Meeting date: Tuesday, January 16, 2018
Meeting of the Parliament 16 January 2018
Agenda: Time for Reflection, Topical Question Time, Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1, International Policy Framework and Priorities 2018, Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution, Decision Time, Scottish Sports Association
- Time for Reflection
- Topical Question Time
- Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1
- International Policy Framework and Priorities 2018
- Civil Litigation (Expenses and Group Proceedings) (Scotland) Bill: Financial Resolution
- Decision Time
- Scottish Sports Association
International Policy Framework and Priorities 2018
The next item of business is a debate on motion S5M-09887, in the name of Fiona Hyslop, on Scotland’s international policy framework and priorities for 2018. I call on Fiona Hyslop to speak to and move the motion. You have eight minutes, please, cabinet secretary.15:42
Presiding Officer, if you want me to extend my speech on the Scottish Government’s refreshed international framework and policy statement, you just need to indicate to me that that is the case.
The Scottish Government continues to have a strong and consistent commitment to international engagement. Internationalisation sits at the heart of Scotland’s economic strategy, alongside innovation, investing in our people and inclusion.
Scotland has a strong track record of international collaboration. We remain the second most attractive for foreign investors to the United Kingdom after London and, in 2017, visitors voted Scotland the world’s most beautiful country. In addition, the Edinburgh international festival goes from strength to strength as a global forum for cultural exchange.
Last year, we joined the Under2 Coalition to express our determination as good global citizens to play our part in shared challenges and to strive to limit global warming to 2°C.
We are alive to the constant need to build on and reinforce those strengths. As a result, we have recently refreshed “Scotland’s International Framework” and “Scotland’s International Policy Statement”. Those documents set out how our international work supports this Government’s central purpose of creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all to flourish through increasing sustainable economic growth.
The first objective is to strengthen our external relationships under networks. Our international work is founded on partnerships with our people, our institutions and our partners inside and outside Scotland.
Our second objective focuses on building our reputation and international attractiveness. That includes strengthening and enhancing Scotland’s reputation, boosting our trade and investment and striving to be a leader in areas such as climate change and equality.
The third objective is to enhance our global outlook, embedding internationalisation in everything that we do and equipping the people of Scotland to capitalise on the vast number of global opportunities.
The fourth objective is to encourage engagement with the European Union and we will strive to protect Scotland’s place in Europe.
Scotland has experienced significant social and economic change over the decades since we launched our international framework, but no single event has had a greater impact than the result of the UK’s European Union referendum. That now threatens to redefine Scotland’s place in Europe and the world, affecting our ability to play a full and constructive part in international affairs, so the international policy statement and underpinning framework are more essential than ever to communicate Scotland’s open and welcoming approach.
Yesterday, the First Minister launched the document “Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment”. It presents the latest analysis by the Scottish Government of the implications for Scotland’s economy and society if the UK exits the European Union. That analysis is clear: leaving the EU could result in a hit of up to 8.5 per cent of gross domestic product.
EU nationals remain key to our international competitiveness, and the free movement of persons within the single market is helping Scotland to address the substantial demographic challenges that we face. All outcomes short of full EU membership will cause some damage to Scotland’s economic, social and environmental interests, and a Brexit that results in the UK being outside the European single market and customs union will have the most damaging consequences for Scotland. We do not think that that is acceptable and neither, we believe, do the Scottish people. Whatever the outcome, I agree with the Labour amendment that we need a “lasting progressive partnership”.
I will focus now on our wider international priorities. As Scotland’s ambitions continue to grow, so does the importance of our country’s international reputation and the need to work with others to contribute to the success of the global community. To enhance Scotland’s reputation as a place to work, live, invest, study and visit, the Scottish Government and its key partners are working together to offer a coherent and compelling picture of modern Scotland to the world. We will continue to focus on our priority countries—the United States, Canada, China, India and Pakistan—and to increase our engagement with Japan.
Last month, the Deputy First Minister visited India, accompanied by 11 principals and vice-principals from Scottish universities and one college, to explore academic collaboration and investment from India into Scotland. India celebrated 70 years of independence in 2017—it was an important year for India. The Deputy First Minister addressed more than 2,000 members of Scotland’s Indian community at Murrayfield for the independence day celebrations in August, as well as hosting key international investors to boost the partnership between Scotland and India. During the UK-India year of cultural exchange, we also saw no fewer than 13 Scotland-India collaborations taking place in India and across Scotland.
In addition to our five priority countries, our desire to strengthen engagement with Japan is a manifesto and programme for government commitment. Since 2009, there have been six Scottish ministerial visits to Japan, the last being my visit in February 2017. Since that visit we have seen another very busy and successful period of collaboration between Japan and Scotland, especially in terms of increased trade, investment and cultural links.
Recent successes in Japan include the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Nippon Foundation and Scottish Enterprise in 2017, in which each party agreed to up to $10 million of investment over five years for a research and development programme targeting the development of subsea technologies. My meetings with Nippon while visiting Japan helped to play a key role in taking that forward. There will be many opportunities to recognise and encourage stronger engagement with Japan, particularly over the coming years as we look forward to the rugby world cup next year and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Closer to home, “All Points North: The Scottish Government’s Nordic Baltic Policy Statement” was published in September 2017. That refreshed policy document reaffirms our commitment to strengthening our links in that region, promoting collaboration and policy exchange. Since the statement was launched in 2014, we have seen strong examples of that: the co-operation with the First Minister’s baby box initiative from Finland, our tourism memorandum of understanding with Iceland and our on-going engagement with Norway on fisheries science and negotiations. Looking ahead, we will continue to promote the aims and objectives of the policy statement through our support for the Nordic horizons group, our on-going ministerial engagements and opportunities for our policy makers to learn and exchange ideas with policy makers in that region.
In November 2017, at the request of the Arctic circle organisation and its chair, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the former President of Iceland, we hosted in Edinburgh an Arctic circle forum to examine the theme of “Scotland and the New North”. That was the first time that an Arctic circle forum had been held in the UK, and it was attended by more than 300 delegates. Partnerships across the Arctic region will be central in the coming decades, to address shared environmental, demographic and economic challenges and opportunities. We are proud to be playing a leading role and have committed to developing an Arctic strategy for Scotland.
One of our long-standing engagements and relationships is that with China. Only recently, I represented Scotland in London as part of the UK’s people-to-people dialogue and exchange with the Chinese Government. Through our achievements to date, we have been demonstrating that our reach is wide and that we have the ability to make a positive contribution as a good global citizen, which includes just trade. On that subject, I look forward to hearing from the Greens on their amendment.
It was almost exactly a year ago that members debated the Scottish Government’s dynamic new international development strategy of global citizenship, which brings greater focus and direction to our international development work. We have made good progress in implementing that strategy and have new development programmes in Zambia and Rwanda, a new Malawi funding round and expansion of our successful Scottish scholarship scheme for women and children in Pakistan.
We have placed great importance on Scotland being a good global citizen and playing our part in tackling global challenges as part of our wider engagement with the international community. That includes providing training with the United Nations special envoy for Syria’s advisory group, and we have been supporting 50 women in that area. We are also deeply aware of the importance of the contribution of the human rights-based approach to all forms of our engagement and our commitment to Scotland’s values and practice in respect of human rights, common dignity and humanity. I will be interested to hear from the Liberal Democrats about their stress on the importance of that.
I am delighted to present the Government’s new international policy framework and priorities to the Parliament. Scotland will continue to seek opportunities across all policy areas for international collaboration to build on our global reputation and improve the lives of everyone who lives, works, visits or studies in Scotland.
That the Parliament notes the new International Framework and International Policy Statement published on 8 December 2017 and the four overarching objectives that it contains; supports the Scottish Government working with business, higher education, civic Scotland and the UK Government in achieving those objectives; agrees that maintaining an international perspective remains vital to the continued prosperity of Scotland’s economy, society and people; commends the efforts of those building partnerships to advance Scotland’s role as a good global citizen, and shares the importance of a human rights-based approach in doing so.
I call Claire Baker to speak to and move amendment S5M-09887.3.15:51
As a Labour MSP, I am proud of Labour’s internationalist history. Our record in Government, both here in Holyrood and at Westminster, is one that I can speak positively about. From our fresh talent initiative, started under Jack McConnell, to our work on international development both here and at Westminster, the Labour Party has a good story to tell and it is one that I am proud of.
Ahead of the 2015 election, I and some of the members who are in the chamber took part in a number of hustings on issues that we will no doubt debate today. How does Scotland face the challenges of the future on globalisation, climate change, trade alongside exploitation and poverty existing alongside extreme wealth? It was clear then—I am confident that it will become clear again over the course of this debate—that on those issues there is cross-party consensus in many areas. I hope that we can work constructively on those areas in the year ahead and I welcome the opportunity of this debate.
Our international policy must be diverse and we must couple promoting our country, people and businesses with our moral obligation to use positively our position in the world, as part of the UK, to help other countries and continue to be internationalists in our outlook. We know that the climate change consequences of flooding, droughts, extreme temperatures and coastal erosion impact most on those countries that have contributed least to the creation of those tragedies. We must redouble our efforts to reduce emissions and limit our contribution to climate change. The proposed climate change bill to be introduced this year will be an important part of achieving that ambition.
I am proud of our history in helping countries through our international development work. It is a vital area that can often be overlooked, especially at times of financial constraint for Governments. It is also an area that is often an easy target for negative media coverage, which is evident right now in certain sectors of the press that argue that charity starts at home and either that overseas aid is not our responsibility or that it simply supports corrupt Governments. However, that aid, which is less than 1 per cent of our gross national income, is vital to countries that receive it and crucial to developing health and education services and supporting infrastructure development. Although there is broad political support for that aid, there are debates around how it should be spent and how it is accounted for.
I acknowledge the important work of our aid and development charities, which work closely with local partners to tackle the root causes of poverty and give us confidence that that support is making a material difference to people’s lives. Although emergency aid will always be a factor, it is vital that we play a significant role in building capacity in education, employment, governance and advocacy. We also have a crucial role to play in empowering women and girls, and that should be a key factor in our projects.
The fact that, in percentage and in cash terms, we are one of the most generous countries when it comes to helping others should be a source of great pride, and we must continue to meet the contribution level of 0.7 per cent of gross national income, as set by the UN millennium development goals.
While in Government, we set up the partnership with Malawi, along with introducing the international development fund. I am pleased to see those two achievements continuing under the current Government. Ahead of the election, we pledged to increase the fund in real terms over the parliamentary session. I hope that, in her closing remarks, the cabinet secretary can commit to the fund and aim to increase it, to ensure that we can continue to help those who are most in need outwith Scotland. I recognise the introduction of the climate justice fund.
Not only have we introduced the climate justice fund, we now have a £1 million humanitarian emergency fund.
We initially increased the international development fund that we inherited from £3 million to £8 million, then it went to £9 million and it will go to £10 million, although that depends on the budget. I hope that the member understands the importance of the budget vote to ensuring that we get that increased funding for international development.
I recognise the cabinet secretary’s commitment and the resources that have been put in. However, it is important that we reflect on whether we can do more to ensure that Scotland’s contribution is proportionate to our overall budget.
During the previous parliamentary session, we saw clear evidence of the good that the Parliament can do, as well as the good that the people of our country can do. With the humanitarian crisis that filled our television screens, we saw the Government, local authorities, the third sector, the trade union movement and many of the general public respond in a way that we should all welcome. From the “from Wishaw to Calais” project, to supporting the refugees who came to Scotland to settle and find safe refuge, to challenging the UK Government’s response, Scotland’s actions were encouraging.
However, worldwide human displacement is not just a reality when we face it on the “News at Ten” or the front pages of our papers. We need to ensure that Scotland and the UK are welcoming, and that we are able to work with others at the source to ensure that displacement does not occur in the first place.
I appreciate that Brexit casts a large shadow over our international policy. Last week, many of the members who are in the chamber took part in the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee’s debate on the process so far. Later this week, I will join conveners and fellow deputy conveners at Westminster to continue discussions on the route ahead. The on-going negotiations are clearly important, and it is right that we continue to hold the UK Government to account. Our amendment highlights the importance of our trade unions, which have been active campaigners in the European Union with a degree of success, and we must protect the gains that they have made.
It is also important that we do not spend the next two years or the years beyond that allowing Brexit to define us as a country. While it clearly brings challenges to our future trade relationships with other countries in Europe and across the world, as well as to how our businesses and culture in Scotland can adapt to the changes, we are still very much open to opportunity. I welcome the overall impression of positivity from the international policy statement that we are discussing this afternoon. There is much more that we can achieve.
I move amendment S5M-09887.3, to leave out “and the UK Government in achieving those objectives” and insert:
“, trade unions and the UK Government in achieving the best outcomes for the people of Scotland; recognises that Scotland must now work toward a new lasting progressive partnership with the EU based on shared values and history”.15:57
I welcome the debate and the Government’s desire to show ethical leadership in its international strategy.
In considering how we achieve that, our identity as Europeans is important. It is about not just our membership of the EU but our alignment with European rights and values. We will always be Europeans, and part of our shared tradition across this continent is one of citizens’ movements that highlight injustice and deliver progressive change. In an uncertain post-Brexit future, we will need to listen again to our citizens’ movements as global trade relationships between Scotland, the UK and the rest of world are recast in the years ahead.
Scotland’s citizens and Scotland’s Parliament must be engaged at a time when we face an unprecedented democratic deficit over UK trade deals. Such a democratic deficit could erode hard-won protections and rights unless we ask the right questions in the right places at the right time. For example, the recent comprehensive economic and trade agreement between the EU and Canada is hailed as a blueprint for future agreements, yet it is one on which democratic accountability in the UK has been woeful. There has been no meaningful statement on or scrutiny of the deal at Westminster. No committee has tried to understand the implications of the final agreement. There was no debate and no vote. There was also no engagement with the Scottish Government or Parliament. It appears that only one industry body—the Scotch Whisky Association—was directly involved during all the years of consideration that led to the final deal.
I want to contrast that with the level of democratic engagement in other states across Europe and even in Canada itself. The Canadian provinces were directly involved in the CETA process and Wallonia was instrumental in galvanising the work of citizens’ initiatives across Europe—initiatives that resulted in millions of people raising their voices against unaccountable corporate courts and the potential for social and environmental rights to be undermined.
Up to a point, the pressure that those citizens’ movements exerted worked—limited concessions on corporate courts were made and the Canadians in particular have had to learn how important the dialogue with civil society in Europe is. However, the final CETA deal has been far from transparent and future deals need to be democratically accountable.
If a US-UK trade deal is negotiated in private with Trump, we should expect agribusiness to try to sweep away trade barriers on genetically modified crops and the use of hormones in beef production, and we should expect US healthcare corporations to try to open up the national health service. Full-blown corporate courts could come back, thereby allowing Governments to be sued for decisions that big business believes harm profits.
A UK-India trade deal, if negotiated in private, could spell disaster for the production of generic medicines that are low cost and accessible to those who live in poverty globally. For decades, rich countries have attempted to push new intellectual property laws on to India to protect the monopolies of big pharmaceutical corporations. The impact of higher prices on the fight against tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and cancer could be devastating.
The best way to detoxify such trade deals is to open them up to the light of scrutiny and debate, but we are seeing a power grab at Westminster—the proposed trade bill would transfer vast powers to individual ministers, bypassing Parliament and citizens.
I commend the role of Scotland’s citizens’ and civic movements for shining a light on trade deals in recent years. The work of the trade justice Scotland coalition demands our attention, and organisations from the Scottish Trades Union Congress to Friends of the Earth Scotland and Global Justice Now have worked together to establish the key principles for just trade deals. Those principles should provide the starting point for all trade deals and the Scottish Government’s review of its trade and investment policy.
The principles state that deals must be democratic, open to scrutiny and amendable by Parliaments. They should work in the public interest, and although the free trade of goods is in the public interest, public services and Government regulations must be outside of deals. In addition, trade must ultimately do good—we must have a race to the top rather than a race to the bottom in standards that protect our health, our rights and our environment, alongside a trade system that is based on solidarity with the global south, not competition. I commend those principles to Parliament, and I hope that the Scottish Government can see how its ethical leadership must extend to trade.
I move amendment S5M-09887.1, to insert after “society and people;”:
“commends the Principles for Just Trade Deals paper, which has been published by the Trade Justice Scotland Coalition; believes that international trade agreements are a key opportunity for Scotland to provide ethical leadership; further believes that such trade deals should support rather than undermine human rights, labour and environmental standards and that these trade agreements should be based on solidarity and facilitating the two-way sharing of knowledge and technologies with the Global South; calls on the UK Government to ensure that the devolved administrations have a formal role in the negotiation and democratic scrutiny of future agreements;”.16:03
I am grateful for the opportunity to speak in the debate, and I am grateful to the Government for the conciliatory tone that it has attempted to foster.
The only other time I remember having occasion to speak about an ethical approach to foreign policy was at an Amnesty International conference in 1999, at which a new Labour member of Parliament was trying to extol the virtues of the ethical approach to international policy that had been adopted by the Blair Administration. However, that was just weeks after the then commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Paul Condon, at the behest of the Home Office, had stifled peaceful demonstrations around a Chinese state visit to the UK.
My remarks in that debate followed a course that I shall attempt to chart again this afternoon, which is based on one basic precept—that it is our duty as a developed and progressive democracy to walk softly through the lives of other nations and to share in the benefits of derestricted and mutually beneficial commerce, but to do so without making ourselves either complicit in or silent witness to the abuse of human rights in those places.
I welcome the opportunity to debate the issue. I am particularly interested in the design and use of the Government’s list of priority countries, because there have been such lists before, yet they have not always encumbered Scottish ministers in dealing with countries adrift of those lists and sometimes even countries adrift of the shared values and respect for human rights that are shared by all parties in this chamber.
Similarly, the lists have in themselves sometimes caused mild controversies. For example, in 2013, the Scottish Government included Kurdistan in a new list of countries where it was seeking to work but, on further questioning, the Government was reluctant to disclose whether it had discussed the statehood of Kurdistan with other potential trading partners such as Turkey or Albania. A list is welcome, but it needs to be transparent, we need to stick to it and it needs to be diplomatically coherent. That should in turn be underpinned by clear protocols for how our Government agencies should work in countries about which there are human rights concerns.
In accepting that approach, we must be absolutely clear about what standards we expect countries to meet before we consider working with them as partners. For instance, in respect of emerging economies, what political or human rights hurdles would we expect Indonesia—or, for that matter, any of the next wave of global economic super powers in the tier below Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa—to clear before it could be added to the Scottish Government’s list of countries for doing business with? I would be grateful if the cabinet secretary could address that in her closing remarks and set out the thresholds that she expects such countries to meet.
It is important that we hammer that out, because Scotland and the Scottish Government have at times fallen short of due diligence on human rights. Last year, the Liberal Democrats used our time in the chamber to debate the supposed £10 billion memorandum of understanding that the Government rushed to sign with SinoFortone and the China Railway No 3 Engineering Group, irrespective of the serious concerns of Norway and many others about the way in which human rights had been abused and sidelined by CR3 in earlier projects. That eagerness to further relations with China was also evident in Alex Salmond’s refusal to meet the Dalai Lama during his most recent visit to Edinburgh, which was an embarrassing failure to recognise and support the efforts of those battling oppression by the Chinese state.
The Government also fell short in its dealings with Qatar, despite revelations about the human rights situation there, not least surrounding the world cup. In 2013, my Lib Dem colleagues raised concerns about the imprisonment of Qatari poet Mohammed al-Ajami, who wrote verses criticising the head of the Qatar Government and who was sentenced to 15 years in prison as a result. However, Scottish ministers did not press his case in their mission to Qatar. It may be that the right opportunity was not forthcoming on that visit, but the ministerial delegation to the neighbouring Abu Dhabi poetry festival on the same trip must surely have provided such a chance.
We press countries on human rights issues in meetings when we can, to ensure that we have the influence that Amnesty International, which the member referred to, advises that we should have. However, there can be a dilemma, because we are sometimes trying to help countries that have human rights issues to change their approach. Some of the issues can be close to home. For example, some of the countries that we work with on international development might not have the level of human rights adherence that the member wishes to see, but nevertheless we need to work with them to help them on that journey. Every country—even this one—is on a journey in that regard. How does the member square his point with some of the challenges in relation to human rights?
We are pushed for time, Mr Cole-Hamilton.
I absolutely accept that such a dilemma exists. The second clause of our amendment calls for ministers to undertake a level of diligence that perhaps has not existed previously in dealings with companies and state parties to ensure that we understand the human rights environment that we are going into. However, I do not for a minute suggest that we should send those countries into isolation; we should try to embrace them and bring them up to a standard of human rights observance that we see fit.
Further tests of our mettle lie ahead in relation to our long-standing relationship with the US and the way in which we respond to the ethical bankruptcy of the Trump Administration. I hope that, as our ministers prepare to go to tartan week, they will reflect on the discussions that we have had about expressing our concerns to our colleagues overseas.
Finally, Presiding Officer—
—as I said at the top of my remarks, in all our international dealings, we must walk softly through the lives of other nations.
I move amendment S5M-09887.2, to insert at end:
“; believes that there should be a clear protocol on human rights for Scottish public agencies operating in countries where there is cause for concern, and calls for the Scottish Government’s working practices and cabinet secretary sign-off protocols to be revised to make sure that basic checks on the human rights record of potential partners and investors are made at an earlier stage.”16:09
Presiding Officer, I begin by asking whether you can get the clocks in the chamber fixed, because they have gone a bit astray.
We are trying very hard to do that. The problem has been caused by a power outage and I do not think that the clocks will be fixed today. However, the one behind you is working, so I do not mind if you turn away from me now and then.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I will break the parliamentary rules occasionally and turn my back on you.
I commend the Government on its motion. Last week, I went off for the weekend thinking that the motion was excellent in setting out the task and challenge that now face Scotland, only to come back at the beginning of this week to find a flurry of amendments. My colleagues asked me whether I wanted to lodge an amendment to ensure that I preserved my speaking position and I said, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity,” and that I was happy to follow the amendment contributions in the debate and have the opportunity to respond to them.
I agree with nearly everything that Claire Baker had to say. We will abstain on her amendment—although we will support the motion if her amendment is carried by the chamber—only because we thought that it placed an undue emphasis on Europe in the context of the international discussion that we are having.
I am grateful to the Greens for reminding me that fruitcake does not just come with my afternoon tea.
I was going to say to Alex Cole-Hamilton that I listened with care to what he had to say but he talked me out of supporting him, not because I do not think that some of the issues that he raised are of interest but because he talked about the last time that he participated in a debate on foreign policy. This is not a debate about foreign policy, on which the Parliament does not have competence. It is a debate on Scotland’s international policy framework, and it is important not to overstate what the Scottish Government has responsibility for and what it has power to achieve.
Will Jackson Carlaw give way?
You overran anyway, Mr Cole-Hamilton, so I shall not.
This is not a foreign policy debate; nor is it a Brexit debate so, although Ms Hyslop may have tempted me and the First Minister may have tried to provoke me yesterday, I will not rehearse all the arguments about Brexit. However, we can all agree that, on the other side of Brexit, we will have an enormous challenge as a country in respect of the international relations and the new trading relationships that we will develop, in which we will all need to be engaged and on which the Scottish Government deserves all the support that we are able to offer.
Will Jackson Carlaw give way?
If you do not mind, I will not. I have less time than you did, Mr Ruskell, to try to say what I have to say. You said what you had to say, and said it badly.
I ask Ms Hyslop to answer a few specific points. The first is on the Government hubs that have been established. We have one in London and one in Dublin. The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee will be in Dublin next week and will meet John Webster, who is the head of the hub, and Robin Barnett, who is the UK ambassador. However, three other hubs—in Berlin, Brussels and Paris—are at various stages of development. In previous strategies, there was an expectation or hope that one or two of those might have been up and running by now, and I am interested to know what the Government’s current thinking is. I know that a new head has just been announced for one of those hubs, but when does the Government envisage the hubs being established and in place?
Claire Baker made an important point on international aid. As a nation, we contribute £13 billion to international aid—of course, that is the taxpayer contribution. In Scotland, taxpayers also contribute to international aid through the Scottish Government so, in fact, they contribute more than taxpayers in any other part of the United Kingdom to the international aid budget. I entirely agree with Claire Baker that some of the press headlines that go with that are quite lamentable. David Cameron was absolutely right when he insisted that, whatever the strains of austerity that followed 2008, we would maintain our commitment to international aid because many of the problems that we want to avoid or prevent can be avoided or prevented only if we are prepared to invest now in seeking to assist all those countries. That investment in international aid is extremely important.
I remember being invited in a previous session of the Parliament to criticise the former First Minister who went on a trip somewhere and stayed in an expensive hotel. I was slightly ambivalent about that. It is the responsibility of Scottish Government ministers to seek to develop links throughout the world that will be of enormous benefit to Scotland—through creating potential jobs or tourism opportunities here, for example. Although there might have been some unfortunate photo opportunities from time to time, I applaud the work that Fiona Hyslop and the present First Minister have done in seeking to get to countries in order to open up those relationships and develop new trading links. In the main, those links are developing potentially extremely useful international business contacts and relationships with those countries. Although President Trump has been mentioned twice, it is important that we remember that there is a distinction between the presidency and political leadership of the country at any point in time and the nation and people of the United States itself, who remain our most important trading partners.
Our representatives in Europe have increased from 20 to 40 but we have only one representative in Latin America and I am concerned to know whether, on developing opportunities for whisky and other products, the Scottish Government recognises that, as well as the particular challenge that is faced in Europe, we do not want to lose sight of the wider challenge across the rest of the world.
In general terms, the Scottish Conservatives support and applaud the work that the Scottish Government is doing to develop, improve and expand our international profile and the relationships and benefits that follow from it.
Before we move on, I remind members always to speak through the chair, not directly to each other; and to always treat each other with a bit of courtesy and respect.
That never happens to us.
Do you have something that you wish to say, Mr Carlaw?
I am very happy to say that, if your comment was a reference to the remark that I made earlier, I have endured far worse from the Scottish Greens in many a debate in here. I do not think that comparing people to an afternoon tea is the worst insult that has ever been levelled.
I am the chair, Mr Carlaw, and it is my opinion that matters in this instance. I have said what I have said and I stick by it.
We now move to the open debate. We are already short of time, so I give due notice that I might have to cut the times of later speakers. In the meantime, we will have speeches of four minutes.16:15
I am delighted to take part in this debate on Scotland’s international policy and framework, and Scotland’s role in the world.
I declare an interest: I am a trustee of Charity Education International, a small Scottish charity working to provide education and health support for rural communities in Bangladesh.
In an increasingly interconnected world, how Scotland interacts with our neighbours near and far is of critical importance for our future, our economic prospects, the depth of our cultural experience and the life opportunities of our citizens. How Scotland plays its role as a good global citizen is also of profound importance as, working with international partners, we seek to influence the world around us in a positive way. I am therefore pleased to see the focus and breadth of the Scottish Government’s international framework and policy statement, with their emphasis on creating an environment in Scotland that supports a better understanding of international opportunities and a greater appetite and ability to seize those opportunities.
Internationalisation is one of the four core themes at the heart of Scotland’s economic strategy. Having done business in many countries around the world, I fully understand the importance to Scotland’s businesses and economy of international trade links. A key purpose of the international policy is to support our businesses and institutions in order to make them more globally competitive, able to co-operate with international partners to exchange knowledge and best practice, and able to maximise and take advantage of export and trade opportunities.
The Scottish Government’s commitment to the doubling of Scottish Development International’s presence across Europe is welcome, as is the addition of hubs in Berlin and Paris to those in Dublin and London, and the upgrading of the Toronto and Brussels offices. The creation of a board of trade and the appointment of trade envoys is further evidence of the priority that is given to the internationalisation of Scotland’s economy.
The Government’s trade and investment strategy, global Scotland, sets out a comprehensive action plan to boost Scotland’s international trade, including stimulating inward investment and building on Scotland’s status as the most attractive place in the UK for foreign direct investment projects outside of London.
The impact of Brexit has to be mentioned, and it will be significant. The latest data published by the Scottish Government shows just how damaging it might be. Although we continue to work to secure Scotland’s place in the single market, the potentially disastrous consequences that might unfold following a hard Brexit make it all the more important that the Scottish Government focuses on the steps and measures that we can take to mitigate that impact.
Making Scotland attractive through tourism and international cultural and sporting events is also a key part of our internationalisation strategy. It should be remembered that in the globally competitive higher education sector, attracting international students is a major contributor to Scotland’s economy and to building our future skills and talent base, notwithstanding UK immigration policy, which is highly restrictive.
I made reference at the start of my speech to my support for a charity that is delivering projects in rural Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh is not one of the core countries that the Scottish Government has committed to prioritise, I understand the prioritisation approach, with its focus on Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan.
While we remain part of the UK, Scotland’s budget for international development is limited. The decisions on where to spend the vast bulk of Scotland’s 0.7 per cent of gross domestic product contribution are made by the UK Government through the Department for International Development.
In that context, it is important to focus our limited spend on specific targets where we can make a difference. That applies not just to the focus of spend, but to the links between institutions, third sector organisations and businesses in Scotland and those target countries.
I am pleased to support the Scottish Government’s international policy and framework. They give a clear focus and direction to our international work and serve as a foundation on which Scotland can further develop our international trade, cultural and development work.16:19
I am pleased to take part in today’s debate on Scotland’s international policy and framework and the priorities for the year ahead. The document from the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, which was published towards the end of last year, is extremely comprehensive—I am sure that it is supported by many, if not all, of us in the chamber.
I will focus on Scotland’s contribution to the world, as we strive to fulfil our important objective of being a good global citizen. At the UK level, the Conservative Government is one of the few Governments in the world that has committed to meeting the United Nation’s recommendation that countries should spend 0.7 per cent of their gross domestic product on international development. That is much to be welcomed, and I am extremely encouraged that the Scottish Government also sees that as an important priority.
I very much support the Scottish Government’s global citizenship strategy for international development and believe that the focus on delivering support through the international development fund to our four partner countries—Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan—is the right approach. The funding model that is used for the international development fund, which, rather than providing direct funding to foreign Governments, supports grass-roots development organisations, will give the people of Scotland greater confidence that their money, having been directed at organisations and individuals across the world, will be well spent.
I am a co-convener of the cross-party group on Malawi and it is encouraging to see the establishment of an investment initiative for Malawi of £1 million, which has been match funded by the private sector. Such schemes are important in the development of sustainable economic growth because they help to ensure that our partner countries make the transition from receiving international aid to becoming more self-reliant. It is important that we support countries to stand on their own two feet.
It is incredibly fitting that Malawi is one of our four partner countries, given the long tradition of links between Scotland and Malawi, which date back more than 150 years. The sheer number of partnerships between the two nations is staggering. According to the University of Edinburgh, 4 million Malawians and more than 300,000 Scots benefit annually from those partnerships. Rather than being about one country simply funding another, those civic links are about working together. It is important that we do that.
Last year, I welcomed the introduction of an annual £1 million humanitarian emergency fund, which started during the current financial year. It is encouraging that the fund has been welcomed by a wide range of organisations. The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund has praised the model’s inclusion of a panel of non-governmental organisations in an advisory capacity. Humanitarian crises are unanticipated and unpredictable, and that dedicated fund will help suffering people across the world.
I very much support Scotland’s aim to continue to be a good global citizen. The international development work of the Scottish Government and many civic partnerships in assisting our partner countries is vital in ensuring that we achieve that objective. Working together makes a difference not just in the present but in the future. We must work for the future of our international colleagues and partners throughout the world.
Stewart McMillan will be followed by Pauline McNeill. I ask for strict four-minute speeches, please.16:23
I am delighted to take part in the debate and I welcome the international perspective that the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament have had for some time.
I will focus my comments on Inverclyde and Malawi. I joined the cross-party group on Malawi on winning the Greenock and Inverclyde constituency in 2016. In my local authority area, there are 13 partnerships between Inverclyde and Malawi, via the Inverclyde schools Malawi partnership, incorporating 15 local schools. The partnership assists 6,000 local pupils and 16,000 Malawian pupils to learn about each other’s countries and cultures. In addition, that local partnership allows schools to support the aims of Education Scotland’s international engagement strategy. The 13 partnerships also act as a vehicle to support delivery of a number of national strategies, including curriculum for excellence, learning for sustainability, international engagement, the Scotland Malawi Partnership, global citizenship, language learning in Scotland and rights-respecting schools.
Clearly Scotland has long had an international outlook on life, and colleagues in Parliament have spoken on many occasions of their constituency links with Malawi in particular. I am happy to do the same today for my constituency.
Some colleagues have spoken about aspects of business and trade, which are crucial and are part of the third of the four strategic international objectives, but I will not touch on that today because others have done so. I want to highlight an aspect of the strategy that relates to Inverclyde, because strategies can sometimes come across as being esoteric, or as being things that people do not really engage with. However, a partnership in a local authority area, such Inverclyde’s partnership with Malawi, can highlight how important the international perspective is. It brings it down to ground level, where people can understand and engage with it, and can then learn and prosper as individuals.
The Inverclyde schools Malawi partnership has been in existence now for more than 10 years. I want to commend everyone who has been involved with it for their dedication to the work that they have undertaken during that time. In particular, I want to thank John and Anna McIndoe for their tremendous work. The partnership is an example of Scotland’s wider international outlook. Between 2015 and 2018, the Scottish Government is funding 20 projects in Malawi—that funding is worth more than £9.2 million—and there is the new £3.2 million Malawi climate challenge programme, which was launched to coincide with the 23rd conference of the parties to the UN Framework on Climate Change, or COP23, in Bonn in November 2017, as part of the £3.6 million package to further support developing countries in accessing clean water and sanitation, and in boosting agricultural production and adaptation.
Having an international perspective remains vital to the continued prosperity of Scotland’s economy, society and people. Inverclyde provides an example of how an international perspective works. I should also mention the local links that Scotland has with Rwanda, from which both countries are benefiting.
I am aware of the time constraints. I am confident that the Scottish Government will continue to do everything that it can to support the activities in the international framework and to promote Scotland’s voice. I am happy to support the Scottish Government in all its endeavours, and I welcome the new international policy framework.16:27
There has rarely been a more important time to share international perspectives on Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the world. It has been an important year on the international stage. Our economic backdrop has been dominated by Brexit as we head out of the European Union, but a huge number of world events also impact on our relationships with the international community.
We have a US President who is one year into his presidency and who causes daily diplomatic upset. The most recent example is probably not repeatable in front of you in this chamber, Presiding Officer, but suffice it to say that the United Nations has called his remarks racist towards African countries.
More concerning for me is President Trump’s obsession with undoing the Iran deal that was agreed under the Obama Administration. The joint comprehensive plan of action that was designed to limit use of enriched uranium until 2030, binding Iran to use it for peaceful purposes, is important. A former British ambassador, Peter Jenkins, said that President Trump’s hatred of former President Obama drives his determination to destroy the deal. Why is that important? Apart from anything else, European partners have been involved in the deal, so its undoing is unhelpful for EU-US relations.
Our relationship with the United States is important, but not at just any cost, and not at the cost of all principles. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said this week that the British relationship with the US is not our most important one, but Chancellor Merkel went further and said that it is time for Europe to wean itself off that relationship. Those perspectives are important not only to our trade relationships, but to our contribution to stability and peace in the world.
Thankfully, there has been a dramatic reversal of fortune for so-called Islamic State—Daesh—which has been driven from about 98 per cent of the territory that it once controlled. That has had an impact around the world. We cannot forget the spread and intensification of fighting that led to a dire humanitarian crisis, with 6.1 million internally displaced people and 4.8 million seeking refuge abroad. I commend the Scottish Government for the work that it has done to date on refugees.
A subject that has been close to my heart this year is the humanitarian crisis in the Republic of Yemen, which looks like an apocalypse in the Arab world’s poorest country, which has been enduring a three-year war that has caused a major outbreak of cholera—the worst the world has ever seen.
Andrew Mitchell, who I thought was an excellent Secretary of State for International Development, said that the international community is
“complicit in a coalition that is blockading a country of 27 million people, effectively delivering a punishment beating for the whole of Yemen ... and it needs to be condemned outright.”
The UK’s sale of arms to Saudi Arabia has reached £6 billion in profit. That is quite shameful profiteering from the conflict in the Yemen in which so many lives have been lost.
I am sure that many people will agree that there will be no peace and stability in the world until there is justice for the Palestinian people. The State of Palestine is now recognised by 137 countries in the United Nations, but justice seems to be further away than ever, with the continuing building of illegal settlements in the occupied territories. If she is able to do so, I would like the cabinet secretary to comment on what I thought was an excellent provision in policy under the Procurement Reform (Scotland) Act 2014, where there was a commitment to discourage public sector purchasers strongly from dealing with companies that may be involved with illegal Israeli settlements. If she is able to say something on that, it will be important. Perhaps she could get back to me at a future date. That commitment makes an important contribution to peace, and how it is monitored is important to people who follow the subject closely.
Christina McKelvie has three minutes, please.16:31
Kenneth White, on reviewing Billy Kay’s book “The Scottish World” says:
“While others have questioned the self-confidence of the Scots, Kay has travelled the world from Bangkok to Brazil, Warsaw to Waikiki, and found ringing endorsements for the integrity and intellect, the poetry and passion of the Scottish people in every country he has visited.
He expands people’s view of Scotland by relating remarkable stories of the wealthy Scottish merchant community in Gdansk; of national geniuses of Scots descent, such as Lermontov in Russia and Grieg in Norway; of an American Civil War blamed on Sir Walter Scott and initiated in the St Andrews Society of Charleston; of inspirational missionaries in Calabar and Budapest; of Scotch Professors establishing football in soccer strongholds like Barcelona and Sao Paulo; of pioneers like Sandeman and Cockburn and the Scottish roots of many of the great wines of Europe; and of our amazing involvement in liberation movements in Malawi, Chile, Peru, Greece, Corsica and India.”
What a ringing endorsement for a book that is. The book captures too, as does the endorsement, the pioneer spirit of inventors and adventurers—the Scots who made the world—whether it is the contribution to building modern Japan of Scottish-born trader Thomas Blake Glover, or the fantastic contribution to mathematics and science of Mary Fairfax Somerville.
In how many countries will people be raising a glass, singing a song or giving a recitation to our bard Robert Burns in the next few weeks? There will be too many to count—but do we really
“see oursels as ithers see us”?
We Scots have a great reputation around the world, but maybe it is time to accept that in many cases, especially in historical business or our adventures, we have a dark reputation, too. We should take some responsibility for that.
How do we use that? How do we build on those foundations? How do we make a positive and ethical relationship with our fellow human beings? We do that by being open, internationalist and innovative. We promote our land, our arts, our culture and our business, and we protect, promote and enhance Scotland the brand.
Whether it is taking Scotland to the world or welcoming new Scots to our land, we have a good story to tell—one that seeks fairness and a human-rights based approach to internal policy, and which seeks such policy in the lands with which we want to work.
I welcome “Scotland’s International Policy Statement” because it is a basis on which to build that positive and ethical relationship that many of us have spoken about in the chamber today, and to do so with our fellow nations and fellow human beings, instead of taking the sometimes hateful direction that we see in others’ policies, including some of those of the UK Government. I believe that that Government has lost its way. Perhaps it could work with the framework. We should send it to the UK Government.
We should stop the world, because Scotland is getting on.
The last of the open-debate speeches is from Tom Mason. You have three minutes, please, Mr Mason.16:35
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I will attempt to keep my speech to three minutes.
As we seek to broaden our horizons, we have a great chance to promote Scotland and all that we have to offer as a nation. I will take this opportunity to focus on one engagement strategy in which more work is required: the strategy for China, with which I am familiar. The fact that the strategy is due for renewal this year gives us a great chance to develop a template for our international policy that can be used across the world.
The existing strategy, which was set out in December 2012, seeks long-term sustainable partnerships across many different sectors, centred on four key priority areas. There have been successes. The targets to double the number of Scottish businesses that have access to Chinese markets and to increase direct exports to China above the Scottish Government’s export target of 50 per cent by 2017 have been met during the life cycle of the current strategy.
We must recognise, however, that there are also challenges that need to be addressed. Official statistics show that, for the first two years of the strategy, the number of new China-registered businesses in Scotland was only five, and a pledge to double the number of Scottish students who gain a qualification in Chinese has been missed by some margin, with the number increasing from 309 in 2011-12 to just 365 in August last year. We cannot hope to engage with Chinese business culture without knowledge of the language and detailed communication with our partners.
It is also imperative that we understand the different cultures across China. There is a danger that we will concentrate only on the key cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and forget the vast swathes of business enterprise across what is a gigantic country. We must identify clearly where our industries have particular strengths, and focus on them. It would also help to look deeper into maintaining postgraduate internships for foreign nationals in order to allow relevant companies to access their specific knowledge and language. We should also recognise that investment with China must be sustained for the long haul, because Chinese business culture is based on trust that is not achieved without long-term commitment.
My remarks might be quite narrow in subject matter, but there is a wider point to be made. The principles that underpin our engagement with China are pragmatic and sensible. I firmly believe that, if we use the opportunity that we have to refine our strategy towards China, we will have a template that can be used to enable successful co-operation with selected countries. That would be very encouraging. However, we need to be collaborative as we do that, because our international policy should complement and not contradict that of the wider United Kingdom in its trade activities.
We move on to the closing speeches. We are really tight for time. I call Alex Cole-Hamilton. You have up to four minutes, please.16:38
Thank you, Presiding Officer. To my fingertips, I am an internationalist. That sense of internationalism is the central pillar around which my entire political party is forged and, as Pauline McNeill stated in an excellent speech, it is perhaps more necessary now than it has ever been.
In my first speech to this place, I stated my belief that our withdrawal from the European Union was from a doctrine of isolationism, pure and simple. I believe that still—so it is, and it breaks my heart. Brexit turns the face of our country against the shared efforts of our European neighbours to tackle the challenges that we all face and that will never recognise national borders. We adopt a doctrine of isolation that human traffickers, terrorists and climate change will never recognise. Such international problems demand international solutions. Anything that strengthens our country’s efforts towards international policy should be welcomed, and I embrace the debate in that spirit today.
In that vein, I agree with and support the statement in Claire Baker’s amendment about a new and lasting relationship with Europe. For my party, that new and lasting relationship lies in renewed full membership of the EU through either the scrapping of Brexit or re-entry at a later date. I hope that Labour will clarify its position on that in its closing remarks.
I understand that diplomacy and international trade can be difficult, and the cabinet secretary was absolutely right to make that point to me in her intervention. It is easy for Opposition members to take shots, as I have done this afternoon, but I acknowledge the dilemma. It is important to embrace countries within which we seek to foster change, but it is also possible to maintain alliances and trade partnerships and simultaneously push for change within those countries. As an example, I point to Vince Cable’s decision in 2012 to prohibit the export to the United States of Propofol, which is a key ingredient of lethal injections.
My amendment sets out the need for protocols to define relationships and for agencies that operate in the Government’s name in countries in which human rights abuses are commonplace to understand the rules of engagement—how they must conduct themselves, move forward and press those nations to change their behaviour.
Will the member give way?
I am afraid that I have only a minute or so left.
There have been some excellent contributions. I always enjoy listening to Jackson Carlaw, but I do not for a minute believe that he ever intended to support our amendment. I think that his grasping at semantics was a convenient excuse not to have to back it.
Alexander Stewart made some excellent points about Malawi. That theme was picked up by Stuart McMillan and Ivan McKee, who pointed out excellent local links to international aid projects around the world. That speaks to a philanthropy in these islands that can be measured in the second biggest international aid budget on the planet. Christina McKelvie eloquently picked up on that tradition in her speech.
We shall all be judged on how and with whom we conduct our business overseas. Such debates afford us a chance to lay out the standards to which those who are charged with representing Scotland must be held. We must walk softly through the lives of other nations but, as I said at the start of my speech, in so doing we should not bear silent witness to the subjugation of the people who live in those countries.16:42
The Greens welcome the opportunity to debate the motion and the excellent amendments from the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party. All that I can say to Jackson Carlaw is that I would rather have a fruitcake than the Eton mess that has taken this country to the brink in recent years.
The policy statement that we are debating, which is an excellent series of documents, highlights trade in goods and services as being central to our wider internationalisation, and Mark Ruskell has covered that. The statement speaks about a “Global Scotland”, our commitment to justice, and our potential for “Ethical Leadership”. Our international health initiatives and the global presence and prestige of our university sector are rightfully lauded. They are aspects of our society and economy that we can be very proud of.
However, good things cannot happen in silos. Objectives cannot be met without policy coherence across everything that we do. There are notable sectors of our export economy that the statement does not mention, one of which is the arms industry in Scotland.
Firms that are based here manufacture weapons and equipment that bring carnage, death and destruction around the world. Raytheon in Fife makes missile systems that are sold to the Royal Saudi Air Force. Those missile systems have been repeatedly linked to alleged war crimes and the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas in Yemen—Pauline McNeill covered this—including hospitals and funerals, by the Royal Saudi Air Force. Unfortunately, the banning of arms sales is, of course, a reserved power for now, but the Scottish Government provides funding for the arms trade through its enterprise agencies, including for Raytheon, which last year received £91,000 of public money.
Other recipients of Scottish Government funding include Selex, which has supplied equipment to, among others, the Saudis and the Assad regime in Syria, and Chemring Group, which sold CS gas that was used against civilians in the 2011 Arab spring protests in Egypt and in the 2014 democracy protests in Hong Kong. Since 2007, £17 million has been given to companies that have been involved in the arms trade. It is hypocrisy to hold an international strategy that talks about being “a good global citizen”, showing “Ethical Leadership” and following a “do no harm” approach while simultaneously providing public funds for the leaders of an industry that is built on war, death and misery.
The Government’s international framework stresses the importance of policy coherence—the document says that that is at the heart of the approach. If that is to mean anything, the public funding of arms manufacturers must come to an end. One arm of the Government cannot operate in a manner that is utterly incompatible with the all-Government approach that has been committed to.
The statement highlights the dangers of climate change and highlights our commitment to climate justice. I welcome the climate justice innovation fund and the commitment to cut emissions across the board. However, that is, again, incompatible with the Government’s other policy priorities on oil and gas. Is it climate justice to expand North Sea oil production? On Monday, the energy minister, Paul Wheelhouse, welcomed Shell’s redevelopment of an oil field in the North Sea as “great news”. This Government remains committed to maximum extraction of North Sea fossil fuels, despite the irrefutable reality that burning more than 20 per cent of known reserves will result in a disastrous and irreversible climate crisis.
How many projects in Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda should the climate justice innovation fund contribute to in order to justify the exploitation of that new oil field? The reality is that every last one of those projects and every effort to expand renewables here at home are redundant if those North Sea reserves are extracted and burned. We cannot claim to support climate justice yet continue the oil and gas industry. That is not a matter of ideology; it is simply science. The Government knows that to be true.
This is Scotland’s year of young people. It is also one of the final four or five years in which we can stop climate change. If we do not, my generation and those who come after us will live through an era defined by the greatest crisis in human history. Therefore, I ask the cabinet secretary: what side is the Government on? Is it on the side of climate justice—of those whose lives are being devastated and destroyed, from Puerto Rico in West Africa to here in Europe and Scotland—or on the side of Shell, Statoil and Exxon?16:46
The debate has been interesting if brief, with many issues that are too broad and complex to address in the short time that I have.
In my opening speech, I highlighted the importance of the project work of our charities that work at the front line. Stuart McMillan and Alexander Stewart both raised the local partnerships and important civic links in their areas. The identification of priority countries is important, and that deep connection provides the opportunity for long-term change. The Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund has raised the importance of a thorough, impartial needs analysis to ensure that our interventions are effective. I ask the cabinet secretary whether there is scope for the development of thematic priorities in international development.
I recognise the crucial importance of attracting trade and investment and ensuring that conditions are in place to ensure that we can create the jobs and economic growth that we need. We believe that such deals must be transparent, with full parliamentary scrutiny; the problems of not doing so were highlighted by Mark Ruskell, who showed the real risks of not enabling that level of scrutiny. That is why Labour launched a just trading initiative in 2016, which will work with global trade partners to develop best-in-class free trade and investment agreements that will aim to remove trade barriers and promote skilled jobs and high standards. For too long, we have seen one-way trade deals concluded behind closed doors, which have promoted profit—often for foreign investors—before public interest. That is why we opposed the transatlantic trade and investment partnership; we must ensure that we do not undermine our democracy or sign up to a deal that could potentially drive privatisation in our public services rather than a deal that puts jobs and workers first.
I welcome the amendment from the Greens, which I will support, just as I supported Mark Ruskell’s motion for a members’ business debate. Further trade deals must safeguard the right to regulate in the public interest to protect public services and to ensure that public bodies are able to make procurement decisions in keeping with public policy objectives. They must adhere to human rights, be built on social justice and not undermine or infringe our labour standards.
Although “Scotland’s International Policy Statement” commits to putting
“Policy Coherence for Development”
at the heart of its approach, arguably that has not been pushed as strongly as it could have been. Perhaps the cabinet secretary will say more about how the Scottish Government plans to take that agenda forward in her closing words.
The Liberal Democrat amendment highlights concerns that have been raised by public agencies that operate in countries where there is cause for concern. We need to ensure that robust procedures are in place for working relationships with partners and investors and that decisions are transparent and justifiable. As a Parliament, we have always striven to ensure a high standard of human rights and we have passed significant legislation to illustrate that. We must do all that we can to demonstrate the same standards in our international relationships. The cabinet secretary outlined some of the dilemmas and compromises that can be involved, but greater transparency of decision making can increase understanding.
Pauline McNeill has long been an advocate for refugees and people who live through conflict. She made important points this afternoon about the crises in the Yemen and for the Palestinian people. She raised questions about public sector procurement policy—perhaps the cabinet secretary can respond to those points.
Scotland’s future must be underpinned by a dynamic economy that is equipped to compete in the globalised world. We need to ensure that our schools, colleges and universities are equipped to provide education and training that compete with the best in the world. As part of that, Scotland and the UK must maintain their leading role in research and play a part in Erasmus, horizon 2020 and successor programmes. The market is increasingly competitive and we must work hard in Scotland to ensure that we maintain our reputation and keep up with countries around the world. The cabinet secretary might say a wee bit more about the hubs, which Jackson Carlaw mentioned, and about the degree of importance that will be placed on education.
Along with the rest of the UK, Scotland must be open to business, enterprise and growth, but business must be fair and just and it must work for the many, not the few.16:50
Scotland is an established world leader in certain sectors. I am pleased that Mark Ruskell mentioned the Scotch whisky industry, which is the most prominent sector and is likely to grow at an incredible rate. Post-Brexit, Scotch whisky will be able to infiltrate and reap the rewards of international markets such as India.
Members seem excited about Scotland’s future. Post-Brexit, we will have incredible opportunities with the wider world that we have never had before. The future is about opening up Scotland to the rest of the world, and today’s debate has set out some of the opportunities that are out there.
Ivan McKee talked about internationalisation and his experience of establishing trade links. The programme for government highlights exciting projects, which seek to build on relationships with China, Japan, the United States of America and the Nordics.
I would be really interested to know what we have not been able to do in international relations that we will be able to do as a result of Brexit.
It is typical of Gillian Martin to talk down the Scotch whisky industry, when we have huge benefits—[Interruption.] This is a consensual debate—almost—and we are talking about Scotland’s international policy and work to engage in relationships with other countries.
A few of the relationships that I mentioned have fallen by the wayside, and it is encouraging to see the renewed effort to establish and grow them. Japan, for example, is an incredible country that shares our love of whisky. Such bonds can be encouraged and explored. The cabinet secretary reminded us that the Deputy First Minister visited India and hosted key international investors in order to promote Scottish-Indian collaboration, and we look forward to further engagement.
On that point, I had sympathy for Alex Cole-Hamilton when he talked about the standards that we expect from countries with which we might consider doing deals. He expressed concern about previous conversations with Sino Fortune and asked that the Scottish Government practise due diligence, as we trust it will.
Claire Baker said that we should maintain our commitment to international aid. She also talked about globalisation and climate change. Issues such as flooding, drought and the reduction of emissions are important to us and must be at the heart of our conversations. Claire Baker added that international development work is vital to the countries that receive it, and aid and development charities play an important part in delivering objectives in that regard.
Stuart McMillan and Alexander Stewart talked about Scotland’s global citizenship strategy and the good work that is being carried out in Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and Pakistan. Funding from the Scottish Government, alongside private funding, can help countries to become more sustainable and, as Alexander Stewart put it, stand on their own two feet.
Pauline McNeill spoke passionately about how the impact of humanitarian crises cannot be overestimated. Nor can we overestimate the importance of world peace. Where would we be without world peace? We would not be able to develop and negotiate trade deals.
Scottish National Party members made end-of-the-world Brexit predictions—
No, we did not!
Opening our doors to others does not mean that we have to close doors. It is key that we continue to explore and harness ways of working with the rest of the UK to grow and develop relationships. For example, Michael Gove’s agriculture reform plans will enhance the environment and support innovation. The climate in which we can learn from each other has never been stronger.
Europe will remain a close and key ally. Despite leaving the European Union, we will remain in Europe. Not just our geographical position but our shared values and close friendships with our overseas friends will ensure that. It would be silly and foolish to throw away years of friendship. Luckily, we have no plans to do so. We will remain friends, with crucial economic and trade relationships.
Jackson Carlaw asked the cabinet secretary to provide further detail on the hubs. In addition, will she advise us why the opening of the Brussels trade hub has been delayed for six months from autumn 2017 until spring 2018? Will she confirm that the opening will not be delayed any further? Will she also confirm the number of Scottish international development staff who are working in Europe? Only one worker has been hired. Will the cabinet secretary confirm that the Scottish Government’s promise will be kept?
Scotland’s future is filled with opportunities, notwithstanding Gillian Martin’s doom-and-gloom predictions. We have the prospect of new trade relationships and innovation in some of Scotland’s key sectors. I reiterate that opening some doors does not mean closing others. I hope that the Government takes forward that sentiment when going out into the world and that it carries out due diligence in doing so.
I call Fiona Hyslop to wind up the debate. Please take us up to decision time, cabinet secretary.16:55
How do I answer for all the world and its issues in such a short time?
We have had a good debate, and I thank all members for contributing on our Government’s new international framework and policy statement. We will accept Labour’s amendment while noting that Europe is one of four strands—albeit a crucial one—of the framework. Although we would not expect to micromanage the international activity of public agencies, we can accept the Liberal Democrats’ amendment, as we appreciate the importance of human rights protocols.
The framework and policy statement will ensure that the four strategic objectives that I set out in my opening remarks, together with internationalisation, as part of our enterprise and skills review, our programme for government—[Interruption.]
Excuse me, cabinet secretary. Can we have a bit of courtesy from members in the chamber, please?
All those aspects ensure that Scotland can operate on an international basis across a range of Government and, indeed, wider Scottish interests.
The framework that we have debated today sets the direction for our global citizenship, and a number of members, including Alexander Stewart, Stuart McMillan and Ivan McKee, referred to our international development strategy.
Importantly, our ambition is for Scotland to co-operate globally in the achievement, both domestically and internationally, of the UN sustainable development goals. The First Minister said at the launch of the international development strategy that, as one of the first countries to sign up to those goals, Scotland cannot act with credibility overseas if we are blind to inequality here at home. We are, therefore, using the experiences and expertise gained from tackling challenges at home in areas such as human rights, health, education, renewable energy and climate change—all areas that Claire Baker set out in her opening remarks—to make sure that Scotland plays a unique role in working with partners to find solutions to the challenges that we all face internationally.
Our international strategy sets out a vision of Scotland contributing to the fight against global poverty, inequality and injustice and promoting sustainable development through the SDGs. We will do that by encouraging new and historic partnerships with countries that are affected. We will also encourage individuals within and without Scotland to use their professional expertise in doing so.
This is the year of young people, so we will look to inspire—and be inspired by—the youth of Scotland to realise their good global citizenship role and to prepare them to pass down that role to future generations.
Today, the trade justice Scotland coalition will launch its “Principles for Just Trade deals” paper in the Scottish Parliament. The discussion of those issues is timely. The Scottish Government recognises the principles of just trade and that trade should be democratic, work in the public interest and do good. The coalition’s paper is referred to in the Greens’ amendment.
Members made a number of different points. To Ross Greer, I say that we are not in a situation in which there can be no defence of oil companies that are based in Scotland. There must be appropriate engagement with the Scottish Government in that regard.
Claire Baker and Pauline McNeill raised a number of issues. I cannot go through all of them now, so I will ask Alasdair Allan to address some of the issues about public procurement and the themed aspects of international development.
Several members sought an update on the development of our new innovation investment hubs. We are looking forward to opening our Berlin hub. We have appointed a head to the hub and we are looking to open the hub formally in the spring so that we can maximise the impact of the Berlin and Glasgow European championships, which are the inaugural European championships. That will be a great opportunity to seal connections and links with that particular city.
We are scoping localities in which to base our hub in Paris. In addition, the transformation of Scotland house in Brussels into an innovation and investment hub is progressing well. I spoke to the head of our Brussels hub only today.
We will continue to promote the best possible outcome for Scotland in representing our extensive interests internationally. In this country, we have expertise across a range of areas such as climate change, renewables, our excellent food and drink industry and others. As we seek to work not just with businesses—as Claire Baker raised in relation to our trade unions—but with civic Scotland, we have a great opportunity to make sure that Scotland plays its role on the world stage.
As a Government, we will ensure that the framework and policy statement remain relevant and ambitious as the international environment changes and evolves. Every part of Government will contribute to that. Part of my role is to make sure that, across Government and for all cabinet secretaries, the international aspects of health, our economy and other areas are considered. The Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities will host a global social enterprise forum as part of our contribution to world thinking in an important area, so that every part of Government can contribute to the international framework. It is my responsibility to facilitate that and to make sure that it happens.
We want to work with partners from all walks of life—in Scotland and beyond—to make Scotland internationalist and progressive in its internationalism. As a good global citizen, we have much to offer—but also much to gain—on the world stage. I urge all members to embrace the content of the dialogue in the amendments that have been lodged but especially to support the motion in my name, to ensure that we, in Scotland, take forward our international framework and our vital policy statements.