The Scottish parliament, overwhelmingly and without a single vote against, has endorsed its first full diplomatic engagement with mainland Europe in over 300 years.
What remains of the UK state now has two distinct foreign policies, with the resources of the Scottish Government focused on maintaining our place in the European Union.
Today First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will travel to Brussels to meet the presidents of the EU Commission and European Parliament.
Yesterday the parliament of the world’s largest trading area rose in solidarity with the Scottish democratic claim of right, and the protection of its position within Europe.
These are extraordinary times. A European nation has been reborn.
Followers of Scotland’s political renaissance know this change is far from being as sudden as these historic moments appear.
A new consensus has emerged. Sturgeon led with confidence while Westminster descended into chaos. The Scottish Greens immediately took to the street – leading the first Scotland in Europe rally outside of parliament.
Order within Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats was shaken. Party supporters have moved towards backing independence, and leaders Kezia Dugdale and Willie Rennie had no choice but to side with the mandate of the Scottish people.
Like the 1980s and 90s, there is now a broad movement – Scotland United – in support of national democracy, and in direct conflict with a dangerous and illegitimate Tory government.
MSP Mike Russell described that movement as facing an “existential choice” concerning Scotland’s place as a European nation.
“It is not half a century of EU membership that has made us European; it is centuries of engagement,” he said. “We were European before we were British — sending students to the continent, sharing citizenship with France and appealing our very nationhood to Rome. Wine was being shipped to Loch Fyne — Loch Fìne — in the 15th century. In war and in peace — an cogadh, an sìth — we looked to Europe and it looked to us, in Voltaire’s words, for our very idea of civilisation.”
Christina McKelvie also recognised the significance of the moment, and spoke of Scotland’s movement for democracy in the wake of the French revolution – naming Rabbie Burns, Thomas Muir and Thomas Paine.
Scotland’s European history – of Scotland’s cosmopolitan enlightenment, of merchants who left for Poland, of intertwining systems of law and political alliances – endures in parallel to its participation in British empire building.
Today, when the President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins becomes the first international head of state to address the Scottish Parliament, there will be another landmark placed upon that map.
We are yet to see if this new expression of sovereignty, a fierce defence of European citizenship, will seamlessly transition to full statehood. That story is yet unwritten. But this week, among the tumult, Scotland, a European nation adjourned in 1707, has hereby been reconvened.