’s attempts to curtail Scotland’s presence on the world stage – with the freedom to talk about independence as much as he wants.

'Unionist culture war against Scotland' 

He branded the Foreign Office’s restrictions a “Unionist culture war against Scotland’s interests in the world”.

Ahead of a trip to Dubai to attend COP28, Law told The National how he was able to meet with government ministers, officials and opposition politicians from across the world without running into the same barriers as his colleague Angus Robertson at the Scottish Government, such as the UK's ban on speaking about independence.

He said he has had meetings with “high-level delegations”, using the advantages Westminster afforded in location and prominence for receiving guests from abroad. 

Because foreign affairs are reserved to Westminster, Law said it was easier for him to meet with foreign politicians regularly than it would be in Holyrood.

Global clout

But he added that Scotland’s strong global brand gave it outsized clout on the world stage.

“It really struck me how when I met people from different nations and they found out you’re from Scotland and not only had a distinctive voice but also things to say on climate,” he said.

“For example, we were the first country in the world to set up a climate justice fund back in 2012 and that’s recognised on the world stage, yet as a UK delegate, often gets lost in either the UK Government or official opposition language.”

The National: SNP MP Chris Law (David Woolfall/UK Parliament)

Law (above) argued Scotland could be “crowded out” without a physical presence at meetings and conferences like COP and insisted overseas governments had “quite an interest in Scotland way beyond the constitution, which is what the UK Government worries about the most”.

“It’s really frustrating that you have a UK Government that is hellbent on trying to narrow Scotland’s interests overseas, not least given the kind of exports we have globally, not least the direct foreign investment we have in Scotland,” he said.

“It cannot be right that the Scottish Government can only act very specifically within devolved areas.”

READ MORE: Westminster 'planning further crackdown on Scottish Government global activities'

“We are a family of nations and there are differing views across it and for devolution to truly work that allows for ideas and policies to be framed within those nations. And the idea that somehow you can all fit under one umbrella ‘Team GB’, it’s misleading for anybody that’s interested.”

The Foreign Office has tightened the screws on the Scottish Government’s foreign affairs work, arguing that the External Affairs Secretary was regularly overstepping the bounds of devolution by discussing reserved matters with international politicians.

Robertson has countered that the UK Government is “actively undermining” Scotland and argued that ministers had “frequently diluted” the Scottish brand as part of a “UK offering”.

He told the Scottish Affairs Committee earlier this month a joint reception hosted by him and the Foreign Office in Paris last year had to be cancelled when the Scotland Office insisted on its event at the same venue being the only one to go ahead.

The UK Government was approached for comment.