5.Steadfastly European throughout and beyond
Following the experiences of 2020, the Scottish Government is more committed than ever to the kind of outward-looking, cooperative, internationalist model represented by the European Union.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, in conjunction with the many other global challenges that demand collective and cooperative actions, has strengthened the arguments for the closest possible relationship with all of Scotland's neighbours. The challenges Scotland faces do not respect borders. As a responsible European partner, the Scottish Government will continue to share best practice, knowledge and expertise in reducing transmission and address the other harms caused by the virus. It will work proactively with likeminded European partners to face the global public health and economic crisis together.
It is becoming clearer by the day that as Europe emerges together from this crisis it will be vital to hold firm to European shared values. The Scottish Government, like the EU, is a strong advocate of the rules-based multilateral order and standing up to the many challenges our democracies face. The founding values of the EU – human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights – are the Scottish Government's values. They more than anything else are guarantors of a better future.
For these – and many other – reasons it remains the aim of the Scottish Government for Scotland to take its place as a full member of the EU and continue to build and implement these shared priorities.
The Scottish Government believes that this can, of course, only be achieved by Scotland becoming an independent country.
Scotland's First Minister has made clear that the Scottish Government is committed to the legal, constitutional process required in order to become an independent state. Ultimately, the "hard Brexit" Scotland is facing reinforces why it is so important for people in Scotland to have the right to decide their own future and the form of government best suited to their needs. Whilst the UK Government has chosen to secede abruptly from the forward-looking internationalist project which is the European Union, the Scottish Government's intention is that Scotland will return to the EU fold.
Like the EU, the UK is a voluntary union of countries. That is a foundation upon which the UK constitutional order is constructed. It is a union that Scotland joined voluntarily and one which cannot and must not be deaf to the democratic wishes of its constituent nations. Scotland will always be the firmest of friends with our closest neighbours in the rest of the UK but the future that Scotland faces today outside the EU is one that is fundamentally different to that promised by those who campaigned for a no vote in 2014. Therefore the Scottish Government believes it is only right that the people of Scotland have the opportunity to decide whether or not they wish to become an independent country and rejoin the community of nations that is the European Union.
In the meantime, the Scottish Government will continue to take a positive and proactive role in engaging with the EU institutions and Member States on shared challenges and opportunities – particularly where Scotland is well placed to offer expertise, share best practice, collaborate with European partners and help to shape policies and programmes that tackle issues affecting citizens and businesses across Europe.
Notwithstanding the very real constraints that arise from Brexit, the Scottish Government believes that Scotland and the EU have shared interests and ambitions.
This commitment is not new. On 31 January 2020 the Scottish Government published The European Union's Strategic Agenda for 2020-24: Scotland's Perspective. This provided our response to President von der Leyen's priorities for her Commission in fulfilling the vision of the EU's Strategic Agenda over this period.
In this document the Scottish Government articulated its wish to see an EU that:
- Embodies progressive, democratic values on the world stage;
- Rises fully to the challenges presented by the global climate emergency;
- Actively promotes the wellbeing of all of society; and
- Helps create smart economies which thrive by the intelligent and humane use of new technologies.
Those ambitions, which set out for all to see the kind of EU Member State which Scotland will ultimately become, are as valid today as they were then.
The Scottish Government expresses again here its interest in all of these areas, not only so that Scotland may benefit from close working with EU partners, but also to offer our own expertise and experience – as illustrated by the examples below. That is the kind of mutually beneficial partnership to which the Scottish Government subscribes, based on both sentiments of solidarity and a clear-headed awareness of what is in the interests of us all.
Creating smart economies:
Scotland is very much open for trade and investment. The pace of innovation continues to accelerate and, harnessed correctly, can encourage economic growth, new opportunities and answers to critical challenges facing global society. Scotland has for many centuries been renowned as a place of learning and innovation and this trend continues today with many excellent places of learning. The Scottish Government's continued association to Horizon Europe will allow us to remain an active part of the European research ecosystem. Scottish institutions have a strong track record of collaboration with European partners and Scotland is a founding and leading member of the Vanguard Initiative (VI), a partnership of 38 European partners working collaboratively to deliver economic growth through the enterprise-driven innovation strategies. Scotland participates in several pilot projects including advanced manufacturing for marine renewables and offshore energy; efficient and sustainable manufacturing; and the bio-economy. These pilots aim to develop joint demonstration cases in new, emergent technologies where regions have a competitive edge with a final goal of full-scale commercialisation of new ideas, products or services.
Addressing the global climate emergency and biodiversity loss:
At the UN Climate Summit (COP26) in Glasgow this year, Scotland will draw on its experience and commitment to help ensure a successful summit which drives forward delivery worldwide of plans to tackle climate change. Scotland's reputation as a world leader on climate change is driven by our ambitious targets and our support for global efforts to transition to a net-zero world in a way that is fair, just and leaves no-one behind. Our landmark Climate Change Act is amongst the most ambitious legislative frameworks in the world, setting a target of net-zero emissions of all greenhouse gases by 2045. Scotland continues to invest in renewable technology innovation and in 2019 generated 90% of our electricity from renewable sources. Our vision is to become a leading Hydrogen Nation where Scotland's natural resources, infrastructure and skilled energy workforce will enable us to become the producer of the lowest cost hydrogen in Europe by 2045. The Scottish Government is leading the `Edinburgh Process' which brings together the voices of governments, cities and regions around the world to influence the post-2020 framework for biodiversity to be agreed at the UN Biodiversity Summit (COP15) in Kunming.
Mindful of the need to bring society together and strengthen democratic participation, the Scottish Government set up Scotland's first Citizens' Assembly drawing on experience from other European countries. The Assembly met throughout 2020 to discuss the kind of country Scotland could be, how best to overcome the challenges Scotland and the world face in the 21st century and what further work should be carried out to provide the information needed to allow for informed choices about the future of the country. The broadly representative group of 100 citizens from across Scotland produced its final report and recommendations in January 2021. The Scottish Government will be keen to learn about and share the experiences of Assembly members who were part of this unique process, established to involve the public in our democracy and enable the widest possible range of voices to be heard.
The wellbeing economy:
A sustainable, inclusive economy is also a more resilient economy. Wellbeing and inclusive growth values are therefore at the heart of the Scottish Government's approach to reset, restart and recover Scotland's economy as the country emerges from the pandemic and works together to ensure no one is left behind. This means pursuing policies which promote more equal growth across cities, regions and rural areas and ensuring that our ambitions on low carbon growth link with the skills agenda. The Scottish Government is one of the leading European voices on wellbeing and a founding member of the network of Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) which aims to share and promote innovation in policy making to achieve greater wellbeing through their economic approach. The group currently also includes the governments of Finland, Iceland, New Zealand, and Wales. Others are welcome to join. In 2020 Virtual Policy Labs have looked in particular at COVID-19 wellbeing impacts and lessons for a sustainable and inclusive response.
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