September 18th 2014 | Scotland

Better Together Reponse: What would independence mean for Scotland’s standing in the world?

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Scotland has a strong voice in the world as part of the UK – something we would lose with separation.

I’ve worked for some of the UK’s biggest international poverty charities and from Bangladesh to Tanzania to the West Bank, I’ve seen for myself the very real difference that UK aid makes to some of the poorest people in the world. Our aid saves lives and it changes lives, and there’s just no way that an independent Scotland could make such an impact. As part of the UK we are the second highest aid donor in the world, and have kept our promise to meet the UN target for aid spending of 0.7% of GNI - the first G8 country to do so. That’s something we can all be proud of.

Between 2010 and 2013, as part of the UK we enabled over 30 million people - over half of them women - to work their way out of poverty by providing access to financial services; we supported 5.9 million children to go to primary school; and we prevented 12.9 million children and pregnant women from going hungry.

We did it led by 600 hardworking, lifesaving people with jobs at the Department for International Development in East Kilbride.

But it’s not just about aid. There is enormous instability in the world and, as a number of voters have told me, being in the union gives Scotland strength and security. As part of the UK, we are one of only five permanent members on the UN Security Council. We’re the only state in the world to be a member of the EU, NATO, G7, G8, G20 and the Commonwealth. This gives us real influence on big global issues, and helps us shape the world we want to live in. A Yes vote would see us stand to lose much of this and I don’t want to see Scotland’s voice in the world diminished.

As part of the UK we have over 14,000 staff working in 267 diplomatic posts across the world. We have 169 trade offices in over 100 countries. In contrast, the nationalists have estimated that a separate Scotland would have as few as 70-90 embassies and use only the existing 27 trade offices of Scottish Development International. Last weekend, a voter raised this with me on the doorstep in Fife and asked that if we walked away from the UK, who would assist him and his family if they had a problem on holiday abroad. He was quite right to ask – it’s just one of the Yes campaign’s many unanswered questions.

Our embassies help keep Scots safe abroad, but they also help promote our culture and our products, creating jobs and boosting our economy. From trade to travel to communication, barriers across the world are falling away. This is not the time to erect new ones.

Being in the UK gives Scotland a voice in making in the world safer, more tolerant and more inclusive. Whether it’s intervening in Kosovo and Sierra Leone or leading the world in cancelling debt for the poorest countries or reducing violence against women globally, we have a track record to be proud of in so many areas.

The union means that Scotland can be part of making a bigger difference in the world than we could if we were just another small but well-meaning country.  I know first-hand the power that our country has to get things done at a global level.  I would never want us to give that up. Scotland needs to lead the UK, not leave the UK.

Melanie Ward is an anti-poverty campaigner and former international aid worker