FIFTY years ago this year Winnie Ewing shook the political establishment with her stunning and historic victory in the Hamilton by-election. Of all her successes and triumphs, there remains a single line from her victory speech which has stood the test of history: “Stop the world. Scotland wants to get on.”
I couldn’t agree more. I continue to believe that Scotland has something wonderful to contribute to the world we live in.
This isn’t a new phenomenon of our modern society. For centuries people from Scotland have made a positive contribution to the world community in a huge number of diverse ways.
Loading article content
While the achievements of great Scots like industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie or explorer Dr David Livingstone are now detailed in the history books, in our modern age, it’s just as important that we develop and maintain our links abroad, and project what influence we have on the world stage. In the global economy, our international image and brand has a direct impact on the value of our international exports, our ability to attract tourists to visit here and encourage businesses to come here to create jobs and opportunities for workers in Scotland.
At the same time, when reactionary political populism is on the rise across the world, it’s important to demonstrate progressive political leadership if we are to preserve and promote ideas of equality, fairness and justice throughout the world today.
With all this in mind, Tartan Week in the US has given Scotland an opportunity to showcase ourselves in this important arena. That’s why I was delighted to join other Scottish MPs, and a cross-party group from the Scottish Parliament, across the Atlantic over the past week to celebrate the deep relationship between Scotland and the US.
As well as joining the annual parade through the streets of the Big Apple, and celebrating our generational links with the Scottish emigrant community, we used our time in New York to set up talks with representatives from UN Women, the UN Development Programme, and the UN Youth envoy to share Scotland’s experience and to hear about best practice from throughout the world that we can learn from. We discussed issues as diverse as Scotland’s work on gender equality, human rights, supporting people living with disabilities, and international youth engagement.
Elsewhere our First Minister was using her time to agree a partnership with digital giant TripAdvisor to promote Scotland abroad, and to meet Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, to discuss Scotland’s technology sector. She also visited the UN in New York to announce that our Scottish Government will seek to make the world a safer place by spending an additional £1.2 million to train women from war zones across the world on conflict resolution and peacekeeping techniques, following a successful pilot project last year.
Each of these events and discussions was arranged in order to advance Scotland’s cause, aid our economy or improve our connections abroad.
Even so, the carping and complaining has already started from the usual suspects who would rather Scotland turned inward on ourselves rather than look out to the world. What a ridiculous act of political self-harm this is. Our competitors abroad know the value of presenting a team approach to engagement with the wider world, and of the opportunities that such a platform can bring on every level. Can you seriously imagine any of the Irish opposition parties in the Dial complaining about Enda Kenny attending St Patrick’s day celebrations abroad?
Telling our story to the world first hand is essential to Scotland, and our society. It is what every normal country in the world does. I want Scotland to join the mainstream.
It should be the ambition of every politician from across the political spectrum to seek to use every opportunity we have to advance our national interests. We may, and indeed should, disagree about the means by which we do so, but it’s almost unthinkable to consider that some parliamentarians think that the Scottish Government should shirk from its responsibilities in this way. How small minded they are.
Scotland’s place is rightly amongst the commonwealth of nations.
We have a fantastic country, a proud history and a talented population to be proud of. We can, and we should, be out selling ourselves to the world.