How an independent Scotland could work towards a better world

ALBA Party’s New National Women’s Convener Yvonne Ridley writes about how an Independent Scotland can be a force for good in the world and in doing so adds to the internationalist case for Scotland’s independence.

In my career as both a journalist and humanitarian, I have walked in despair through the killing fields of Palestine, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, and Libya.

The list, sadly, is growing but they all have one thing in common … the greatest victims are always women and children.

It’s a simple truth but bombs and bullets do not distinguish between women or soldiers, children or adults, friends or foes. Death is death and war is war and only the winners — if anyone really wins in any war — get to decide what history will remember it as.

Sadly most politicians have learned very little from Europe's dreadful history of bellicose chauvinism and we only have to look at the macho triumphalism on display over the war in Ukraine to see that.

Blood is flowing on both sides and I can’t distinguish between the pitiful tears of Russian mothers of young dead soldiers from the weeping cries of their Ukrainian counterparts. The pain of a mother in Mariupol is no different from the grief of a mother in Vladivostok and that’s a fact so how can any one of us really celebrate the death of someone’s son?

Having experienced the sheer terror of having nowhere to run and nowhere to hide as bombs dropped in Afghanistan, I decided back in 2001 that war was futile. It’s what happens when everyone stops talking and the silent vacuum becomes filled with hate, revenge, threats, and finally bombs.

This is where I dream of a role for an independent Scotland, a small nation that constantly punches above its weight.

Scotland has a wonderful reputation around the world. The amazingly diverse, hard-working and talented diaspora has certainly laid a positive groundwork over the centuries.

Having no history of waging war overseas, Scotland is better known for exporting philosophers, philanthropists, scientists, engineers, and creative thinkers.

Our people are trusted and of the many challenges I have encountered at war-torn borders when I mention Scotland is my home the authorities always seem to relax and smile. We clearly have no enemies or a legacy of waging imperialistic wars with invading armies.

Scotland’s history of promoting peace and justice stretches far beyond our borders and it is this trust that I feel we can capitalise on as a mechanism for brokering peace and promoting justice.

To those who might sneer at these aspirations, I would point to the tiny state of Qatar (11,610 km²) which has barely 300,000 citizens and a land mass seven times smaller than Scotland’s (78,352km²).

Qatar has played a major role in brokering peace initiatives and deals across the Middle East and Asia and there is no reason why we in Scotland can not have similar ambitions for such a global role.

Personally, I would like to promote a female-friendly foreign policy for an independent Scotland because, historically, women have also played major roles in bringing about an end to armed conflicts.

An independent Scotland under ALBA has the potential to be a mechanism for equality, justice, solidarity, and peace using a political framework focussed on helping to alleviate the suffering of marginalised people.

The traditional foreign policy that we see in operations around the world today is desperately lacking in imagination; it usually involves the use of military force, might, violence and then a smattering of conditional aid. These are the destructive forces of colonisation, imperialism, capitalism, and patriarchy at work and Scotland has, over the centuries, felt the negative impact of all of these which is why we know we have to introduce a new, softer way of thinking.

Perhaps the ongoing violence and unrest witnessed in Palestine show the futility of military might.

Over five million people live in the occupied Palestinian territories: three million in the West Bank and two million in the Gaza Strip. It is a human pressure cooker of poverty, oppression, and discrimination.

The new generation of youth is in rebellious mode at the hopelessness of their condition under Israel’s brutal occupation and there is much dissatisfaction with the ruling administration, the Palestinian Authority. The lack of movement on the political horizon is forcing Palestine’s young people towards a third Intifada or uprising.

It is time for some new, fresh thinking because the current players have produced little from more than seven decades of injustice. And the Roadmap to Peace draughted back in 2003 leads to nowhere because the Quartet (the US, the UN, Russia, and the EU) are at odds with each other over the war in Ukraine, Syria, and Libya.

While the global order remains the same nothing will change.

However, in the case of Palestine, for instance, an independent Scotland would be able to act quickly to open a Representative Office in Ramallah, something that many countries did in the 1990s in the aftermath of the Oslo Accords.

By doing so we would be able to help Palestine’s elected leaders and democratic bodies to build the well-functioning, and sustainable, institutions that are required for a future independent Palestinian state.

Scotland’s long tradition of international educational outreach programmes would be an obvious focus of our support. However, nothing exists in isolation from the Climate Emergency.

With 25% of Europe’s Offshore Wind Potential, an unrivalled abundance of Hydro possibilities, as well as our huge North Sea Oil and Gas resources that should be the capital that our renewables boom is built upon, with independence Scotland would be in a unique position to rapidly develop and demonstrate the most cutting edge and cost-effective renewable technologies in the world.

The exporting of these technologies could form part of our international aid work, helping to create new quality jobs in places like Palestine. These people don’t want begging bowls, they want work that will restore dignity to aid-dependent families.

The possibilities of working towards a just world are endless in an independent Scotland. War is futile and no one expressed that sentiment better than the late Palestinian poet and author Mahmoud Darwish.

Using his homeland Palestine as a metaphor for the carnage in the world today, he wrote: "The war will end. The leaders will shake hands. The old woman will keep waiting for her martyred son. That girl will wait for her beloved husband. And those children will wait for their heroic father. I don't know who sold our homeland. But I saw who paid the price.”

Of course, it doesn’t have to be that way which is why I dream of a better world in an independent Scotland which can act and think with care and compassion nationally and internationally for a better, just world.

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