Angus Robertson - We must get positive and reach out to the world

Global challenges require global responses. From climate change to Covid-19 vaccination and international tax evasion it is only by working together that we will find the solutions.

Tuesday, 8th June 2021, 4:55 am
President Joe Biden, pictured here with First Lady Jill Biden, has signalled a new commitment to world co-operation - and Scotland needs to join the table, writes Angus Roberston.

Since the end of the Trump presidency there are reasons to be optimistic that there is potential for success. New US president Joe Biden has ditched his predecessors confrontational approach and signalled a new willingness from the Paris Climate Change Agreement to the Iran nuclear talks.

As world leaders gather this week for the G7 summit there are positive straws in the wind that multilateralism could be back. G7 Finance Ministers have already agreed in principle to a ground-breaking global deal on taxation for multinational companies. Huge firms like Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook are set to face taxation on a percentage of their profits in markets where they make their sales.

Meanwhile, more than 230 prominent international figures including former prime ministers, presidents and foreign ministers have called for 2021 to be “a turning point in global cooperation”. They want G7 leaders to pay two-thirds of the costs needed to vaccinate people against covid in low-income countries. The proposal, which would total $66 billion, works out at only 30p per person per week in the UK. Polling across G7 countries shows there is overwhelming support by the public for their country paying its share. As is already clear with Covid variants from India to Kent we will not be safe from the pandemic until we have delivered vaccinations across the world.

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International efforts are also current focused on the forthcoming United Nations climate change talks in Glasgow this November. COP26, as it is officially known, is supposed to draw 30,000 delegates and participants from around the world and has already been postponed once because of the coronavirus pandemic. At stake are the necessary plans to restrict greenhouse gas emissions to make sure that global temperatures do not go up by more than 1.5C above pre-industrial levels. Experts believe that the summit is the most critical since the original Paris agreement of 2015.

Already there are concerns that pledges to reduce emissions are falling short of what is required. Behind the scenes there are major efforts to ensure that the COP26 summit takes place in person and not online, because it is feared that a virtual event means not enough direct diplomatic pressure will be felt by all countries.

As with all of these initiatives, whether on the environment, Covid-19 vaccination or financial regulation, it is not just the headline agreements that are key. If there are major get-out clauses and loopholes then the lofty ideals will not be delivered. Within days of the G7 agreement on international taxation it is already clear that there are ways in which big companies can get away without paying their fair share.

In recent years, international cooperation has suffered because of the begger-my-neighbour policies of former US President Donald Trump and the little Britain Brexit approach of Boris Johnson. In a few short years, Scotland can take its seat at the top table in the European Union, the United Nations and other international organisations. Often it is smaller countries who have led global efforts to combat challenges we face across the world. I look forward to Scotland rejoining the international community and playing a positive part.

Angus Robertson is the SNP member for Edinburgh Central and the Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture.

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