Our international work supports this Government's central purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth.
This Government has sought to embed internationalisation across its areas of competence to ensure that Scotland remains internationally competitive and our people have the skills and attitudes to seize new opportunities and participate in a globalised world. Promoting and embedding internationalisation is integral to building a stronger, fairer and more prosperous Scotland. As part of this activity we have identified a number of priority areas.
We will continue to invest in our people to ensure they are supported in developing the necessary skills to enable them to engage effectively with the world around them.
For example, we will continue to prioritise foreign language capability and international student exchange opportunities; a more highly skilled and multi-lingual population will be better placed to participate in an increasingly globalised society and economy. In turn, greater numbers of visitors and investors into Scotland will be confident of successfully operating in a new destination which increasingly speaks their language and is more open to language learning.
To this end, we have created an Outward Mobility Fund, which offers students who have never studied abroad new opportunities for academic, cultural and language learning - in Canada, China, India, the USA, or to destinations in Europe for a period less than three months - as part of their studies. We also remain committed to creating the conditions whereby every child in Scotland will have the opportunity to learn two languages in addition to their mother tongue, in accordance with the '1+2' European model of language learning. This means that by 2020, every child will begin to learn an additional language when they start Primary One (age 5) and a second from Primary Five at the latest (age 9). This much earlier start will support strengthened language learning throughout the broad general education and build public expectations of this as normal, desirable and achievable.
We will continue to strengthen our domestic infrastructure to increase Scotland's international attractiveness as an investment location. This includes investing in our transport links and air connectivity, which contribute to facilitating trade, tourism and investment. Scotland is currently served by direct flights to over 30 countries, however, we are committed to improving both long-haul connections to Scotland and connectivity through world hubs. The devolution of Air Passenger Duty ( APD) to the Scottish Parliament, which has been agreed as part of the Smith Commission recommendations, will enable the Scottish Government to design a replacement tax which better supports our objective to improve connectivity. We have already confirmed our intention to reduce APD by 50% within the term of the next Parliament, with a view to eventually abolishing the tax when public finances allow.
It is not just physical connections that are important in achieving our internationalisation agenda; digital connectivity and broadband will unlock economic growth and help tackle inequality. This is why we are committed through Scotland's Digital Future: Infrastructure Action Plan to deliver world-class digital connectivity across the whole of Scotland by 2020. This improved connectivity will create an economic environment that encourages digital innovation and supports the creation, growth and transformation of businesses that are better able to connect and compete with their international peers.
We recognise that the best research operates across boundaries whether these are disciplinary, institutional or nation state and that maximising the impact of research is best achieved through collaboration. We also support Scottish universities' collaborative approach to developing international opportunities through Connected Scotland, a new partnership to develop opportunities worldwide for student recruitment, the delivery of Scottish education, and research.
Scotland's network of Innovation Centres play a central role in bringing together universities and businesses in transformational collaborations that help place Scotland at the forefront of global innovation activity. We will work with the Centres to ensure that their international potential is fully realised.
Additionally, as set out in One Scotland - Programme for Government 2014-15, we will pilot Innovation and Investment Hubs in key overseas locations, which will bring together resources and partners in a particular location and co-ordinate and deliver activity on the ground.
We will continue to pursue opportunities to grow Scotland's international trade and investment base, with a particular focus on increasing the number of businesses that innovate for the international market and on growing Scottish exports to large emerging economies. A new Scottish Government International Trade and Investment Strategy will be published, which will set out our approach to international trade and investment and how the Government will work with businesses, the wider public sector and the third sector, in Scotland and internationally, and with partners and institutions to achieve specific trade and investment goals.
In recognition that many decisions taken at a regional or global level have implications for how our people, businesses and institutions are able to operate both at home at abroad, we will work constructively with the UK Government to promote Scottish interests overseas and in international accords. We will continue to seek assurances that the UK's international footprint serves the distinct needs and strengths of Scottish businesses and our institutions. We will also continue to work with the UK Government to ensure our citizens receive the very best consular assistance overseas.
We will continue to use our diplomatic and cultural capital to build and maintain strong international bilateral relationships. This will include a programme of policy, culture and trade-orientated overseas Ministerial visits and government-to-government engagement in Scotland.
The work of the European Union continues to be of significant importance to Scotland and we are clear about the benefits of our EU membership. We will therefore continue to make the case for our membership in any potential UK In/Out Referendum, arguing for the numerous gains we already enjoy, and those still to be made.
The challenges facing the EU have rightly led to debates about its future direction and governance. EU reforms are needed to support Europe's recovery from the economic and financial crisis, to boost growth and competitiveness and reconnect citizens with the institutions of the EU. We believe that these challenges will only be met by working constructively and in partnership with others, including the UK Government, who hold the Presidency of the Council of the European Union in 2017. This will remain the fundamental approach of the Scottish Government in its European engagement. Our priorities for engagement with the European Union will be set out in more detail in our forthcoming revised EU Action Plan.
A key element of our European engagement is developing strong partnerships with like-minded European partners, and in 2015 we will focus on delivering real results on investment, innovation and inequalities from our links with leading EU countries and regions, building on the success of our recent engagement with Ireland. As well as taking these initiatives forward we will continue to work with Latvia and Luxembourg who hold EU Presidencies during 2015; focus attention on the Nordic and Baltic region and the High North, where the focus will remain on knowledge exchange and our joint commitment to innovative, environmentally sustainable solutions; continue to strengthen our relationships with countries such as Poland, Germany, France, Spain and Italy; and participate in major events such as the 2015 Milan Expo.
Scotland has an extensive and valued diaspora who, in sharing and celebrating Scottish successes, culture and traditions abroad, help showcase Scotland to new audiences. A new Diaspora Engagement Strategy will be developed to set out how we can better engage and connect with our diaspora and the role they can play in supporting our international ambitions.
Similarly, we have a large, established migrant community and we welcome the contribution new Scots are making to our economy and society. Alongside our efforts to create more jobs in Scotland and develop the skills of our workforce, we must be able to attract and retain world-class talent to fill vacancies which cannot be filled by resident workers. To facilitate this, the Scottish Government will continue to support TalentScotland to advise people moving to work in Scotland on matters regarding their relocation, including help with visas and immigration. The Scottish Government also co-funds the COSLA Migration, Population and Diversity team, which works across local authorities to ensure that Scotland is a welcoming place for new migrants, and to retain and integrate migrants to meet Scottish needs. Furthermore, we will continue to press for the reintroduction of the post-study work visa in Scotland, which would allow the best minds and talent to stay in Scotland and share their expertise and knowledge.
We will support our overseas network of Government offices in Brussels, Washington, Toronto and Beijing and the 29 Scottish Development International ( SDI) Offices in 19 countries. We will continue to keep our collective overseas presence under review to ensure that we are best placed to meet current and future priorities. Outside of those countries where there is a permanent Scottish presence, the Government will engage on specific policy issues. These priorities will be set out in specific policy documents and in our One Scotland Partnership Country Plans, a number of which will be refreshed over the course of 2015, including those for the Americas, India and Pakistan.
We will continue to prioritise our engagement with the USA and Canada to build on our existing relationships, tourism, cultural, diaspora, trade and investment links; outside of the EU single market, the USA is Scotland's largest overseas export market, as well as our single biggest overseas tourism market. The USA also remains Scotland's biggest source of Foreign Direct Investment, with the USA representing 39 per cent of the market share in 2013. This engagement will be part of a wider effort to develop stronger relationships throughout the Americas, building on SDI's recent investment in the region and seeking to better understand the international opportunities that might be available in emerging and growing markets. Our cultural exchanges will support engagement and aspirations across all these countries. We remain committed to developing a long-term relationship with China based on shared values, partnership and trust. Additionally, the Gulf States, particularly Qatar and the UAE, will remain a strategically important region, due to our trade and investment links and burgeoning cultural connections.
Importantly, while our international engagement will support Scotland's Economic Strategy, it will take a holistic approach, recognising our commitment to fairness and human rights does not end at our borders. For example, our relationship and partnership with Malawi will remain important. Global economic development has helped lift millions of people around the world out of poverty and improve equality, however, high levels of deprivation and inequality remain; that is why Scotland will use its international engagement to continue to act as a good global citizen.
As a good global citizen, Scotland will contribute to wider goals of promoting international stability and equality in other world regions, which, in addition to the foremost objective of working in partnership to deliver positive local change, can act to support long-term human and economic security within Scotland. As part of this commitment we will continue our advocacy of human rights, we will continue to contribute to the multilateral management of international crises, and we will continue to deliver our distinctive international development programme, ensuring that the programme maintains and intensifies its impact in years to come.
Our refreshed International Framework therefore focuses on both increasing competitiveness and tackling inequality, the two cornerstones of Scotland's Economic Strategy.
As the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs, I am committed to keeping this policy statement relevant and in line with Scotland's international ambitions. Therefore, this Government will regularly update this policy statement as our priorities and the environment in which we operate evolve.
Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe and External Affairs
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