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18 January 2006

S2M-3826 International Strategy

Scottish Parliament

Wednesday 18 January 2006

[THE PRESIDING OFFICER opened the meeting at 14:30]

… … …

International Strategy

The Presiding Officer (Mr George Reid): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-3826, in the name of Mr Tom McCabe, on the international strategy.

14:35

… … …

15:54

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): Perhaps our starting point ought to be knowing ourselves as well as we wish others to know us. I hope to illustrate that, in some ways, we are perhaps doing better than we understand and are saying less than we should.

I welcome that speech from Bill Aitken, who seems to have fallen into the category of those who trumpet our successes, understand our shortcomings and take responsibility for dealing with them into their own hands. Bill Aitken should know that he will be welcomed on to the nationalist benches whenever he wishes to join us.

The motion before us today starts off well. It states that the Parliament

"welcomes ... ambitions and activities to build international relationships that benefit Scotland and Scotland's interests throughout the world"

and

"supports its promotion of Scotland as an ideal place to live, work, study and do business".

That is great. If the full stop had come at that point, who knows? Perhaps the vote at decision time might have been rather different from what I expect it will be.

In passing, let me say that Karen Gillon takes nothing from my political philosophy by proclaiming that she has a shared identity, being both British and Scots. I am not threatened, nor even worried, by that, as it is entirely proper that she should do that.

We need to ensure that we trumpet what we are good at, so let me mention a couple of things from industry and commerce. Many of us come to the Parliament by travelling along the railway line that comes from Glasgow. As the train slows down as it approaches Haymarket station, we can see one of the most important parts of modern Scotland. I refer not to Murrayfield on the left nor to Tynecastle on the right but to Wolfson Microelectronics plc, whose offices sit by the side of the railway line.

As a company, Wolfson is beating the world. It will provide the intellectual drive for the next generation of Apple iPods and other high-technology consumer goods. However, Wolfson's products will be hidden on a little microchip inside those goods, so people will not know that Wolfson is a Scottish success story today unless we trumpet that success. Scotland has not only a history but a future.

Scotland also has the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is one of the biggest banks in the world. We should not be afraid of trumpeting its success either.

Diversity has an intrinsic value in the modern world, but that is why Scotland can make a unique and different contribution. The first law of epigenetics states that the more highly optimised an organism is for one environment, the more adversely it is affected by any change to that environment. Not only is there value to Scotland in being distinctive, but there is value to the world and to the wider community.

I assure Rosie Kane, Phil Gallie, Bill Aitken and others that I very much welcome friendships of whatever nature between our country and people in the States. Members may not know this but, on our first day in this chamber, a family of three Americans—the Shields family—sat in the distinguished visitors gallery at my invitation. I very much welcome personal friendships across borders, as such friendships help mutual understanding and aid world peace. Indeed, I say to John Home Robertson that I believe that we have a shared duty—which crosses borders, peoples and jurisdictions—to fight oppression, to promote openness and equality and to stand up, every one of us, for justice for everyone and with everyone.

We have heard a bit about strategies today, but let us remember that strategies are meaningless until they dissolve into work that promotes the delivery of something that is worth having. When the minister rises in a few seconds to close the debate, I hope that, rather than simply resort to "Holy Willie's Prayer", he will speak up for Scotland and recognise that, when Scotland speaks up for Scotland, we will be all the more effective.

16:00

Stewart Stevenson
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