Nicola Sturgeon should travel overseas to promote Scotland – but not the cause of independence, writes Pamela Nash.
Scotland ‘The Brand’ is a global success story. Our world-renowned food and drink, and our manufacturing excellence, are hugely successful exports that help grow our economy.
The Scottish Government is right to promote Scotland around the world, and that means that ministers must also – from time to time – travel abroad to do so. Similar trade delegations travel from the other nations and regions of the UK to promote their own local companies.
Yes, it costs public money for flights and accommodation, but everyone can recognise that the resulting trade deals can, in turn, massively boost our public finances.
Today, at First Minister’s Questions, SNP Deputy First Minister John Swinney stood in for Nicola Sturgeon because she is on a trip to North America.
The USA is Scotland’s top export destination country with an estimated £5.5 billion of exports from Scotland in 2017, so this is clearly an important market for Scottish companies.
Ms Sturgeon’s itinerary includes “trade and culture engagements in Washington DC, New York, New Jersey, Ottawa and Toronto” during the five-day visit.
So far, so good.
But the First Minister – on a trip entirely funded from the public purse to represent the whole of Scotland – also delivered a speech at Georgetown University.
It was this event which attracted the most media attention, and the SNP carried her full speech on its party website.
In that speech, Ms Sturgeon repeatedly highlighted her support for independence.
She also talked about breaking up the UK on PBS’s flagship NewsHour current affairs TV programme.
It’s clear that the First Minister used this trip not only to promote Scotland, but to promote her party’s own narrow-minded and divisive pursuit of independence. That’s a vision which is not supported by the majority of the people she is supposed to represent.
It’s also clear that it would create new trade barriers that threaten economic growth.
Ms Sturgeon has blurred the lines between the interests of Scotland and the interests of her party – a bad habit of the SNP.
It’s time for the First Minister to do her job and represent all the people of Scotland and to focus on growing our economy.
The best shot in the arm for our financial future would be for the threat of an unnecessary and unwanted second independence referendum to be taken off the table.
Pamela Nash is chief executive of Scotland in Union