Friday, 17 July 2009

Confident Scotland is leading the way

THE latest session of parliament drew to an end in a blaze of publicity with the unanimous backing of Scotland's world-leading Climate Change Bill.

This legislation was praised by the "Terminator", and now governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who said: "Scotland's ambitious and comprehensive targets encourage other nations to step up to the plate as we look toward an international agreement in Copenhagen, and it sends a message to the world that we must act now and must act swiftly."

I was also contacted by my former Breton intern Anne-Flore (who is now in Brussels) saying that at an EU climate change conference the day after our legislation was passed, the closing remarks centred on the world-leading targets being made in Scotland. Scotland was praised as an example to other nations of what should be aimed for.

Scotland leading the world in a positive direction... it's a great thing to think when you are in the chamber waiting for the ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of devolution to start.

My thoughts turned to the past, present and future. I suppose only a historian from the future could fully quantify what effect the restoration of some power to Scotland has meant for the people of the ancient nation. However, there does seem to be a sense of confidence and a better attitude – less downtrodden, more aspirational.

A few years ago it was very fashionable to talk about the Scottish Cringe. It's hard to define what this concept is exactly, but it effectively boils down to a lack of national self confidence. A culture of negativity and pessimism which pervaded Scottish society. It even led to Jack McConnell opening a centre to promote Scottish self confidence in 2004.

Did it work? Not too sure, but three years later the people of Scotland ignored the tired, old, relentlessly negative and pessimistic Labour, Lib Dem and Tory arguments against electing the SNP.

So perhaps the Scottish Self Confidence Centre had a part to play.

I suspect, however, that growing confidence and aspirations were organic, and the parliament has had a huge part to play in that. People saw what could be achieved and wanted more.

Ten years on, devolution has began to change mind-sets, both publicly and politically. More people in Scotland are supporting Scottish independence (the ultimate confident step). Even other parties, including the Tories, who fought hard to stop devolution in the past, now think that Scotland should have more powers.

There are very few people out there who have no faith in the competence of Scotland to run some or all of its affairs.

The Scottish Parliament, whether it be an independent or devolved institution, will continue to be the main focus in the country.

A while ago I remember hearing (from someone who had experienced both parliaments) that many back-bench Scottish MPs were beginning to think that the only show in town was the Scottish Parliament. I suspect this is more the case than ever.

We are in a process which is seeing Scotland becoming more comfortable with itself, more confident. The cringe, while not gone, is receding from the national psyche. Future generations will scratch their heads when hearing of the Scottish Cringe – devolution started that process of transformation, and I find it hard to believe that it will stop.

Be under no illusion, the passing of the world-leading Climate Change Bill is a sign of the country growing up. We are a positive example to the world.

Not bad going in 10 years.

Now we need to show that we can meet our aspirations.

The potential that lies off the grey coast will transform the fortunes of the county. As the 19th century saw populations flocking to the cities where the latest opportunity and energy were, I believe that the 21st will see a migration back to places like Caithness.

In the near future, Caithness will be at the cutting edge of energy production. The people of Caithness will help lead the world, backed up by new developments across the board including UHI.

World companies are already seeing the potential offered by such developments. Where the energy is the people will go. Caithness is ideally placed to reap a rich reward from such happenings.

However, for success to be more tangible and arrive faster there needs to be a repositioning of mind-sets throughout the nation towards the North.


A CLEAR purpose and strategy in the crucible of war is a must. However, as fighting intensifies and casualties mount in Afghanistan it seems that there is a lack of that. This is a worrying situation for all but especially for the brave troops and their families and loved ones at home waiting.

Recently my colleague, SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson, said that the elections in Afghanistan later on in the year should serve as a chance for a serious review into the strategy. The right strategy is the least that our troops, families at home and Afghan families deserve.

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