Let’s Talk Turkey
As we head for the Tinsel there’s more bad news for No – and now there’s a desperate need to set the agenda for the Big Round-the-Table Christmas Debate that folks will be having.
There’s two stories the No campaign are desperate to kill before the giblets. One is the idea that we could do better with our childcare under independence, the second is that we could represent ourselves better internationally, and play a more positive role in the world if we were a self-governing country.
The first issue they are desperate about because polling tells them it’s the first thing to motivate and attract significant numbers of women from the White Paper. The second issue speaks directly to the disaffected Labour voters and swithering Don’t Knows. For both groups the disastrous escapades of Iraq and Afghanistan still hang like a shadow over this strange notion of ‘British influence’ and the dreaded ‘punching above our weight’ trope. So Better Together are firing everything they can at these issues.
We’ve already covered the issue of soft-power and boybands, the soporific notion that Downtown Abbey is a good representation of contemporary Britain in the 21st C. And we’ve also looked at the divergence in pre-school education plans (‘The Madness of Lady Morgan‘).
So today the No campaign went into overdrive to try and stave off the idea of an independent foreign policy and aid budget. The ‘scare’ elements was the idea of losing jobs in East Kilbride at DfID, this combined with the ‘terrible cost’ of representing your own country overseas.
Humza Yousaf did a great job responding to the ID Select Committee’s report pointing out that:
To suggest that countries of Scotland’s size cannot have a transformational role in international development is simply wrong – indeed the Contribution to Development Index puts the UK 8th worldwide – with all of the countries above the UK being smaller, independent European nations – including the top three, Denmark, Sweden and Norway.
We are pleased that the report welcomes our plans to enshrine the 0.7% UN aid pledge in law as a sign of our commitment to international development – which is a surprising admission given that the UK Government have broken their own repeated promises to do just that.
We also welcome that the report finds that the Scottish Government is more effective than the UK Government in engaging with Scotland’s international development charities, which make a vital contribution to fighting poverty worldwide.
But Humza did something else in his interview on BBC Radio Scotland GMS, correcting Jim Naughtie on two key incorrect assumptions. Here’s the transcript:
I mean there is no point sitting down until they know the result of the next referendum.
Well, there is actually, that is incorrect. There is a point, the point being actually that where there perhaps people would like some certainty on issues we can give that certainty. We are prepared to discuss that with the UK Government but the UK Government isn’t prepared to sit down.
And then later Humza is able to reconnect foreign aid policy with foreign policy, a key matter, and one that was central to Robin Cooke’s late, belated and failed ‘ethical foreign policy’ of yesteryear:
Well, that’s an interesting point. Well, if what you are saying is if the value of the contribution that Scotland makes via the UK through DFID at the moment to the international development effort is to be properly preserved and if in the event of independence there is to be a separate unit setup in Scotland – a proper ministry that does these things – then it would be sensible – if aid is not going to be damaged in the interim, not to try to do it in 18 months, which is what your government keeps boasting about but to say, “Hey look, let’s talk about a five to seven year transitional period.” What you just said is a really important point because you are saying actually that’s the way it would happen.
Actually your claims are completely incorrect. Never once have – in 18 months – has the Scottish Government, Alex Salmond Nicola Sturgeon have they ever said that straight upon that we would have every embassy set up in the world, that we would have every single structure in place right on the day of independence. No, of course, but what we do say is Scotland is well prepared as a European stable democracy that already has a Parliament, that already has many powers, a civil service, the administrative infrastructure are already based in Scotland. We are well placed within that 18 months, which remember, when you take those 30 countries that can become independent post-1950 after a referendum have had the average timescale of 18 months. We are more than well placed to do that.
My point is very simple, when it comes to international development, I believe that of course the UK Government makes an impact, there’s no doubt and I commend them for that. But Scotland’s impact as an independent country, where we enshrine 0.7 per cent in law. But not only that, we don’t undermine our contribution to global poverty and fighting against global poverty selling arms and defence equipment to Robert Mugabe and General Suharto and the Argentinian military junta, just to name a few – Where we actually have the highest standards of international development. It is possible. Just like it is possible for Norway, for Sweden for Denmark and many other smaller European nations.
This is key. We can do better than Cruel Britannia. As Humza Yousaf states:
An independent Scotland will take a different approach by enacting a policy of Do No Harm, so the poorest do not suffer from authoritian regimes buying arms from the developed world – Scotland will be a good global citizen.