Today (18 September), people in Scotland are exactly one year away from the all important day when our citizens will vote on the future direction of their country. Gaining control of how Scotland will engage with the wider world is an important consequence of that vote.
For me, an independent Scotland is not – and never will be – an end in itself. It is about Scots gaining the powers that all independent nations throughout the world take for granted: powers which will enable the creation of jobs, encourage sustainable economic growth, secure social justice, tackle inequality and promote fairness at home and abroad.
Independence will mean Scotland being able to develop policies that are determined by the people of Scotland, which reflect our values. It will mean being able to take a different approach to the UK, where this is the right decision for Scotland. Scotland has much to offer as an active global citizen.
An independent Scotland should include specific provisions on how and when our armed forces would be able to take part in military interventions, in line with international law. After the calamitous and destructive invasion of Iraq, never again should Scottish soldiers be sent to a war
Independence will enable Scotland to add a progressive voice to global issues promoting peace, equality and fairness. Upon independence, we will make clear that Scotland is a country that is committed to international law, respects and promotes human rights, democratic values, equality and good governance.
Meaning of the independence
That is why we have already suggested that the written constitution we envisage for an independent Scotland should include specific provisions on how and when our armed forces would be able to take part in military interventions, in line with international law. After the calamitous and destructive invasion of Iraq, never again should Scottish soldiers be sent to a war we do not agree with as a nation and which does not carry a legal mandate.
Independence is an opportunity for Scotland to become the type of country its population knows it can be. It is also an opportunity for Scotland to show leadership, helping to bring closer to reality the peaceful world we all want to see.
From civic society, including Churches, faith groups and peace activists, right through to your ordinary man and woman, the opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland is overwhelming. However, despite this opposition, weapons of mass destruction continue to be imposed upon Scotland by the UK Government – only twenty miles from our largest population centre in Glasgow.
From day one after a successful vote for independence, we will begin negotiations with the UK Government to safely and securely remove nuclear weapons from our soil as soon as possible. Furthermore, we have committed to enshrine within our nation’s written constitution our fundamental opposition to Scotland ever having nuclear weapons in the future. By doing so, we will play our part towards a safer and more peaceful global society by showing leadership to others so we can realise the dream of a nuclear weapons free world.
Giving to the world
Scotland has contributed much to the world over the centuries through some very notable figures. From the father of modern economics Adam Smith to the great philosopher of the Scottish and European Enlightenment David Hume, all the way through to famous explorers and humanitarians such as Dr David Livingston, to inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell and John Logie Baird – we have cast an important footprint on the world.
However, Scotland’s rich tradition of innovation and invention is not consigned to the pages of history. We continue to lead the world in many fields and with independence would look to share our expertise in a way that benefits the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
For example, in international development, Scotland is the first country in the world to have initiated a Climate Justice Fund. This fund recognises that the developed world contributes the most to the effects of climate change yet it is those in the developing world who suffer the most. We further recognise that this is not a matter of aid or charity but justice and therefore seeks to redress this imbalance through expertise Scotland has in fields such as water sanitisation.
An independent Scotland would have a unique proposition to offer the world in relation to climate change and energy; and we would innovate through our approach to international development and international aid.
With full control over international development through independence we will also ensure that Scotland plays her part as a good global citizen that fulfils her international obligations.
The UK has delayed – for over 40 years – achievement of the UN target that developed countries spend 0.7 per cent of Gross National Income (GNI) on official development assistance. This has long been met by Northern European countries such as Sweden, Norway and Denmark, which continue to lead the way. In an independent Scotland we will right that wrong and have committed to enshrine this target in law, with an aspiration to move to one per cent of GNI over time.
In a world that is often riddled with instability having another stable, progressive voice committed to international law and consensus will only help advance the cause of peace in the global arena.
All of this achieved through a democratic, peaceful means without a single drop of blood being spilled and engaging with all the diverse communities that make up our rich tapestry in Scotland.
Engraved on the mace of the Scottish Parliament are the values of compassion, wisdom, justice and integrity, as an independent nation those values will also guide us in the choices we make – the choice not to get involved in illegal wars, the choice to tackle climate change, the choice to tackle global poverty, the choice to rid our shores of nuclear weapons forever.
This is an exciting time for Scotland; I hope the rest of the world will watch with interest as our story unfolds over this coming year and join with us as we build a better Scotland, a nation that values our enduring alliances and friendships around the world in the spirit of peace, progress and equality.
Humza Yousaf has served as the Scottish National Party Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow since 2011, he is currently the Minister for External Affairs and International Development.