Scottish Election 2021: Why 'bairns not bombs' says it all about Scotland's choice between two very different futures – Fiona Hyslop

The annual Scotland Week celebrations are an important fixture in the calendar – they celebrates the contribution of Scottish people and the enduring relationship between Scotland and the US with the Tartan Day celebration a highlight.

The Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane (Picture: James Glossop/AFP via Getty Images)
The Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines at HM Naval Base Clyde, Faslane (Picture: James Glossop/AFP via Getty Images)

It is also an occasion to showcase Scotland’s standing on the international stage and the important role we can play in some of the biggest challenges facing us.

In normal times, I or one of my colleagues would be in the USA, showcasing Scottish business, education and creativity to one of our largest markets, and renewing friendships between our nations.

This year, Tartan Day arrives amid the coronavirus pandemic which has been extremely difficult and challenging for us all. While the normal events, showcases and parades are on hold, the health crisis has shown it does not recognise borders – emphasising the need for strengthening international relations and working collaboratively to take the best steps we can to protect lives and secure our recovery.

Scotland’s ambitions are big and we aim high in what we want to achieve on the world stage, not just in rhetoric but in meaningful action.

This international celebration of Scotland’s history and role could not come at a more critical time. At the same time as the Westminster Tory government becomes increasingly insular and isolationist with its post-Brexit vision, Scotland is looking to build bridges with our partners, expand our influence and amplify our voice.

While Boris Johnson’s Tory government pulls up the drawbridge, reneges on international treaties, and reduces international aid, the SNP Scottish government is taking a very different approach by expanding our presence in different cities and working to promote Scottish interests globally.

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It tells you all you need to know that while the SNP government has established trade and investment hubs in a number of different countries – in Paris, Berlin, Dublin and Brussels – the Tory government has instead taken steps to downgrade the status of our EU neighbours and has refused to grant full diplomatic status to the European Union’s ambassador to the UK.

That is not just petty politics – it marks the UK’s diminishing role internationally and harms the UK’s ability to work effectively with our partners.

Scotland’s vital hubs aim to promote Scottish interests and project our voice. A re-elected SNP government will continue that momentum, our ambition is to boost our political, cultural and trade links with our Scandinavian and Baltic partners by locating at least one hub in each of those regions.

So while the UK steps off the stage, Scotland is stepping up and it comes at an important time in this country’s journey.

Within months, the spotlight will be on Scotland ahead of Cop26 hosted by the City of Glasgow. The UN summit will be a critical moment in the global fight against climate change and as we build towards the event an SNP government will work together with leaders from around the world, at all levels of government, to strengthen our efforts.

Scotland is a world-leader in tackling climate change and the SNP has taken bold and ambitious steps to ensure we do all that we can to address the climate threat.

Legislation in Scotland commits us to reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2045 at the latest, and being carbon neutral by 2040.

Just like Tartan Day celebrations, the Cop26 will be held at the same time as we navigate through the Covid-19 crisis. As the light at the end of the tunnel gets brighter, it is critical we secure a green recovery from the pandemic.

The SNP’s Programme for Government and Climate Change Plan update put a transition to net-zero at the heart of our action on jobs, finance and investment, and recovery plans. Cop26 will show what Scotland can offer the world and showcase Scotland's climate leadership.

The SNP is an internationalist party, and we have a record we’re proud to stand on at this election. In government, we have brought forward world-leading plans and legislation on a number of issues, and continue to champion progressive aims. From global climate justice to the incorporation of UN rights and providing a safe place for human rights defenders, Scotland is determined to play our part.

But Westminster is pursuing all the wrong priorities and holding Scotland's recovery and progressive policies back.

While the SNP is committed to building a brighter future for our younger generation by rejecting Trident nuclear weapons and passing legislation to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into law, the Tory government is committed to increasing its stockpile of nuclear weapons and taking menacing steps to block the legislation on the rights of children.

Bairns not bombs is not just a slogan. It encapsulates the very different governments facing the people of Scotland.

Scotland can do so much better. Rather than being forced to mitigate the impact of harmful Tory policies, Scotland can be in a position to chart our own course as an independent country.

As we approach the elections on May 6, it’s clear Scotland is at a crossroads, facing two different paths to two very different futures.

People in Scotland will face the choice of the long-term damage of Brexit, austerity cuts, immoral nuclear weapons, and regressive Tory policies that have harmed Scotland for years – all imposed upon us by a Tory government we did not vote for, let alone one led by the likes of Boris Johnson.

Or the opportunity to secure our place in Europe, strengthen our international standing, build a fairer society, and secure a green recovery as an independent country in a post-pandemic referendum.

The issue at the election will be this: who has the right to decide Scotland’s future after the pandemic: people in Scotland or Boris Johnson? Only both votes SNP on May 6 can put Scotland’s future in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s.

Fiona Hyslop is Cabinet Secretary for Culture and SNP candidate for Linlithgow

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