Fiona Hyslop: Scotland has major role to play on the world stage
SCOTLAND is in the global spotlight. With the Edinburgh Agreement paving the way for a referendum in 2014, Scotland has embarked on a historic political journey.
Over the next two years, this country will engage in its most important debate for 300 years – with those aged 16 and over to be asked whether Scotland or the UK should determine Scotland’s future.
People must decide if Scotland’s place is best served as a part of the UK, or as a free nation able to direct her own future.
This government has already done much to ensure that Scotland is known as a dynamic, energised nation open for business, resource-rich and blessed with a highly educated workforce. It’s a formidable package, able to rival the best the world can offer.
In short, Scotland is a great place to live, work, visit and, in particular, do business.
That can be demonstrated by the 2,000- plus foreign-owned companies operating in Scotland in 2011, employing more than 280,000 people, with a combined turnover of £87 million. And it was underlined by the 2011 Ernst and Young Attractiveness Survey, which declared Scotland the leading UK location for Foreign Direct Investment, in terms of employment creation.
Our unique cultural brand is recognised all over the world – from our whisky to our banking and our education. Scotland is synonymous with success.
Our global recognition provides a platform to convey the reality of contemporary Scotland. A Scotland that is innovative in ideas, imaginative and inventive in spirit, international in outlook, individual in experience and preparing for independence.
Powers should have a purpose. Currently the UK has control of too many of the powers.
Our vision is big and bold. We would direct the powers to the purpose of making Scotland a global dynamo – strong in resources, innovation and governance. A place you can trust. We will deliver sustainable economic growth and social justice, and, as we will set out in the White Paper we will publish in November 2013, independence will help us to further develop our strong economic, educational and cultural links with other nations.
The world is rapidly changing, bringing new challenges that have had – and will continue to have – a significant impact on the global climate. These are challenges that an independent Scotland is far better placed to meet than the UK. Better placed, because Scotland with powers will have the ability to capitalise on opportunities and make choices that are simply not open to the UK. Our skills and size will increase our ability to be flexible and innovative as a country, responding quickly to emerging opportunities and threats, shifting focus and resources much more dynamically and quickly than the UK possibly can. And we will have the opportunity to focus our diplomatic and trade promotion efforts where they will have the most benefit for Scotland – and move them quickly if the need or opportunity arises. Full powers provide the ability to make the connections that work for us.
It will mean strong, new relationships, between Scotland and the rest of the UK – a partnership of equals – a social union to replace the current political union, and with other members of the European Union.
We will harness our vast potential – unparalleled energy resources, a world-class further and higher education system, our international reputation for culture and history; and the skills, talents and ambition of our people – to improve our collective wellbeing.
As an independent country, our values of openness, inclusivity, fairness and democracy will be central to the relationships Scotland develops with other nations.
We can – and will – continue to engage internationally for the benefit of Scotland whatever the constitutional arrangement. Our strategy for doing this will be set out in a refreshed International Framework document which I will publish later this week.
It includes, for example, increasing international trade, and continuing to lead in developing a green economy. Recent interest in the Olympics and the Ryder Cup in Chicago provide a foretaste of just how inspiring and important the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and Gleneagles 2014 can be, and we intend to capitalise on these world-class events.
As the eyes of the world observe our journey towards the full spectrum of national powers, this government will grasp every opportunity to build on Scotland’s positive reputation. We seek as a nation to become more international, and to thrive in a changing global economy as only a nimble player can. It’s a choice between a confused strategy stuck in the past – the UK’s – and a can-do attitude looking to Scotland’s future. «
• Fiona Hyslop is Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs
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