News story

Don't forget your passport

Being part of the UK gives Scots access to exceptional support abroad if something goes wrong.

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government


The school summer holidays are here and thousands of families in Scotland will be heading to the sun.

Few holidaymakers will give a second thought to the support they’ll need should anything go wrong while they’re in another country.

But each year, UK consular staff around the world deal with around one million enquiries from members of the public.

In 2012/13, over 19,000 were from people who needed help because they were facing particularly difficult circumstances, such as death, arrests and detentions or assault.

Assistance can come in many forms, ranging from visiting British nationals detained abroad, to helping others in need deal with local authorities and contacting friends and families back in the UK.

The UK’s substantial overseas footprint, together with its national expertise and capabilities developed over many years, enables it to provide exceptional support to UK citizens overseas, even in very difficult and distressing cases, such as the kidnap overseas of UK citizens, parental child abduction and forced marriage.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael said:

As British nationals, Scots are given exceptional support when travelling overseas.

Holidays are a time for taking a well-earned break, experiencing new cultures and spending time with family. No-one heads off expecting they’ll end up in an emergency however, it’s amazing how many people turn to the UK Foreign Office for support when something goes wrong.

This can be for a whole range of reasons, from a lost passport to more serious problems such as being a victim of crime, being arrested or facing a bereavement overseas.

The UK has consular representation at 216 posts in 144 countries, with more than 800 staff working on consular issues at any one time in the UK and abroad, serving British citizens who find themselves in difficulty overseas. This is supplemented by over 230 Honorary Consuls.

Mr Carmichael continued:

Scots can travel safe in the knowledge that no matter where or when they’re going they’ll enjoy the full support of the United Kingdom’s diplomatic network, which is one of the biggest in the world.

This is more evidence that we are not just better off together – but safer together too.

Simon Fraser, Permanent Under Secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said:

We have 216 consular posts in 144 countries around the world. They offer assistance to all UK citizens. Last year we helped 400,000 people.

The Scottish government is planning a network of 70-90 diplomatic posts, plus a network of honorary consuls. Where a country has any form of representation, including an honorary consul, it must look after its own citizens.

Other EU embassies only help where there is no other representation of any kind. Scottish nationals may have to pay for the cost of any assistance they receive in those circumstances and the Scottish government would be liable to reimburse whichever EU member state provided the service.

Each year, UK consular staff around the world deal with around one million enquiries from members of the public. Of those, in 2012/13 over 19,200 were from people who need help because they were facing particularly difficult circumstances. This included In 2012/13:

  • 6,193 deaths
  • 5,435 arrests and detentions
  • 3,707 other assistance which includes: child abduction and custody, forced marriage, abduction, assault (general), missing persons, mental health, repatriation and welfare
  • 3,599 hospitalisations
  • 172 sexual assaults
  • 138 rape cases
Published 7 July 2014