University of St Andrews: University takes leading role in creation of new Scottish think tank

St Andrews is one of three Scottish Universities taking the helm of a dynamic new global affairs institute, launched this week (Wednesday 27 April).

The Scottish Council on Global Affairs has been set up by the Universities of St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh to provide a non-partisan hub for the sharing of Scotland’s world-leading expertise.

The Council has received backing from both Scottish and UK Government Ministers as well as from across the political spectrum and wider civil society.


First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, said the new institute will strengthen Scotland’s engagement with partners in the UK, Europe and around the world
The Council aims to forge links with civil society partners and the business community across the UK and internationally, placing their expertise on international issues at their disposal. It will support ambitious research projects designed to inform public policy and encourage wider public discussion.

University Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sally Mapstone FRSE, said: “It is fitting that St Andrews is at the heart of the Scottish Council on Global Affairs. We are an outward-looking university which values and encourages international research collaboration, knowledge exchange, and sharing the wealth of expertise our community has to offer.

“It is important that universities like St Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh work together to promote initiatives that stimulate debate and discussion, including international affairs and Scotland’s place in the world. Brexit, the war in Ukraine, the Covid-19 pandemic, and the ongoing climate crisis are all evidence of the need for closer co-operation and joint working with partners across the globe.”

Professor Phillips O’Brien, Chair of Strategic Studies in the School of International Relations and a world-renowned expert on global affairs, including the war in Ukraine, is a Co-Director of the new think tank.

Professor O’Brien said: “’It’s time that Scotland had a rigorous, non-partisan, people-focussed Global Affairs institute that can bring together Scotland’s brilliant researchers with a range of groups from across society.

“The SCGA will sponsor collaborative research efforts, host a regular series of public events and projects, and establish connections with peoples and groups from around the world. It’s the right institution at the right time.”

The launch event this week included two roundtable sessions held in Edinburgh involving experts from universities, political institutions, and other think tanks from across the globe, as well as international charities.

The Scottish Council on Global Affairs is an initiative backed across the political spectrum, and is included in the SNP, Labour and Liberal Democrat manifestos ahead of the May 2021 Scottish Parliamentary elections.

SCGA is led by Executive Director, Professor Peter Jackson, Chair in Global Security at the University of Glasgow, Professor Juliet Kaarbo, Chair of Foreign Policy at the University of Edinburgh, and Professor Phillips O’Brien, Chair of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews.

The initiative has been endorsed by UK and Scottish Government Ministers who provided the following comments at the launch of SCGA.

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for External Affairs, Angus Robertson MSP, said: “As Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine continues, prompting Europe’s biggest refugee crisis since the last world war, it has never been clearer that the challenges that nations face today are global in nature.

“The new Scottish Council on Global Affairs, Scotland’s first global affairs institute, will be marked by its academic freedom. It will develop critical thinking on international issues and Scotland’s place in the world, using the excellent expertise, researchers and universities that Scotland already has.

“Although the Scottish Government warmly welcomes and supports the establishment of the Scottish Council on Global Affairs – as committed to in our latest Programme for Government – this initiative is independent, supported as it is by parties across the political spectrum, making it truly non-partisan.

“I look forward to seeing its first contributions to the great questions of our age.”

Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office Minister, Amanda Milling, said: “The new Council will be a think tank for academics, but it also hopes to bring in other people with expertise to contribute from civil society, business, journalism and politics. The Council will also engage with the public to promote debate in Scotland and the wider United Kingdom around international affairs and the country’s place in the world.

“The present war in Ukraine, the experience of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the ongoing climate crisis have all underlined the need for international co-operation and multi-disciplinary expertise to address the political, economic and public health challenges of the 21st century. The Council will contribute to this enterprise by providing an institutional setting for discussion and debate of international questions.

“A core mission of the new Council is to support ambitious research projects aimed at informing public policy and promoting public discussion. In pursuit of these goals, it will forge partnerships in the UK, Europe and beyond to amplify the global reach of Scottish expertise.”

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