07 November 2012

S4M-04694 Scotland’s Relationship with Malawi

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Elaine Smith): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-04694, in the name of Humza Yousaf, on Scotland’s relationship with Malawi.

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Stewart Stevenson (Banffshire and Buchan Coast) (SNP):

It is a great privilege for me to speak in the debate. When I demitted office as a minister in September this year and Humza Yousaf was appointed, it was a bit of a wake-up call for me to discover that he is 40 years younger than I am.

The debate offers us a good opportunity to consider the achievements of previous members of this Parliament. Lord McConnell—or Jack McConnell, as we knew him when he was here—has two major achievements to his name: developing our relationship with Malawi in the form that it now takes, and Scotland’s anti-smoking legislation.

It is, therefore, somewhat ironic that tobacco is one of Malawi’s largest exports. The value of tobacco is falling, and the proportion of the country’s exports that it constitutes is rising. If nothing else, we owe Malawi a debt because we are trying to eliminate the market for one of its biggest exports, which I hope that we will succeed in doing at some point in the future.

It was my great privilege and pleasure to chair the meeting in May this year at which the First Minister and Mary Robinson announced the launch of the climate justice fund. Mary Robinson has a relationship with Malawi and with its President, Joyce Banda. In 2010, Joyce Banda joined the global leaders council for reproductive health, which Mary Robinson chairs. Many of the connections that matter to us and to Malawi are multistranded and familiar to us, and it is our job to support and sustain as many of them as possible.

When I was in Rio for the Rio+20 conference, I was able to meet people from Malawi to talk with them about the support that we are giving. To highlight the interest that exists among our young people in Scotland, I will tell the chamber that I took part in a teleconference through the glow network in Scotland’s schools and one of the topics that came up was Malawi. I was sitting in South America, talking about Malawi in Africa to schoolchildren in Scotland. That illustrates how interdependent and small the modern world is.

As other members have, I commend the work of Martha Payne, who has fabulously illustrated the potential of those who are so young—which, of course, includes the minister, who is 40 years younger than I am.

Humza Yousaf: Only 40.

Stewart Stevenson: Only 40, but for me it sometimes feels much more.

The issue of women in Malawi has been a strand running through much of today’s debate. In Forbes magazine’s list of the 100 women who run the world, Joyce Banda, the president of Malawi, is number 71. Fine, but how many people from the British isles are on that list? The answer is only two. One of those is the Queen, at number 26, and the other is J K Rowling, at number 76. Therefore, that international recognition of the position of Joyce Banda is quite significant.

Joyce Banda is, of course, no relation to Hastings Banda, who was the first president of Malawi. In 1941, he got his second medical degree at the University of Edinburgh and—I say this so as not to disappoint my fans—my father was at university with Hastings Banda and was doing his medical degree and was president of the union at that time. A further connection—I know that members want more—is that David Livingstone’s grandson was a gentleman called Dr Wilson, who lived in St Fillan’s. He came and did my father’s locum so that we could go on holiday each year. As a youngster, therefore, I remember that we talked about not Malawi, but Nyasaland and its predecessors.

Returning to the subject of women, I think that climate change—incidentally, Donald Trump says that climate change has been invented by the Chinese, but if he says that it merely proves that we should believe in it utterly and sincerely—is an issue that differentially affects women. In countries such as Malawi, women are the water gatherers, and they have to go further for water because aridity is an increasing problem. They have to go further for firewood, because there is less of it as trees are being burned. The output of agricultural industries in Malawi and much of sub-Saharan Africa is greatly reduced as the climate changes, and that differentially affects women in particular.

Therefore, it is right in our climate change work and in our support for Malawi that we have a whole series of projects to support women: we are empowering women as local leaders; we are supporting a midwifery model; we are involved with Mary’s Meals, as has been talked about; and we are supporting a maternal health project. All of that is absolutely excellent. It is part of our moral duty to support people who have been affected by what we have benefited from on climate change. Malawi is our current focus; we can do much more in the future and I hope that we do so.

Ultimately, the future belongs to the young, in particular the young of Malawi. Let us make sure that the young of Malawi benefit from much of what we do.


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