5 things we learned from Sturgeon’s speech to Stanford

Nathanael Williams

CommonSpace looks at the five big takeaways from the First Minister’s speech to Stanford

NICOLA STURGEON gave a speech at the Californian campus of the University of Stanford yesterday (Tuesday 4 April) where she laid out Scotland’s vision of itself in the world within the context of a Tory Brexit and the rise of the “popular right”.

In a speech aimed at alumni, students, business figures and press she focused on explaining the political chaos in the UK post-Brexit and her political logic for wanting another referendum on Scottish independence. 

The first minister also put forward the idea of Scotland as distinct in the way it saw the world and wanted to be, in comparison to Theresa May’s UK Government.

We look at the five points you need to know.  

1.) New status and new friends

The First Minister made the case for Scotland acting as a contributing and responsible member of the international community. Conscious of the constraints of acting within the political union of the UK, she nonetheless pointed to examples of Scotland’s different attitude to power and relationships in geopolitics.

The Scottish program for women in conflict will see women from a number of countries trained in a range of skills from conflict resolution to measures around tackling gender-based violence.

This contrast between her “new stance” for Scotland and the trade delegations of Liam Fox, the UK trade secretary, to the authoritarian Government of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines and UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s trips to Jordan and Saudi Arabia, nations with dubious records of human rights, were noted.

2.) Scottish industry and green revolution

Prompted by questions from the audience, the first minister focused on promoting Scotland as a place for people to come for study and investment. Although the country has successful industries in the sectors of whisky, salmon and oil, Sturgeon expressed a desire to put Scotland at the forefront of a global renewables revolution.

Her aspiration, she said, was to ensure Scotland was the first destination for tech companies to invest to ensure Scotland adds advanced engineering to its strenghts.

There was even a comment towards greater cooperation with “those whom we do not always agree with diplomatically”, a reference to the anti-green stance of US President Donald Trump.

3.) Legal route for Section 30

Perhaps the most surprising parts of the event were the Q&A sessions which saw Sturgeon hint at the idea that an outright rejection by the UK Government for a referendum would result in a contestation in court.

The Section 30 mechanism which allows the Scottish Government to temporarily transfer reserved powers and hold a second independence referendum could be tested in the Supreme Court if the UK states that a referendum can never be held before or after the “Brexit process is complete.”

Sturgeon said Westminster’s power over Scottish referendums has “never been challenged in court”.

4.) The case of independence and interdependence 

In a speech that pointed to reasons why Scots now studying in the US should come and find opportunities, it also covered the necessity of independence in an attempt to explain to external audiences the political developments in Scotland.

The first minister used the speech to make the case that Scottish independence was not the same as the populist movements in the rest of EU or even Brexit, but was characterised by its desire to make Scotland a progressive independent nation able to work on equal terms with others for progressive ends.

“The question Scotland finds itself is the same question of a choice about independence with interdependence or isolation”, she said.

5.) A Scottish vision of globalisation

Sturgeon pitched herself as a pro-market liberal in favour of all the benefits of globalisation. In this way, she was not too far removed from the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair in her defence of “openness and enterprise”.

However, where she differed was a strong emphasis on responsible decision making in diplomacy and matters of conflict and additionally a focus on making sure that ‘openness’ meant the majority of people were benefiting.

The audience consisting mainly of liberal Californian students responded well to the idea of fighting back against right-wing populism by encouraging more trade and freedom of movement.

Picture property of CommonSpace

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