Czech Republic opens new honorary consulate in Scotland
I spoke to Ms MacLeod on the phone in 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 to Manchester.
“One day, about a year ago, I received a phone call if I wanted to become an honorary consul, because I have been here for 17 years and have been in contact with a large part of the community through Czech school and I also have a large network of Czech and Scottish friends here, so in the end I said yes.
How big is the Czech community in Scotland and who are the people who decided to settle there?
“According to the latest figures, around 4,000 Czech citizens have applied for settlement status and another 1,000 Czech citizens have dual citizenship, so they did not have to apply.
“Most of the people around me came after the Czech Republic joined the EU, but I also know people who emigrated here after 1968, so we are quite a large community. So we are about 5,000, I would say.
What exactly is the job of an honorary consul?
“First of all, it’s not a job, it’s an unpaid position, so I’m not salaried. And I will help Czech citizens who live here or Czech tourists who need any kind of assistance.
What kind of problems does the consulate deal with most often?
“My main task will be to legalize signatures, issue emergency travel documents, provide advice and support our community here.
“With other enquiries, such as passport renewals or birth or marriage registration, people still have to go to the professional Consulate General in Manchester. But at least I’m going to help with something.
Finally, the new seat of the Honorary Consulate is in Musselburgh, a small town about five miles east of Edinburgh. How did you choose the location?
“It’s in a private house belonging to my former Czech language student at the University of Edinburgh. He’s 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.