G7 must offer not just ritual but vision in a world wracked by doubt - Scotsman leader comment

It speaks to the age in which we live that this weekend's G7 summit, which starts today in Cornwall, will offer sights which are familiar in their ritual, but lesser-spotted in recent times.

The offshore naval vessel HMS Tamar patrols off St Ives, Cornwall ahead of the G7 summit of world leaders, which starts today. PIC: Getty.

The ritual of awkwardly-posed photographs, platitudes about cooperation and elaborate dinner menus (featuring haggis mousse, this time) will be present and correct.

But the presence of a US President leading again, and proving a more predictable participant in global diplomacy than his predecessor, will feel fresh after the nationalistic chaos of the Trump Presidency.

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The summit will take place against the backdrop of a world that badly needs that leadership.

It is to state the obvious that things have changed radically since the last G7 summit, held in France in August 2019. More than 3.7m people have been killed by Coronavirus, with more than 10,000 dying around the world every day. Even if a global vaccination happened tomorrow - and that might not happen for years - the economic and human toll would leave a lasting legacy.

Wish away the pandemic, and the agenda would still have been crucial. The security challenge posed by Russia, and the aggressive expansion of Chinese influence, could have filled a summit by itself. Discussions on global action to tackle climate change, ahead of the COP26 meeting in Glasgow this November, could have dominated too.

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Some of those talks may still take place, alongside a commitment - made by G7 Finance Ministers last weekend - to build towards a global minimum tax rate, in an attempt to halt the fall in taxation cased by multinationals stockpiling profits and cash in low-tax countries.

All this will matter. But it will be the pandemic, and our recovery from it, which will rightly take centre stage, and on that front there has been a positive start. We must hope that yesterday's pledge by President Biden, to donate 500m vaccine doses to 92 lower-income countries, is only the first of a series of similarly generous - and far-sighted - donations by the world's most wealthy democracies.

Alongside those vital, practical interventions, the world will also look to Cornwall for something less tangible, but also vital: a sense of democratic leadership and vision, in a world wracked by uncertainty and doubt.

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