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Tony Abbott has badly misjudged the independence debate

Scotland will be an asset to the International Community.

It is amazing just how quickly the Commonwealth spirit of friendship can fade with some people. Just a few weeks ago Glasgow, Scotland and the rest of the Commonwealth were celebrating “the stand out Games in the history of the movement”. The 2014 Commonwealth Games showed the Friendly Games at their finest and Glasgow at its best. I am sure that Queenslanders and other Australians will not mind me saying that the next Games in Gold Coast in 2018 has a lot to live up to! 

One of the key aims of the Commonwealth is to promote democracy among its members. On 18 September this year the people of Scotland will exercise that freedom and choose whether or not Scotland should be an independent Country. If Scots do choose independence they will be doing what dozens of other countries around the World have done, many since the end of the Second World War. Most members of the Commonwealth have gained their independence from London and none of them has ever asked to come back. 

That is why it was so strange that Australia’s Prime Minister chose to intervene in Scotland’s debate claiming that those who chose independence for their country were somehow the enemies of freedom and justice. That misjudged the entire tone of the debate and it was not surprising that even those campaigning against independence have been distancing themselves from what was seen as an ‘embarrassing’ intervention. Those of us campaigning for independence know that it can be a chilly old world out there and no-one is going to help us, nor should they, this is and should be a decision for the people living in Scotland. However I do believe that once a decision has been made that our friends in the International Community will respect that democratic decision even Tony Abbott has his right wing chums in London.

I have campaigned for independence for Scotland for years, not because I think that Scotland is any better or any worse than anyone else but because I think that Scotland should be the same as every other country. Normal in other words.

Unlike the Australian Prime Minister I think that Scotland can be a force for good in the World. With just over 5 million citizens Scotland will be about the same size as our neighbours in Denmark, Norway, and Ireland and slightly bigger than New Zealand. Scotland already has a decent international footprint helped by our strong links with our Diaspora in Australia and other countries. This has been boosted by the Scottish Government’s ground breaking work in recent years in International Development and our ambitious efforts to tackle Climate Change and develop world leading low carbon industries. 

Scotland will build on that work once we can deal with our partners in the World on an equal basis rather than having to go through the middle-man of London as well as gaining the normal powers of independence. That means doing our bit and contributing to international organisations such as the United Nations as well as contributing as a full member of NATO. It also means that we can get rid of immoral nuclear weapons from Scottish soil and become nuclear weapon free like 90% of NATO member states and stop ourselves from getting involved in illegal wars such as the Iraq conflict – the consequences of which are still being felt by the people of that country.

Scotland is also being touted as a hub for conflict resolution given the peaceful, inclusive and democratic nature of the debate here. Scotland is increasingly seen as a neutral hub for those involved in conflict to resolve their differences much in the same way that our near neighbour Norway has done in recent years. We have already hosted delegations from troubled areas such as the South Caucasus and independence will allow us to build on that. Edinburgh will also turn into a proper International Capital City with the benefits that will bring such as improved transport connections, commercial headquarters and full Embassies.  

Finally it will also improve our relationship with our partners in the European Union. As a Member of the European Parliament I am only too well aware of the Master Class that the UK Government has undertaken in recent years in how to lose friends and influence in Europe. That hurts our investment prospects, relationships with close neighbours and moves us ever closer to leaving this crucial Trading Block. That is hugely damaging for Scotland’s economy and our standing in the World.

There is increasing recognition in Scotland and elsewhere that the Treaty of Union is out of date. Scotland faces isolation by turning our back on the World and letting London deal with the rest of the World on our behalf. Voting ‘Yes’ in next month’s Referendum will be an assertion of the country’s outward looking self-confidence and sense of internationalism. I dearly hope that Scots will take the opportunity of a lifetime.

Independence has been good for Australia and will be good for Scotland. You can tell Tony Abbott that telling Scots that they are the enemies of freedom and justice is embarrassing for him. However given the strong links between our two countries we know that your Prime Minister’s view is a minority one in Oz. Just as independence will strengthen and refresh the relationship between Scotland and England, it will also boost our relationship with Australia and just in time for the Commonwealth games on the Gold Coast!