Czech Republic opens new Honorary Consulate in Scotland
More than a year ago, the Czech Honorary Consulate in Scotland closed down after its long-time representative, Paul Millar, decided to step down at the age of 86. This Wednesday, a new Honorary Consulate was officially declared open with Veronika MacLeod, founder of Czech School Scotland, becoming its new representative.
I spoke to Mrs MacLeod on the phone to Edinburgh to discuss her new role and the importance of having a Czech diplomatic mission in Scotland:
“Doctor Paul Millar retired from his post in March last year after more than two decades. As a result, the Czech community in Scotland had to travel all the way to Manchester.
“One day about year ago I got a phone call if I would like to become an honorary consul, because I have been here for 17 years and I have been in contact with a big part of the community through the Czech School and I also have a wide network of Czech and Scottish friends here. So in the end, I said yes.”
How large is the Czech community in Scotland and who are the people who decided to settle there?
“According to the latest figures, about 4,000 Czech citizens applied for the settled status and another 1,000 Czech citizens have a dual citizenship, so they didn’t have to apply.
“Most people around me came after the accession of the Czech Republic to the EU but I also know people who emigrated here after 1968 so we are quite a big community. So there are around 5,000 of us, I would say.”
What exactly does the job of an Honorary Consul involve?
“First of all, it’s not a job, it’s an unpaid post, so I am not an employee. And I will be helping Czech citizens who live here or Czech tourists who will need any kind of assistance.”
What kind of problems does the consulate deal with most frequently?
“My main task will be the legalisation of signatures, issuing emergency travel documents, giving advice and supporting our community here.
“With other enquiries, such as passport renewals or registering births or marriages, people still have to travel to the professional consulate general in Manchester. But at least I’ll be helping with something.”
Finally, the new seat of the honorary consulate is in Musselburgh, a small town located some eight kilometres east of Edinburgh. How did you choose the location?
“It’s in a private house owned by my former student of Czech language from the University of Edinburg. He is my friend Den Mather. His wife, Czech scientist Helena Hart, died suddenly three years ago, and he decided to help the Czech community here by providing the premises for the new Czech Honorary Consulate.”