Scotland’s Foreign Policy Footprint

Part of Delegated Legislation (Committees) – in the House of Commons at 8:06 pm on 3rd December 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Gethins Stephen Gethins Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) 8:06 pm, 3rd December 2018

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.