THREE years ago, a delegate of senior leaders and parliamentarians from Nepal visited Scotland, hosted by then MP Stephen Gethins. The Nepalese team visited the Scottish Parliament and met with MSPs from different political parties. After the meetings, the visiting delegates were impressed by Scotland’s progressive policies, particularly by its people-centric policies on health and education.

The Scots whom we met were evidently open-minded and welcoming towards foreigners. They seem straightforward and also kind and warm. They showed respect towards the Nepalese leaders, asked questions about Nepal and offered tea, which was not the case with a few other meetings outside Scotland.

What struck the visitors most was the peaceful orientation of the Scottish political struggle.

As the co-ordinator of the team from Nepal, I remember one member saying: “Scotland’s experiences on welfare, democracy and peaceful movements are so relevant to Nepal.

“We have so far concentrated only on Westminster to draw our inspirations. But Scotland is closer to our vision of welfare democracy and peaceful political struggle.”

The National: Nepalese women queue to vote in a local electionNepalese women queue to vote in a local election (Image: Newsquest)

Since then, there have been a few other visits of MPs from Nepal to Scotland, on both formal and informal missions. In effect, there is a sense among some politicians in Nepal that Scotland’s political experiences – particularly its leadership on climate change and gender equality – can offer useful inspiration to Nepal’s own democratisation process and climate strategies.

On Sunday 20 November, Nepal will hold national and provincial elections in which 18 million citizens are eligible to vote. This is a good time to share the developments of Nepal’s recent democratisation and peace process with the people of Scotland.

Nepal has achieved many progressive changes recently. It has one of the youngest constitutions in the world, promulgated in 2015. Nepal has dealt with its vast diversity of around 125 caste and ethnic groups speaking more than 100 languages. Of course, a few challenges still remain. Perhaps the Himalayan nation’s recent political experiences could be also relevant to Scotland?

Nepal’s upcoming polls are the fourth elections since the peace process began in 2005. That we have reached this point is considered a good indicator of stable peace.

The armed conflict in Nepal started in 1996 with the initiation of a protracted insurgency by an ultra-leftist group called the Maoists, which agreed to peace talks and signed a peace agreement after 10 years of armed violence.

Since then, Nepal has been in a rocky political transition with constant ups and downs. Its peace process was derailed a few times. The first Constituent Assembly elected in 2008 to draft the new constitution was dissolved before it could finalise the work.

Elections to the constitution-making assembly had to be conducted for the second time, but this assembly also failed to promulgate the new constitution within the deadline. Finally, the new constitution was declared in 2015 but its ratification process was boycotted by the political parties representing Madhesi ethnic communities in Southern Nepal.

There is a brighter side. The new constitution has laid a foundation for socially inclusive democracy. The representation of previously excluded groups has been ensured. The representation of women has been guaranteed, with 40% of seats at the local level and 33% at the national/provincial level.

We have a female president for the first time. A number of the parliamentary committees are headed by women. For a country which had less than 5% female representation in parliament before the peace process began, it is remarkable progress.

The coming elections also indicate that Nepal is moving towards a secure multi-party democracy.

The new constitution facilitated the institutionalisation of Nepal’s democracy through mandatory elections at all three levels, and they took place in 2017.

Despite a few challenges during the last parliament’s term, the coming elections are being held after the mandated five years. For a country which struggled to have regular elections in the past, the upcoming polls are a significant step forward towards a stable democracy.

Health, education and jobs have captured the top priority of most political parties as people prepare to vote. Interestingly, the parties have also featured the environmental agenda in these elections unlike in the past.

They have included climate change goals in their manifestos, such as a zero-carbon emission target by 2045, increasing forestation and setting up a climate change research centre, among others.

The aspirations of Nepalese people on greater inclusive democracy, climate-friendly policies and peaceful political struggles are similar to those of the Scottish people. This framework can bring the people of two nations together.

Shrishti Rana is from Nepal and is currently studying for a PhD at the University of St Andrews