HC Deb 11 March 2003 vol 401 c147
3. John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland)

If she will make a statement on progress with the Friends of Scotland initiative. [101097]

The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mrs. Helen Liddell)

Friends of Scotland has so far attracted some 250 opinion formers from more than 20 countries around the world. They are already promoting a better understanding of contemporary Scotland. Our website is proving very successful in highlighting Scottish achievements and success in the fields of culture, education and business. In the past month, there were just under 300,000 hits and nearly 9,000 visitors to the site, of whom three quarters accessed the site information from overseas locations.

John Robertson

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the relationship between the Scotland Office and the Scottish Executive is now paying dividends? If so, what are the benefits of reaching out to the millions of Scots overseas?

Mrs. Liddell

The partnership that exists in that setting is proving very useful. Through Friends of Scotland, we are able to access key opinion formers, Prime Ministers, governors-general—for example, those of both Australia and New Zealand—Ministers and senior politicians, all of whom can be of huge value, not least to the Scottish Executive, but particularly to GlobalScot, the ground-breaking initiative of the Scottish Executive to sign up business leaders to act as mentors to inward investors. Those are key ways to bring jobs to Scotland. If only 1 per cent. of the 40 million people around the world who have some connection with Scotland were to visit Scotland, Glasgow's convention and tourist activity would be even begger than at present.

Mrs. Jacqui Lait (Beckenham)

I hardly think that 250 Friends of Scotland are 1 per cent. of the 40 million Scots around the world. Can the right hon. Lady tell us the total cost of her time per Friend of Scotland, and her Department's expenditure on that programme?

Mrs. Liddell

The total expenditure of the Department comes out of its running costs of about £250,000 per annum. As the hon. Lady was never able to win a seat in Scotland, lives outside Scotland and makes occasional visits, I am sure that we would be delighted to sign her up as a Friend of Scotland.