New referendum, new foreign policy: This is how Scotland wants its independence card back

Since the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon He won another term in the Scottish Parliament elections in the spring, taking an additional seat, and there has been a steady increase in diplomatic access.

Starting with the clamor of foreign diplomats eager to deal with officials in Edinburgh and London; Even Prime Minister Sturgeon’s talks (renamed “Elsie McSelfie” by some critics for her love of images on social media) with world leaders and climate change activists at COP26 in Glasgow all point to a new focus on foreign relations in light of a new independence referendum. .

The game is led by the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs Angus Robertson Minister of Foreign Affairs de facto from the country. The veteran politician, a former foreign correspondent based in Vienna, is one of Sturgeon’s most loyal aides and has made a comeback since the May elections.

“The Scottish government is very excited that the rest of the world understands what is happening in Scotland, that we are open to business and that we are working hard to recover from COVID,” Robertson said in an interview with Euronews. “In addition to the fact that there are governments that are particularly concerned about the future of Scotland and the United Kingdom, and want to know what is happening in relation to the upcoming independence referendum.”

New referendum for 2023

Although most opinion polls still show a majority of Scots oppose independence and support staying in the UK, the Scottish government’s plans for a new referendum in 2023 hope to ride a trend that Robertson says shows a shift in consensus towards support for independence. Compared to the 2014 vote.

“If it came to choosing between a pro-European and EU member state, an independent Scotland or Boris Johnson’s Brexit mini Britain, I think people would vote for independence,” he says.

“We have countless reasons why it is important to have good foreign relations and we look forward to improving them as we become a sovereign nation.”

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However, the “perfect storm” of continued local electoral success; relatively weak political opposition to Holyrood; The adverse impact of Brexit on Scottish businesses; Boris Johnson’s scandal-prone government in Westminster; And the perception that Nicola Sturgeon handled the COVID pandemic with reasonable efficiency did not bring the large wave of support for independence that the SNP had hoped for.

Robertson says the Scottish government has yet to pass legislation to prepare for the referendum and somehow get the UK government to accept it, before moving on to a substantive campaign to convince as many people as possible that independence is the right answer for Scotland.

He says a detailed debate on independence will help persuade many, in the 20% of formerly hesitant or dissenting voters, to switch to the “yes” camp.

Strengthening presence in Copenhagen, opening a new mission in Warsaw

Before entering the political and legal minefield of another independence referendum, the Scottish government is continuing its own moves in European affairs.

While purely ‘foreign policy’ issues are strictly for Westminster, there are many areas in which the Scots could work more openly with international partners.

The Scotland House Network, with offices in London, Dublin, Brussels, Berlin, Paris, Washington, Ottawa and Beijing, brings together trade, education and cultural development initiatives under the same umbrella. It was first established by a Scottish government led by the Conservatives and has since been supported by successive administrations in Edinburgh.

As part of a new coalition partnership with the Greens, the Scottish government will upgrade its existing trade office in Copenhagen to full Scotland House status and create an entirely new office in Warsaw.

“There are things we want to learn and there is no doubt that there are things we can contribute to, as well as help our neighbors and friends across northern Europe,” says Angus Robertson, citing green energy technology and transition as a particular area.

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“We have historical ties throughout the region and have many reasons why it is important to work together now,” he adds.

“I think everyone in Europe is very happy to have an active partner in Scotland and that we have an excellent dialogue with friends and neighbors internationally, and that is how diplomacy works. It is based on relationships between human beings.”

European vision to change Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon’s diplomatic efforts have not gone unnoticed in European capitals, especially after the 2016 Brexit referendum when the majority of Scots voted to stay in Europe.

A resounding electoral victory – with numbers that would envy politicians from any European democracy – capped with an exemplary performance at COP26 in her hometown, capping an extraordinary year for the Scottish leader.

“I think this is a very carefully considered strategy and that is the right way to go,” says the professor. Marilyn Wind boss European Policy Center at the University of Copenhagen. “This is the way to appear as a leader, to go as far as possible on the world stage, to create the feeling that you are at the head of a nation that does not want to identify with that clown Boris Johnson.”

Prof Wind says Brexit has “absolutely” changed Scotland’s view of EU leaders, although none of them would publicly support independence.

“I think there is a feeling behind the scenes that Brexit has really changed things when it comes to a country. [la Scozia] Who voted to stay, who voted with great confidence to stay in Europe.”

But Wind is being cautious when it comes to planning and timing another independence referendum, especially without drowning out the public’s enthusiasm.

“It’s also important not to push too hard, because they already have a chance of independence and they can’t continue to have referendums in which they ultimately lose.”

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A new approach to international business

In addition to the two new outposts at Scotland House, in the 2022 Playing Cards, the Scottish Government has also worked to develop customized engagement strategies for bilateral relations with United States of America,ChinaAnd CanadaAnd India NS Pakistan.

There was a joint review of the relations between Ireland and Scotland, which this year was conducted in cooperation with the Irish government, the first of its kind; and an Arctic policy that looks at Scotland’s role in the Far North differently, almost like a regional neighbour.

The notable role played in COP26 was the cake icing.

“You are showing your country to the world on the bigger issue,” he says. Stephen Gethins, Former Member of Parliament for Minor Scottish National Party And now a professor at a university St. Andrews.

“Who better than the country’s leader could boast of? And it gets even worse when Boris Johnson and the UK have a very bad international standing at the moment.”

Gethins, whose book Nation to Nation: Scotland’s Place in the World was published earlier this year, argues that the UK would be more effective internationally if it “turned on the whole team” and included the Scottish government in foreign policy discussions, especially when it needed International agreements related to issues such as climate change to implementation and enforcement by decentralized administrations.

“In many ways, the UK is particularly central in terms of foreign policy,” he says, citing Denmark’s formal agreements with the Faroe Islands and Greenland as an example where semi-autonomous regions enjoy broad freedom in international relations.

In the UK, he says, there is an “enormous amount of ambiguity” when it comes to matters of foreign policy.

Wherever there is ambiguity, there is opportunity.”

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