01 April 2014

S4M-09547 Scotland: A Good Global Citizen

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): The next item of business is a debate on motion S4M-09547, on Scotland: a good global citizen.

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

I will spend most of my time talking about the impact that smaller countries can have on international affairs.

Other members have referred to Mary Robinson, and I very much commend the work of the Mary Robinson Foundation—Climate Justice. The foundation’s work is in four parts: sustainable energy, climate justice, food and nutrition, and gender impacts. In respect of sustainable energy, it is clear that Scotland has a set of engineering skills that would enable us to work on that agenda. On climate justice, Mary Robinson came to launch our climate justice fund with the First Minister, and I had the great privilege of chairing that launch. We also have considerable expertise in food and nutrition.

I have spoken previously in the chamber about the gender impact of climate change. For example, 70 per cent of small farmers in Africa are women, and it is those small farmers who are most disproportionately affected by climate change. They are having to go further to forage for fuel for cooking and are having to carry water further to water their crops. They are the people who are paying the price for the international injustice that the western developed world imposes on people. We in Scotland are privileged to be part of the climate justice campaign, and can make practical efforts to help such people.

Tavish Scott has just spent a great deal of his time talking about two international bodies: NATO and the United Nations. The next secretary general of NATO is, of course, the former Prime Minister of Norway, which is comparable in size to Scotland, although it is a little smaller, and he is a man who will be taking the hardest decisions that can be taken. Small countries can do that.

Furthermore, who is the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations at the moment? It is Mr Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda—a country that most people here have probably not heard of and whose population in 2011 was 81,799. Small countries can punch well above their weight. Mr Ashe has chaired sessions at the United Nations on international trade and development, and on information and communications technologies. In the 71st plenary session, when he has been in the chair, the UN has discussed the international financial system and received keynote reports from a New Zealand-led committee. Small countries can do big things on the international stage.

It is worth commenting on Tavish Scott’s references to South Ossetia and Abkhazia in Georgia, which is a country that is certainly under threat. The Russians went into Abkhazia in the late 90s and into South Ossetia more recently. When I visited Georgia twice in 2006 as an Opposition MSP, I met the Government there and actually got it to change the law in relation to language, which I was very pleased about, indeed.

I turn to some of the things that the Tories said. Jackson Carlaw, the Tory spokesman, suggested that other members think that he is not consensual, but when his amendment would delete a reference to human rights, that is to step away from consensuality. When his amendment would delete a reference to humanitarian operations, that is to step away from consensuality. When the amendment would delete a reference to democracy itself, we see a step away from consensuality. Finally, the amendment would delete a reference to global poverty.

Most astonishing of all, we heard Jackson Carlaw commend the work of Labour members at Westminster who saved that non-democratic institution with 820 unelected and undismissible members—the House of Lords—and the 650 elected members in the House of Commons from making the wrong decision on Syria.

Jackson Carlaw is in favour of Scotland having international influence, but he seeks institutional arrangements that would prevent that.

As a minister, and as a member of the UK ministerial delegation, I attended 25 events in Europe and around the world, and only once did I get to speak on behalf of the UK. It was at an economic conference in Poland, and was for the simple reason that the UK had sent only one minister—me. At other times, even when the UK minister is absent—as Paul Wheelhouse has found—we do not get to speak.

We have to move to a world in which Scotland can go to the important occasions, give what we have to give—which is substantial—and get the decisions that matter to us. Go, give, get. Until that happens, we will not truly make the contribution that we should and must make.


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