When global leaders descended on Glasgow for COP26 just a year and a half ago, Scotland’s role in tackling climate change was spectacularly thrust into the spotlight.
Scotland set the pace by becoming the first nation to develop and implement a policy for Loss and Damage, where Scotland’s economy that has previously helped fuel the climate emergency now compensates lower income countries who are experiencing the consequences.
The fund of £5 million was a small start but the lead was ambitious.
At COP27, just one year later, I witnessed almost two hundred nations follow that lead and bring about a global approach to Loss and Damage.
To Westminster’s clear annoyance, and despite their efforts to limit the Scottish Government’s involvement, many world leaders sought out Nicola Sturgeon and her Scottish Government officials, wanting to learn more about our plans to keep leading from the front.
Scotland showed how doing things differently can have positive outcomes.
It can be no surprise, then, that we now learn that the UK Government has had enough of Scotland’s global voice. No longer are we to be treated as a mild annoyance – we are to be actively silenced.
In recent weeks, the admission by Lord Offord that the UK Government is set to ramp up supervision of Scottish Government officials abroad is just the latest attack on Scotland’s devolution settlement, and forms part of Westminster’s attempt to force Scotland back into its box.
It’s not only Orwellian but it continues to dispel any myth that we are in a ‘voluntary union’.
The UK Government have proven that they are now willing to intervene on devolved issues, blocking the rights of Scottish voters to elect politicians to make our own decisions.
Whether it was their unprecedented use of a Section 35 Order to block the passage of the Gender Recognition Reform Bill, which overwhelmingly passed in the Scottish Parliament and with support from MSPs in all parties, or their threats to derail the introduction of a Deposit Return Scheme similar to many already in place around the world, they have proven that they no longer care about protecting Scotland’s devolution agreement.
📣 @HumzaYousaf: "We need it more than ever before, because in energy-rich Scotland we have Scots that are fuel poor because of the UK government's policies.
🏴 While we're working hard to mitigate Westminster austerity, let's end it once and for all by becoming independent. pic.twitter.com/ycQbS2WDZh
— The SNP (@theSNP) March 30, 2023
But their attacks on the Scottish Government’s work to promote Scotland abroad is possibly the most chilling of all – stunting investment opportunities and the ability of the Scottish Government to collaborate with other Governments on areas of mutual interest.
Angus Robertson, the Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, revealed to the Scottish Affairs Committee that the Scotland Office are increasingly undermining the Scottish Government’s work abroad.
The UK Government are clearly uncomfortable with an international branding of Scotland that is not wrapped up and presented in the colours of the United Kingdom. The message is clear and it’s from the UK Government; you will bend the knee.
The UK Government’s meddling is just further evidence of a collapse in the power of free speech in this country under the Conservatives.
Having already launched attacks on the public’s rights to protest and the ability of Trade Unionists to strike en masse through their Public Order Bill, the Tories have now come for Scottish politicians’ ability to speak their mind abroad.
It is of little wonder that the UK has been downgraded by Civicus to “obstructed” on their annual global Monitor of democratic and civil health, in line with Orban’s Hungary.
We should all be concerned for this erosion of our rights and about what decisions are in line to be imposed on Scotland next.
The UK Government’s use of powers such as Section 35 Orders simply opens the doors to further action against the Scottish Government, and it is clear that they have their eyes set on the Scottish Government’s work to promote Scotland internationally next.
Amidst these attacks, we must remember why the UK Government are concerned in the first place: the high levels of support for independence in Scotland and the ongoing dominance of the SNP in election after election.
Foreign leaders and parliamentarians are without doubt interested in the Scottish Government’s position moving forward – I have spoken to enough Members of Parliament abroad to know that there is a considerable appetite to discuss Scotland’s future.
In questioning, Angus Robertson revealed that he had discussed independence with the Icelandic Prime Minister on a recent visit – but only on the prompting of the Icelandic Prime Minister.
There can often be some misunderstanding globally of Scotland’s unique position as part of the United Kingdom. Too many still see Scotland as a breakaway secessionist state without recognising Scotland’s legitimate and lawful campaign for independence.
At this incredibly important time for both the country and the party, it is vitally important that we continue to proudly speak out about Scotland’s place in the world.
The new First Minister Humza Yousaf’s announcement of a dedicated Minister for Independence is a more than welcome step towards doing so.
We need to be able to set the record straight on Scotland’s place in the world, and not let the UK Government distort the international community’s view of us.
My appointment as the SNP’s International Engagement Ambassador could not come at a more important time. I have the skills and experience needed to take forward this work.
It was a pleasure to meet with a delegation of Ukrainian MPs visiting Parliament yesterday, including the Ukrainian Parliament's Speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk.
It is vital that we continue to do what we can to support Ukraine in their resistance to the illegal Russian invasion. pic.twitter.com/NByo6j4a9u
— Chris Law MP (@ChrisLawSNP) March 29, 2023
My years as the party’s Westminster Spokesperson on International Development and Climate Justice as well as sitting on the International Development Select Committee means that I have been able to make connections and build relationships within international networks that may prove vital in the early days of an independent Scotland.
I have been able to attend regular meetings at the United Nations and the Inter-Parliamentary Union, as well as represent Scotland around the world, most pointedly recently at the events in Kyiv to mark one-year since the Russian invasion.
When I speak to Parliamentarians around the world, they often want to speak about Scottish Independence. Many see Scotland as a beacon of hope, and privately share their concerns about the future of Brexit Britain.
It is not right that the response from Scottish Parliamentarians must be “the UK Government has dictated we are not allowed to speak about that.”
I know many Scots are increasingly uncomfortable with a UK Government that wants to speak for us but does not want to listen to us.
They recognise that democracy is not equal across these islands, and that despite their votes we have a government that will impose its will on us. In these circumstances, we may need to rely on our friends in governments and countries around the world.
I will not be letting the UK Government silence my voice nor indeed any of my colleagues; you can trust me on that.
Scotland needs strong and loud proponents, and I hope to lead from the front.