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Humza Yousaf is the first minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party.
Scotland, like all European countries, is wrestling with huge challenges, while trying to build a better society and a stronger economy for our citizens.
It’s been my job since I became first minister in March this year to lead Scotland through these challenging times and create those opportunities. To a large extent, my politics have been defined by the principle of solidarity: the sense that there is much more that unites us than divides us.
The motto of the EU — “united in diversity” — for me is much more than a nice phrase. The idea of working, as the EU says, for peace and prosperity, while recognizing that we are all enriched by different cultures, traditions and languages, goes to the very heart of my political beliefs.
Seven years ago, people in Scotland voted decisively to remain inside the EU. They were driven, of course, by the economic advantages that come from being inside the world’s largest single market. But they were also driven by our shared values.
Despite that overwhelming Scottish vote to remain, the U.K. government not only chose to take Scotland and the U.K. out of the EU, but to impose a hard Brexit.
It’s important in this respect to understand the way the United Kingdom should work and Scotland’s place within it. The U.K. is a voluntary union of countries and should operate as a partnership. Unfortunately, the Brexit process has demonstrated that the U.K. is not operating in that way.
Scotland’s voice and votes have been ignored by Boris Johnson and successive U.K. prime ministers. It is therefore not surprising that so many people in Scotland are asking if a better future for us is to become an independent country and apply to be an EU member state in our own right.
On Friday the Scottish government set out, in a new paper, how and why we believe Scotland could achieve that goal.
I lead a government that believes in the rule of law, and we understand that it is only through a democratic, constitutional, legal process that Scotland will become independent. I also want to make it clear that we would never seek to bring other countries into an independence debate that is between ourselves and the U.K. government and that has to be resolved by the people of Scotland themselves.
And, although we are in a unique position as a country that was in the EU for 47 years and was then taken out against its will, we would follow the standard Article 49 accession process. We believe we are well-placed to become a member state through this merit-based process once Scottish independence is achieved.
In our paper, we explain the historical and current constitutional position of Scotland. We stress our commitment to the EU’s shared values. And we spell out the benefits we believe the people of Scotland will enjoy as members once more.
We also set out what we believe the benefits of Scottish membership would be to the EU. In particular, we detail Scotland’s huge renewable energy resources and potential, which could help the EU achieve its climate goals. We highlight our world-leading universities and key economic sectors, like our tech ecosystem and games sector, which have much to contribute to the digital economy.
Scotland occupies a strategic position in north-west Europe and we would contribute to the Common Security and Defence Policy, while continuing to enjoy a strong relationship with the U.K.
But most important of all is our determination to work collaboratively for the common good — to bring about a better Scotland, and a better Europe.