I am grateful for the opportunity provided by this Adjournment debate, which, happily, coincides with St Andrew’s Day last Friday. As well as being marked by Members from across the House, it was of course marked by millions throughout the world, including the tens of millions of Scots through birth, residency, ancestry or affinity. St Andrew’s Day is of course particularly important for me and my constituents, because I have the great privilege of being the Member of Parliament for St Andrews, whose cathedral marks its 700th birthday this year, which I am sure all of us throughout the House can celebrate. It was built to commemorate the battle of Bannockburn, as I am sure we all can today. The cathedral was lit up on Friday, for the first time in a decade, to mark our patron saint.
As such, it seems apt this evening to reflect on Scotland’s place in the world and its foreign policy footprint. I say to the Minister—I know he understands this—that we should have this debate regardless of Scotland’s constitutional future. We should have a sensible debate when discussing soft power and the attributes that Scotland brings to the international community. Obviously he and I will have different views on Scotland’s future, and that is entirely legitimate, but I do not think it should take away from our having a sensible discussion of one of the Foreign Office’s greatest foreign policy assets—[Interruption.] That being, as well as the Minister, Scotland’s soft power and the benefit it brings to the Foreign Office’s diplomats in doing their work.
Before I really get under way I should add, for the record, that there are a fine range of Scottish organisations. I refer to my declaration of interests, in that I am a trustee of the John Smith Trust and an adviser to Beyond Borders Scotland. Both roles are unremunerated, but I should bring them to the House’s attention.
I hope the Minister does not mind my saying this, and it is no criticism of him, but there have been times when the Foreign Office has perhaps been a little Whitehall-centric and conventional in carrying out its work over the past few years. I sincerely hope—in fact I know—that he will take my arguments in the spirit in which they are intended, as a constructive part of the discussion about how we conduct foreign policy throughout this Chamber and beyond. I accept that he may not agree with me entirely, but I hope he will appreciate the genuinely constructive way in which I hope to carry out this debate, to which I am sure all my colleagues will hope to contribute. Look at them—do they not look like a constructive bunch?
First, I wish to talk about Scotland the brand. Scotland may not yet be independent, but I think everybody can agree that we have undergone a significant constitutional journey in recent years, with Scotland having reasserted itself on the international stage since the re-establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. All parties can take some credit for the fact that we have gone through that constitutional journey. We have at times had difficult and divisive discussions and debates, but they have always taken place in a spirit of democracy. We should all take some pride in that journey.
Scotland has significant soft power resources at its disposal. It is quite remarkable that a nation that is not yet a recognised independent state has such a recognisable brand, which many independent states would highly envy. I can remember, when I worked in South Ossetia in the south Caucasus, discussing Burns with local veterans. His work was so widespread throughout the former Soviet Union, bridging the gap between warring factions in that conflict. It has been translated into all the languages of the Soviet Union, including Ossetian. It was incredibly important for me to be able bridge that gap through Burns—through our soft power.
Despite the truth of history and despite what may have happened in history, Scotland’s history is often, rightly or wrongly—I make no judgment—viewed quite differently from that of our neighbours across these islands, not least our larger neighbour directly to the south. That is something we should all try to use to our advantage. We have a valuable global brand.
It is really important that in this debate we look at everything in the pot, so to speak, throughout the whole United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that a united foreign policy is a goal from which everyone benefits? Any foreign policy discussion in the Scottish Parliament must be had in co-operation with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with the Minister in particular, to ensure that a united UK approach is enhanced, as it can be, by Scottish participation.
I know it is very unusual for the hon. Gentleman to intervene in Adjournment debates, but I thank him for taking the time to do so this evening. I appreciate it. He makes a valid point, but sometimes we have a different foreign policy approach and others will take their own views. I wish to give some specific examples of how Scotland has perhaps taken a slightly different approach, but one that has enriched foreign policy overall and should be taken on board. Further into my speech, I shall discuss the fact that non-governmental organisations and a non-state approach to some international work also have a place. I say that with particular reference to work in conflicts. In the 21st century, the role of civil society and sub-state actors has been transformational.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate. I think he will go on to speak about this in more detail, but Scotland’s relationship with Malawi—I declare an interest as the chair of the all-party group on Malawi—is a fantastic example of partnership working between countries. He emphasises the role of NGOs, which is at the core of such work, because the nature of the devolved settlement and how the Scottish Government fund overseas work means that the process relies on civil society organisations in the two countries speaking to each other. I am sure my hon. Friend agrees that that is definitely a lesson that the UK Government could learn.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He has done some significant and worthwhile work to build and maintain the special relationship that exists between Scotland and Malawi. That is seen in the work not only of NGOs but of the Scottish Government in developing that relationship, going right back to the days of Livingstone and trying to use our history and common heritage to develop the relationship.
I thank my hon. Friend for making such a powerful case about Scotland and our tradition in the world. Does he agree that there is probably no greater example of how Scotland helps the world than Mary’s Meals, from my Argyll and Bute constituency? It was started as Scottish International Relief in 1992 in Dalmally, in Argyll and Bute, by two brothers, Fergus and Magnus MacFarlane-Barrow, primarily to assist those who were suffering through the Bosnia-Herzegovina conflict. Today, it has grown to be such a worldwide organisation that every day 1.3 million children benefit from receiving a hot meal through Mary’s Meals. Does my hon. Friend agree that that is a prime example of how Scotland benefits the rest of the world?
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. He is right to point to his constituency and the work that is done by Mary’s Meals. I would encourage anybody to read “Eastern Approaches” by Fitzroy Maclean, who was of course an MP who sat on the Conservative Benches. It is an excellent book, and he is also part of the links between Argyll and Bute and the former Yugoslavia. I fondly remember visits to Vis.
It would be remiss of me to let this opportunity pass, because Brendan O'Hara made an important point, but he did not directly mention the generosity of the Scottish people, which is enormous, as is ours in Northern Ireland. The generosity that we share with our Gaelic cousins is shown not only by the project that the hon. Gentleman referred to but by the fact that every week every Scottish National party MP tables an early-day motion that refers to the generosity of people and what they do. That should not be forgotten—in this debate, in Hansard, or in the House.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. His point is helpful, because it takes me on nicely to an area on which we share a great deal of common history with the people of Northern Ireland and across these islands, which is the diaspora. I hope the hon. Gentleman will not mind my referring to the Scots Irish diaspora and the impact that it has had on the United States.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his contribution. I know how excited the people of Milwaukee will be about his visit and how much they will be looking forward to it. That event, too, is about building links between our parts of the world.
There are tens of millions of Scots around the world. I use the terms Scots in a generous way, which is the right thing to do. I recently read online that one of our new Scots said, “The nice thing about being Scottish is that you just turn up.” That is a nice way to be. [Interruption.] The Minister could turn up on these Benches; he would be very welcome.
When talking about the deep links that Scotland has, which are a resource for the Foreign Office, I recommend that anyone reads the work and follows the broadcasts of my constituent, Billy Kay, who looks at the Scots’ impact globally, including in Poland, Sweden, the United States and the Commonwealth. His excellent recent broadcast series on the Scots in Russia is particularly interesting and timely listening, because of course SNP Members, like others, think it is right that our foreign policy takes a hard line with the Government of Russia, but we all recognise the deep affinity with Russia and the links not just between Scotland and Russia but between the people across these islands and the people of Russia. It is more important than ever before that we remember the common history and heritage and the links that bind us to the great people of Russia, to whom European civilisation and culture owes so much.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his speech. It is interesting that he talks about his constituent, Billy Kay. I, too, pay tribute to Billy Kay for his fantastic work, but I should just point out that although he is a constituent of my hon. Friend’s, he comes from the village of Galston, so he is a good Ayrshire man.
My hon. Friend is right. My constituent is a good Ayrshire man, but he is also a good Dundee United fan, which I know Members from across the House will welcome. That is particularly important—I point to his work on the impact that the Scots have had on the beautiful game, including the work that they have done in places such as Brazil and Argentina. I sincerely hope that the Brazilians and the Argentinians will remember the debt that they owe us with regard to football the next time that we play them.
I thank my hon. Friend for giving way and congratulate him on securing tonight’s important debate, which is very much a sequel to my own hugely successful debate on Paisley’s cultural contribution to the world. Does he agree that the diaspora, which he mentions, often moved abroad with hugely successful Scottish businesses? I recently visited the village of Borgonyà in Catalonia, where the famous Paisley company, Coats, was set up. At its peak, it was the largest company in the British empire and the third largest on the planet. It took scores of Paisley buddies across to Borgonyà to set up a textile mill. Even though it closed 18 years ago, it is not the Catalan flag that flies above the mill, but the Saltire, which just goes to show the power of the Scottish diaspora.
My hon. Friend makes a very good point about Catalonia—we are indeed everywhere. It reminds me of my time working in Namibia. A number of Namibian politicians had been in exile in the UK and formed their first democratic newspaper at the University of Glasgow. That was a powerful tool. Decision makers across the world celebrate Scottish heritage, including those in Washington DC where the Scottish Government office does a good job but is co-located with the embassy. That also happens in Ottawa, Canberra and many other capitals.
It is on that point of co-location. May I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on securing the debate? I can find nothing to disagree with in what he has said thus far, but he has raised Scotland’s future a couple of times. He said, “We are not an independent state yet.” Does he not agree that the hugely positive impact that Scotland has in the world—our global soft power footprint—is actually enhanced by our being a part of a bigger, greater United Kingdom, which I think is second in the global power index? He has just mentioned the Scottish Government office being co-located with the British embassy in Washington.
Well, it is all very well being co-located with the UK embassy, but what is really interesting—I was going to avoid this point, but the hon. Gentleman offers me no choice—is that of the dozens of countries that have become independent from the UK and that no longer wish to be co-located with the United Kingdom when carrying out their foreign policy, not one of them has changed its mind about independence. They have all grasped the benefits of independence, including the many benefits for foreign policy. Although I try to talk about how we can take our relationship forward, my belief—like the belief in those dozens and dozens of successful independent countries—is still that the only way we can truly harness our potential is through the normal powers of independence.
I do not want to go down this rabbit hole, but the hon. Gentleman did bring up Bannockburn earlier on. To go back to what he said about the dozens and dozens of countries that have gained their independence from the United Kingdom, it was of course because of Bannockburn that we joined the Union as an equal partner. Therefore we are not in the same position as those dozens and dozens of countries that have gained independence. We are an equal partner within this United Kingdom, from which Scotland does very well indeed.
I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. If he had listened to my reference to Bannockburn, he would know that it was merely to give a historical illustration of why the cathedral at St Andrews was built 700 years ago. I think that, deep down inside, he accepts that—it was a historical illustration. If he wants to go back that far, I will indulge him, because I recently read about a new Hanseatic League being brought up in the European Union. That is an EU of successful independent member states talking about having a new Hanseatic League and about building strong, successful independent economies. The first thing that William Wallace did after declaring Scottish independence—if the hon. Gentleman wants to go back that far, and it was he who took us down this rabbit hole—was of course to apply to rejoin the Hanseatic League. Therefore, in many ways, we can learn from history, and the letter of Lübeck tells us that.
While we are down that rabbit hole, is it not interesting that Scotland as a country had no debt until the Treaty of Union in 1707, nearly 400 years after Bannockburn, when it had to take on debt due to England’s foreign policy in foreign wars?
My hon. Friend raises a valuable point. If I may continue to look ahead and perhaps, despite what my Conservative colleagues are saying, to look to the future and to our future opportunities.
I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s speech for its pleasant journey through history—it is history as seen through the rose-tinted glasses of the SNP. He may wish to reflect on the time when Scotland chased the colonies and wanted to build its own colony cultures under the Darien scheme. Perhaps he could share his views on that with the House.
I have very much enjoyed today. In fact, I have family connections to the Darien Gap. My brother-in-law was a hostage in the Darien for a year. It is where we need to learn from history and from what happened at the time. In terms of what happened to my own brother-in-law, I pay due credit to the Foreign Office and the help that was given to the family during that time. We also need to look to the future.
I purely wish to make reference to what Bill Grant said about the Darien scheme. May I refer him back many years to my own tutor at Strathclyde University, Professor Tom Devine? He is the doyen of Scottish history. The hon. Gentleman should read what Professor Devine and other Scottish historians say about Darien. Darien is not as it is portrayed in British popular culture. It is far more complex and far more nuanced. Indeed, it showed incredible entrepreneurial skills on behalf of an independent Scottish nation, which was cruelly taken away by the amalgamated powers of many Europeans. I urge him to read up on the Darien scheme.
I do not mind interventions, but at least let us see if we can shorten them. I say to the hon. Gentleman to save it for a speech; he might catch my eye.
I thank my hon. Friend for his historical point.
As I have said, I do want to look to the future to our ambitions and opportunities. Let me turn to our education sector. Today, we see thousands of students, staff members and renowned academics from across the world come to Scotland. It would be remiss of me not to mention the very fine and much-missed Sir Neil MacCormick, the contribution that he made to international constitutional law and the reverence with which he is still held in many European countries—and badly missed he is too.
The House will be unsurprised to learn that I am going to mention the University of St Andrews, which today hosted the head of MI6, Alex Younger, who studied at the university and chose it as the location at which to make a speech. Although he is a UK national, this reflects the fondness with which many former alumni and former staff hold St Andrews, as is the case with other Scottish universities. I particularly enjoyed the university’s “Internationally Scottish” campaign. Forty-five per cent. of the university’s staff and students are international, and this campaign recognises their connection with Scotland. That is an enormous asset, which I am sure is welcomed across the House.
Like a number of my hon. Friends, I also recognise the fantastic NGO sector that thrives across Scotland, with organisations such as the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund, Mercy Corps, the HALO Trust and the John Smith Trust that have built up networks across the former Soviet Union and the middle east, providing a fantastic asset for our diplomats. Scotland is a soft superpower, but there is no point just being a soft superpower without looking at the practical areas where we should and can harness that power.
As part of the Select Committee on Education, I went on a tour of a number of first-rate universities across the UK, and found exactly what my hon. Friend has just mentioned—soft power. Soft power will disappear if we leave the European Union, because it is about people coming to universities, in Scotland especially, who send back generations of students to put forward the Scottish enlightenment ideas.
My hon. Friend makes an outstanding point; in fact, she makes my point for me. We should look at how we can harness soft power. I would like to know the Minister’s genuine thoughts on how we can work together, outwith the refines of Whitehall and traditional means of pursuing foreign policy.
This year, Westminster marks 10 years of the Climate Change Act 2008. Members across the House are right to celebrate that and the progress that has been made. It is up to us how we tackle this generation-defining issue—a point made by a number of Members during the G20 statement earlier, including my right hon. Friend Ian Blackford. Back in 2009, Scotland won plaudits across the world when it went further than Westminster with, at the time, the most far-reaching and ambitious climate change targets anywhere in the world, and that remains a priority for the Scottish Government.
Scotland’s leadership on climate change and ambitious action on reducing carbon emissions in 2009 were showcased in the Copenhagen summit. Whether it is on refugees and migrant issues, gender issues, human rights, social justice or the environment, Scotland is leading the way—ahead of the UK.
My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. Of course, the First Minister of Scotland will be speaking at the UN climate change conference tomorrow, which we very much welcome.
The success back in 2009 owed much to the cross-party, unanimous backing that the measures received in the Scottish Parliament, as well as the constructive and practical engagement from academics, the NGO sector, trade unions and the business community, working together. It would not have been as successful or world-leading without that cross-party commitment. In fact, during the 2007 to 2011 Scottish Parliament, the minority Government achieved a huge amount that got international recognition because—I will give credit to other parties—there was engagement with the opposition. I very gently remind the Government Front Bench that it is possible to make progress as a minority Government and it is possible to make progress on some of the biggest issues of the day.
The work on climate change back in 2009 received international plaudits from as far afield as Governor Schwarzenegger of California and President Nasheed of the Maldives. This was a good news story for the whole of Scotland, and should have been a good news story for the United Kingdom as well, so it was very disappointing that the UK Government at the time chose to exclude the Scottish Government from being part of its delegation to the Copenhagen summit that my hon. Friend Angela Crawley just mentioned. Ministers, including the First Minister, went and were able to tell their story anyway, but that was a missed opportunity in terms of the massive foreign policy challenge we had at the time, and it was due to the way the involvement of a devolved Administration was seen in Whitehall. That was disappointing, so I hope the Minister will consider the need to tackle problems such as climate change in new, inclusive and innovative ways through our network of embassies and by working together.
Perhaps a more transformational and pressing area of work in recent times has been that of peace building—conflict resolution and conflict transformation. It has been recognised in recent times that there is a huge role for non-state actors, as I have referenced already, and that civil society has a particular role to play. There has been a transformation in the way in which we see conflict in a 21st- century environment. Recent lessons from Iraq, Libya and elsewhere illustrate that the traditional state-to-state methods of peace building can never alone result in successful state building. I am sure that the Minister has reflected on that if he has read the Foreign Affairs Committee’s report from the last Parliament on the aftermath of the intervention in Libya that showed that many of the lessons from Iraq had not yet taken on board in relation to the Libyan conflict.
I encourage all MPs to read Mark Muller Stuart of the UN and Beyond Borders Scotland—an excellent organisation—on this subject, including his speech to the Royal Society of Arts in Edinburgh in November last year and an excellent article in the Sunday National yesterday. The Sunday National is a fine paper, and I hope that having read some of these thought pieces, the Prime Minister will consider inviting it to her next press conference. This is a really important point. Mr Muller Stuart puts it much better than I ever possibly could when he argues that Scotland should play a greater role in peace building, not least given our recent history and the constitutional journey that we have all made in recent years. Indeed, he even notes that the 2012 Edinburgh agreement is itself a conflict resolution instrument that has been looked at elsewhere in the world. It dealt with an issue, with a debate and a referendum, where there were very strongly held views that remain very strongly held on the SNP Benches and on the Conservative Benches as well. We need to realise that other people want to learn from this.
My hon. Friend is making a very valid point about what we can do post-conflict. I had the opportunity, as part of the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, to visit Sri Lanka to talk about Scotland’s contribution. I raised that very point about the Edinburgh agreement and how peaceful it was. Sadly, Sri Lanka has not yet come to terms with its recent past. However, I would just like to echo my hon. Friend’s point.
I thank my hon. Friend. Scotland has an important role to play in the new landscape and in more imaginative ways that we need to tackle conflict. That came out of the Foreign Affairs Committee’s reports, and I know that the Minister himself has been reflecting on it.
I commend Beyond Borders Scotland and Mark Muller Stuart for recognising Scotland’s role in his work at the United Nations and bringing the First Minister on board with some of that work. That was seen most recently when Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy to Syria, decided that Scotland should host his women’s advisory body as part of its work around implementing Security Council resolution 1325. Let me quote from Mark’s article in yesterday’s Sunday National:
“came together to welcome Syrian female peacemakers from both sides of the divide to the Scottish parliament with the support of the FCO. It was an event that was unlikely to have occurred in London. Following this collaboration, the First Minister committed the Scottish Government to provide funding for the training of fifty female peacemakers every year for the next five years with the support of the UN. This is but one example of Scotland’s growing standing and capacity to act in the service of peacemaking.”
I ask the Minister to reflect on that. Scotland’s First Minister has shown outstanding leadership in this area, which is dear and close to her heart. However, as with facing up to climate change, due credit must go to the leaders of all parties in the Scottish Parliament, who together, on the day after those Scottish Parliament elections—just imagine!—came together to work with peace makers from the troubled conflict areas in Syria. I give due recognition to all the leaders of the political parties in the Scottish Parliament for having done so. Perhaps that attitude in another Parliament of minorities can enable us, working together across the divide, to deliver these benefits. But maybe that is for a fuller debate another day.
Let me say quietly and gently that Scotland can also act as a bridge to Europe in these troubled times. We know that regardless of what happens next week, the relationship with our European partners—our key partners; our closest partners—has been damaged by Brexit, whether we like it or not, leavers or remainers. There is recognition that Scotland voted to remain and wants to remain engaged. Through our businesses, political institutions and others, Scotland can act as a bridge when we try to reconstruct, one way or another, that damaged relationship between the United Kingdom and its European partners.
Our responsibilities, given conflicts in recent years, mean that we need to reflect on the mistakes that have been made. I have reflected on the Foreign Affairs Committee’s comments on the response to Libya, and that can be seen elsewhere, such as the conflict in Iraq. I know, and the Minister knows, that there are many fine officials in the Foreign Office and elsewhere. I have met a large number of them, including the new ambassador to Myanmar and our ambassadors in Kiev and Tbilisi. They are excellent officials working in extraordinarily difficult situations. I also reflect on a meeting I had with the then ambassador to Libya, who was working incredibly hard in one of the most difficult situations imaginable.
I know that officials are looking at new and innovative ways of tackling challenges, but at times the UK is held back in its foreign policy by a failure to think outside the Westminster and Whitehall box. I hope the Minister does not think that too harsh; it is not a reflection on him, but merely on the culture. That could be holding us back in tackling foreign policy challenges in a more imaginative way.
In terms of Scotland’s role in global citizenship, through its contribution to the UN’s sustainable development goals and its international development fund and strategy in Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan, Scotland has proven that it is an inclusive, outward-looking country that plays a vital role globally. Will my hon. Friend join me in urging the UK to follow our lead?
I absolutely agree. I also commend the excellent work being done by the Scottish Government’s external affairs team and development team in reaching out to some of those areas.
The hon. Gentleman has been gracious and generous in giving way tonight. The one thing that he has not mentioned yet, although I know he is about to, is the great pioneering spirit of Scottish people across the world. I refer to just one—David Livingstone, the pioneer, explorer and missionary who preached the gospel across all of Africa. He was a man of faith, and sometimes in these debates, the importance of faith is lost. I know that many Members across the whole House would agree with that, and it is important to put it on record.
The hon. Gentleman makes a really good point about Livingstone. I would like to reflect not only the contribution that faith has made, but the huge contribution of Scots of all faiths and none.
I thank my hon. Friend for making that excellent point about the link to her constituency.
To return to my point about tackling foreign policy challenges in imaginative ways, the FCO should embrace the opportunities provided by devolution. I will quote more of Mark Muller Stuart’s article yesterday, in which he said:
“The UK needs to support these types of initiatives. For as the utility of hard power declines,”— there can be no question that it is declining—
“and that of soft power increases, it ill-behoves any policymaker serious about improving the peace-making record of the UK not to recognise Scotland’s growing capacity to act. The positive values that underpin Scotland’s current civic nationalism and humanitarianism can only make it a greater force for good in the world, whatever its constitutional status turns out to be.”
It is important that we all reflect on that in a constructive, meaningful and responsible way.
At a time when the UK is facing mammoth challenges, it truly needs all the help it can get. I ask the Minister to consider the arguments I have made and how we can work together across all these islands to tackle some of the foreign policy challenges that we have in common in more imaginative ways, to help in areas such as climate change and conflict transformation. Thank you for allowing me this time, Madam Deputy Speaker.
It is a real pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Stephen Gethins, whom I congratulate most sincerely on securing this debate. I do not want to hold up the Minister this evening. I know that he, too, will be keen to rise to his feet, but I will keep him back for a little bit yet.
It was only when I was listening to my hon. Friend that I was brought to think a little bit more about the debate he has secured. If you will allow me, Madam Deputy Speaker, I want to mention one or two local groups, because I believe that when we talk about Scotland’s foreign policy footprint, it is not necessarily about diplomats or those in the Foreign Office in Whitehall, but in fact about our constituents who go all the way across the world and make such a valid contribution to our relationship with our friends across the world.
If I may, I want to refer to some conversations that I had fairly recently with school pupils in my constituency. First, I pay tribute to my alma mater, Bannerman High School. I visited it only this morning to present an early-day motion recognising the immense generosity of the east end of Glasgow, which has been fundraising for the Beatson. Bannerman High School has a long-standing relationship with Malawi. That point was raised by my hon. Friend Patrick Grady, and I want to touch on that later in my remarks.
The school pupil I want to mention is a fine young lady, Keira Cameron, from the Baillieston area of my constituency. My first interaction with her was about a visit she was undertaking on behalf of her high school—St Ambrose High School—which is in the constituency of Hugh Gaffney. I think a third of the children in my constituency go to it because it is the local Roman Catholic high school. Keira’s family contacted me because she had some difficulties with her passport. Through the good offices of the Immigration Minister, we managed to get that ironed out and she was able to travel to Bangalore, from which she came back with a number of suggestions for me.
One of the issues I want to touch on is that of visas—not visas for, or migration by, people leaving the United Kingdom, but visas for people coming to the United Kingdom, specifically in relation to Malawi. I think my first ever debate in this House was on the relationship between Scotland and Malawi. It was quite fitting that my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow North raised that, because there is an issue of equality. Frankly, we send lots of our young school students off to Malawi—they can go and do wonderful work there, and they often do—but there is an issue about students from Malawi being able to come here as well.
While on visas, I want to touch on an issue that I dealt with only last week. It relates to one of the fine churches in my constituency—there are a great many of them. Parkhead Nazarene church is led by my good friend Pastor Ian Wills. He hosted an international conference in Glasgow this week, and once again he came up against the issue of the UK Government denying visas or conducting the process in a way that was not fitting. Again, through the good offices of the Immigration Minister, we managed to iron that out. I guess my fundamental point is that the way we treat people, particularly when they are coming to this country, sends a message about what kind of country we are.
On the point about visas and the importance of building diplomatic relations, could there be any more stark an example than that of the Moldovan diplomats who were refused visas for this country, which has set back the UK’s negotiations in relation to the World Trade Organisation?
Absolutely; I very much agree with my hon. Friend, to whom I pay tribute for his work as our spokesperson on immigration. He more than anybody in this group sees the complete shambles that is the United Kingdom Government policy when it comes migration. I am sure he sees that on a daily basis, sitting on the Home Affairs Committee. As my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife was speaking, I was reflecting on the attitude we have to others around the world—that welcoming, embracing spirit and relationship of equality—and such a point has been made.
My hon. Friend is absolutely spot on. I recall his early-day motion about Nelson Mandela, whom we and the people of Glasgow hold very dear. He is right to reference the Commonwealth games, which were an excellent opportunity for Glasgow and Scotland to build relationships with countries around the world. He is absolutely right to place that on record.
Was not the use of Pride House another fine example of how the Commonwealth games were used to influence world politics? It managed to bring lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender athletes together with politicians to make the case for equality to countries where that is perhaps still a struggle.
Absolutely. I very much pay tribute to my hon. Friend. Andrew Bowie, who is no longer in his place, spoke of being led down a rabbit hole, but it would go amiss if I did not use this opportunity to reference my recent correspondence with the Government of the Republic of Tanzania, which I had the great privilege of visiting in September 2017. The governor of Dar es Salaam has been deploying people on what would be called gay hunts. I have raised that issue with the United Kingdom Government through written questions, and with Tanzania through correspondence. I was disappointed to receive a response from the Tanzanian Government only this week saying that while they did not necessarily agree with the governor of Dar es Salaam’s comments, they were not necessarily going to take any action on them. I very much hope that the United Kingdom Government will be able to take action on that, but I do not want to digress too far from the path of Scotland’s foreign policy footprint.
This morning, while out doing constituency visits, I had the pleasure of meeting Mr Ibraheem, who runs the Usave convenience store on Eckford Street. He has been here for 13 years. He runs the local newsagent, but he recently qualified as a solicitor. As I spoke with him in his shop in Tollcross, he reflected on how welcoming and embracing Scotland has been; he realised that when he lived in Pakistan. He decided that he wanted to come to the United Kingdom, and specifically Scotland, because of that warm embrace, and that strong relationship. Scotland is not yet an independent country—it is coming, for all that—but we will be able to forge greater links when it is.
That leads me on rather nicely to the subject of the former Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson. Last week, when I was travelling home on the sleeper train, I had the misfortune to watch the recent BBC documentary, “Inside the Foreign Office”. The right hon. Gentleman did not, during his travels, come across as the kind of gentleman that Scotland or the United Kingdom want to send to build relationships around the world. It is probably right that he should no longer be in that position. It angers me that he did not resign as a result of his deeply distasteful remarks about Sirte, which he said could be
“the next Dubai” if the people there
“clear the dead bodies away”.
He was allowed to get away with that. That is the kind of person we have had speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom and building relationships, and that reflects very badly indeed on Her Majesty’s Government.
On Brexit, there are severe challenges coming down the track. That has not been helped by the way that Her Majesty’s Government have pursued their Brexit negotiations. I think one or two colleagues might wish to follow me, so I shall conclude by saying that we do not know what the next couple of weeks hold in terms of Brexit, but having come off a plane only about two hours ago after spending the day in my constituency, it is crystal clear to me that people in Scotland realise that the only way for Scotland to have a proper, equal relationship with other nations is to rejoin the family of nations.
I will be brief. I want to praise the excellent contributions from my hon. Friends the Members for North East Fife (Stephen Gethins) and for Glasgow East (David Linden). My hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife concentrated on the big picture: what Scotland as a nation and its institutions are doing to increase Scotland’s representation and foreign policy footprint in the world. What I would like to do, if I may, is look at individuals and small groups who are doing so much good in our communities. I mentioned earlier the role of Mary’s Meals. I make no apology for mentioning again its outstanding contribution across the world. It is currently feeding 1.3 million impoverished children every single day.
I would like to recount a story. A couple of years ago, shortly after I became a Member of Parliament, I received a phone call from a constituent with whom I had previously had no contact whatever. She had just become a mother and was up late at night because her baby could not sleep. Her name is Fiona Bennett and she lives in Oban. She contacted me to say that while she was up with her child who could not sleep she was listening to Radio 4. The most awful story came on the radio about the plight of the Yazidi people. A young mother with a young baby listening to a horrific story on Radio 4, she was so moved by what she heard on a late night radio programme that she decided to contact her Member of Parliament to see if there was anything that I or we could do.
Fiona and I decided that we could and would do something. Within a few weeks, we had together organised for the now world-renowned Nadia Murad to come to the United Kingdom. I arranged a visa for Nadia to come to the UK and speak in Parliament. Together, we began to raise the profile of the Yazidi people in this place. Recently, Fiona raised £300,000 worth of medicines to be sent to Sinjar—£300,000 worth of medicines sent to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people on this planet. It was because of my connection with Fiona that we in this House, in the past fortnight, established an all-party group on the Yazidi people. I am delighted that Jim Shannon is a vice-chair of the group.
I, too, attended the all-party group set up by my hon. Friend Brendan O'Hara. He is too modest to say that he convened the all-party group and is organising an excellent event before the end of the year. I feel it is appropriate to put on record a tribute to my hon. Friend for pursuing this cause. It is not necessarily one that is in our mailbags every day, but my hon. Friend’s campaign is an example of a good constituency MP.
That is very kind and I thank my hon. Friend for those comments.
My point is that it is from small acorns that such good things can emerge. From that single phone call from Fiona and the seemingly innocuous situation of a baby unable to sleep, we now have an all-party group on the Yazidi people. On
To speak on behalf of—or perhaps in place of—Ged Killen, the David Livingstone Centre, which is situated in his constituency, showcases the links between Scotland and Malawi. In my constituency, there is also the New Lanark mill, which is a UNESCO world heritage site and which illustrates the outstanding universal value of these historical sites globally.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I commend the David Livingstone Centre to anyone who has not been there. It is a marvellous opportunity for a day out; it is educational, informative and huge fun.
The Mid Argyll Malawi Twinning Group is there to increase understanding and to raise funds to help others. A couple of years ago, a team from the Mid Argyll churches visited Malawi, with enormous success. There seems to be a disproportionately large number of people in Argyll and Bute involved in helping Malawi, including the Imani Development Foundation in Oban, Netherlorn Churches and their “Seed for Life” campaign, and schools including Rothesay Academy, Dunoon Grammar School and the primary schools of Strone, Dalmally and Iona. The point I want to make is that although it is important that Governments get involved, and it is hugely important that NGOs get involved, let no one be in any doubt that without the involvement of individuals and without their stepping up and saying that they care and want to make a difference, none of this would be possible. Finally, let no one be in any doubt about the importance and success of people—individuals—getting involved, because if they do not get involved, I would argue that neither can NGOs or Governments.
Surely the crux of my hon. Friend’s argument is that there are constituents in every constituency in Scotland and the UK who care about foreign policy and want to address many of the injustices throughout the world.
My hon. Friend is absolutely right. I do not think that there is a constituency out there that is not chock full of people who recognise injustice when they see it and want to do something about it, but they have to believe—and be empowered to believe—that they can do something, and unless they do, they never will.
My hon. Friend is making some very valuable points about injustices in the world. We have heard about Nelson Mandela being awarded the freedom of the city of Glasgow, and that also happened in 1985 in Dundee. However, in September of this year, the people and the city of Dundee withdrew the freedom of the city for Aung San Suu Kyi, so this is a movable feast, and where there is injustice, Dundee will speak loudly.
I congratulate the people of Dundee on doing that. It is important that people recognise that we can, as a community, take a different view from time to time, and equally, we can change our minds from time to time.
We have to remember that this issue is about not just individuals, but businesses in our communities. I make special mention of the satellite businesses that are in the constituency of my hon. Friend Alison Thewliss—we have Clyde Space, established by Craig Clark; Spire Global, which has been set up in Glasgow from San Francisco; and Alba Orbital. The small satellites that they build are important and monitor things happening on earth such as climate change, weather patterns and crop growth, which have a major impact on farmers, in particular, in the developing world.
I thank my hon. Friend; that is a classic example. We are all in this together, whether that means individuals, businesses, NGOs or national Governments. We all have a part to play and we must play that part.
Finally, I again put on the record my sincere thanks to my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife for securing this debate on Scotland’s foreign policy footprint. It is hugely important and extremely well timed. Belatedly, on behalf of everyone on the SNP Benches, I wish the House a very happy St Andrew’s Day.
I congratulate my hon. Friend Stephen Gethins on securing this debate and making such an eloquent speech. I also commend other hon. Friends for making such powerful contributions, making up for the collapse of business tonight.
I just wanted to note that for one hour now the House has been debating Scotland’s foreign policy footprint, which indicates that this is a meaty topic in Scotland and sends a very strong signal.
I agree fully. Luckily, off the back of business collapsing, we have been able to have a much broader and fuller debate than normal, instead of having to squeeze in extra time.
I will be relatively brief.
Depending on interventions, of course.
I want to focus on Scotland’s place in the world but with a view to my constituency. Among other historical figures, my hon. Friend the Member for North East Fife mentioned the iconic William Wallace. The House might be interested to know that he was born in Ellerslie in my constituency—anybody who goes to the Wallace monument will see that it is deemed the most likely place of his birth. In later years, another village in Renfrewshire called Elderslie tried to claim him, but William Wallace was born in my constituency in Ellerslie. I wanted to get that on the record.
I am glad my hon. Friend has mentioned William Wallace. His birth place being Elderslie, I managed to give a speech at the annual meeting this year. I want to put it on the record that William Wallace was educated in Dundee city and even committed his first act of rebellion there. In fact, the first castle occupied and sacked in Scotland was not Stirling, but Dundee. William Wallace’s contribution to the independence movement—
My hon. Friend Chris Law forgot to mention the international water law centre in Dundee University under the auspices of UNESCO. Does not all this demonstrate not only the wonderful and historic meanderings of William Wallace, whom we all admire, but—bringing us right up to date—that our foreign policy footprint is profound, useful and good in many places around the world?
Of course, Dundee is making a further cultural contribution to the world by way of the newly opened Victoria and Albert museum. I think that brings everything full circle.
It is important to put on the record how fortunate my hon. Friend is that it is you in the Chair, Madam Deputy Speaker, and not Dame Eleanor Laing, who was born in Elderslie. Had she been in the Chair to hear the awful slur that William Wallace was not born in Elderslie, indeed William Wallace’s fate might have seemed tame in comparison to what she would have done.
I do not thank my hon. Friend for that intervention.
William Wallace fought for Scotland’s freedom, but, on Scotland’s place in the world, he also recognised the need for diplomacy, and he himself travelled to Europe to conduct negotiations. Scotland’s history is littered with people defending the rights of Scotland but recognising the need to co-operate with other countries around the world.
That takes us to Robert the Bruce. He, too, recognised the need for diplomacy. After the Battle of Bannockburn, he lobbied the pope and worked with other leaders to get Scotland rightfully recognised as an independent country. That eventually culminated in the treaty of Arbroath, the declaration of independence, which, in a wider context, is deemed to be the model and inspiration for the United States discussion. That is something else that Scotland has given the world.
My hon. Friend has made an excellent point. Is he also aware that the international organisation of the day, the Vatican, recognised Scotland as a filia specialis of the Church?
May I pursue the point made by our hon. Friend Stephen Gethins? The declaration of Arbroath took the form of a letter to the Pope, recognising Scotland’s place in the world and recognising the Pope as, at the time, the highest global authority. Scotland’s taking its place in the world has always involved an internationalist rather than a simply nationalist outlook: our independence is about our interdependence with other countries.
I agree. Of course, Scotland was always a trading nation, trading with the other European countries, and we want to maintain those trading links. That is another illustration of the concerns about Brexit. We have long been a European nation. Our vote in the EU referendum confirmed our European outlook, and we should not let that European outlook be taken away against the wishes of the Scottish people.
My hon. Friend is right to raise the issue of trade. We hosted Small Business Saturday recently. I do not necessarily want to speak about small businesses, but a serious issue would be posed for Scotland if the United Kingdom Government continued down this disastrous path of ripping us out of the single market and the customs union, and also if Northern Ireland were given special status. In that event, companies would obviously feel the need to invest in Belfast, which would give them unfettered access to the Republic of Ireland. My hon. Friend is right to express concern that Scotland’s status as a trading nation could be damaged as a result of the hard Brexit pursued by the Conservative party.
It is ironic that Northern Ireland could potentially have special status and gain real advantages because the UK wants to maintain the common travel area within Ireland, which allows Irish citizens—EU citizens—to move freely into Northern Ireland, and allows Northern Ireland citizens to move freely back into Ireland. Of course, they are supposed to be able to come to the United Kingdom as well, but this means that Northern Ireland will maintain what is effectively European citizenship, and free movement, which will give them an advantage that we do not have.
I thank my hon. Friend for mentioning the declaration of Arbroath and the links with the United States of America. Will he say a bit about why trade is important, given that
Let us take the principle of free trade. Free trade allows people to trade goods for the benefit of others. It helps to create and distribute wealth, as long as it takes place fairly and equitably. That is key to what we want from Brexit. We cannot afford to be under World Trade Organisation rules. We cannot afford to have a UK Government who will allow cheap imports that will undermine standards in the UK and undermine Scottish farming. Trade is indeed important, but it must be equitable and without prejudice to the parties involved.
My hon. Friend is making an excellent speech, and he is being very generous in giving way. The title of the debate is “Scotland’s Foreign Policy Footprint”, and he has made some serious points about that, but is not the foreign policy footprint also about the individual Scots who travel and share their emotions and their humanity around the world? Would not the best thing we could do for a “near” foreign policy footprint be to maintain the free movement of people, so that our children and grandchildren could enjoy the free movement throughout the European Union that we enjoy today?
I agree wholeheartedly. Of course free movement of people is a good thing, and I do not understand for the life of me why the UK Government are trying to make this a central Brexit plan. Many of us have benefited from free movement. For instance, many students have benefited from Erasmus, which has enabled them to study abroad. Free movement widens cultural understanding, adds to our intellect, adds to our sharing, and, indeed, adds to worldwide co-operation.
I shall turn now to further Scottish impacts on the world. As was mentioned in an intervention, we had the Scottish enlightenment period when Scotland really did lead the world in terms of philosophy and modern thinking. Two of the people involved in that were David Hume, who was a fantastic philosopher, and Adam Smith, who we all know wrote “The Wealth of Nations”. What Adam Smith meant in that book is often misquoted. He looked at developing wealth but also having what we would now call corporate responsibility and an understanding of the behaviour of mankind. Adam Smith looked at human behaviour and the need for what he saw as a capitalist society, but one that was also a fair society. We need to remember that.
Many would say that the Scottish enlightenment was one of Scotland’s greatest contributions to the world. In that period, Scotland’s literacy levels were leading the world, because there was a parish in every village. As a result, Scotland in the 17th century had five universities whereas England had only two. That allowed Scots to go out into the world, to develop intellectually and to put their footprint on the world stage.
I agree wholeheartedly and could not have put it better myself. Literacy rates in Scotland were something to be proud of, and Scotland had a fantastic newspaper tradition following that, because so much of the population could read, and that further developed their understanding of what was going on in the world and stimulated further debate and conversations.
Another figure of the Scottish enlightenment was James Boswell, who was born in Auchinleck, coincidentally in my constituency. He was the first person to write a new groundbreaking kind of biography when he wrote the biography of Johnson.
I really wish I could have been around at the time of the Scottish enlightenment, because it often involved people gathering at somebody’s house, and the host would bring in loads of bottles of wine, and they would share the wine and feast and debate and make notes and then reconvene the next night. Scotland has also given the world that ability to socialise, share a drink in convivial surroundings and enjoy such discussions.
One of the great post-enlightenment scientists was James Clerk Maxwell, now known as the father of electromagnetism, which has gone on to become photonics and has led to the development of lasers and great science across the world. James Clerk Maxwell went to Cambridge University after Edinburgh University. At Cambridge he was told he had to be up for 6 o’clock service on a Sunday morning and reputedly said, “Aye, I think I could stay up that late.” Such is the contribution of Scots.
That is a fantastic anecdote that proves the point.
Clearly, Scotland joined the treaty of Union in 1707, and we have heard contributions from both sides of the House about the benefits or otherwise that that brought. It is fair to say that many people did benefit after the treaty of Union and from the British empire, but something that has not been spoken about in terms of Scotland’s footprint as part of the British empire is that, unfortunately, some of that came from Scots also being involved in slavery and the exploitation of resources in other countries. Many Scots were part of the British Army, which was used to control indigenous populations and allow exploitation. We must admit this and reflect on that history, and always learn from what happened in the past.
At the church in the village of Newmilns, where I grew up, there flies an American flag. It is a replica of a flag awarded to the village of Newmilns by Abraham Lincoln in recognition of the support the Newmilns Anti-Slavery Society gave to the US union side. So while some Scots were involved in slavery, I am very proud to say that Scots were also very active in the anti-slavery movement. I also welcome the fact that there are now moves to further recognise Scotland’s involvement in the slave trade and what that meant at the time. I pay tribute to Glasgow University in this regard, because it has published a list of donors who gave money to the university and recognises the fact that some of the money came from their involvement in the slave trade.
My hon. Friend mentioned Glasgow University, which is in my constituency. The declarations that have been made about the university’s associations with the slave trade are hugely significant. Glasgow has had a global footprint since its founding, and it continues to do so even in today’s modern world.
No! Clearly I do not accept my hon. Friend’s facts. I am sure that William Wallace was born in Ellerslie in Ayrshire.
Before I conclude, Mr Speaker, I want to go back to the village of Newmilns where I grew up. It was another of Scotland’s lace centres, and one of the companies there, Johnstone Shields, built a lace factory in Gothenburg. The guys went out there and founded Gothenburg FC. Effectively, they founded football in Sweden. They also founded a factory in Barcelona, and I would like to be able to claim that they founded Barcelona FC, but that is not quite true. They did found a football team in Barcelona, and it did play the mighty Barcelona FC. I am sure it taught Barcelona everything it needed to know to become the blueprint for the successful team of the future.
There have been other contributions from my constituency. Alexander Fleming was born in Darvel. He discovered penicillin, which has saved so many people around the world. Andrew Fisher, from Crosshouse, became Prime Minister of Australia, and Kilmarnock Academy is the only school in Scotland to have produced two Nobel prizewinners. As we said earlier, education is very important. Scotland has given a great many inventions to the world, but collaboration goes along with that, and we do not want Brexit to risk that collaboration in education and entrepreneurship around the world.
Surely the best contribution that Scotland has given to the world is the greatest Ayrshireman ever: not my hon. Friend, but Robert Burns.