FOR many around the world, and particularly for our neighbours across Europe, Brexit has shone a spotlight on Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom and on our campaign for independence.

The UK Government’s continued refusal to even consider an alternative arrangement for Scotland following the vote to leave in 2016, despite its introduction of a new bespoke system in Northern Ireland, has only increased their interest.

The damage to Scotland’s economy from our forced exit from the European Union is estimated to be a cut in GDP of more than 6% by 2030, compared to if we had stayed in the EU.

All industries across Scotland, from food and drink to manufacturing, have already felt the all-too-real effects. Whether it is having to contend with increased bureaucracy and continuous delays, or difficulty accessing labour, or even foreign markets going elsewhere for goods and services, we are having to live with the aftermath of a decision taken against the wishes of the majority of Scots.

Compare and contrast to Northern Ireland, where exports to Ireland and the EU are only increasing, and business and industry are benefitting. A similar arrangement for Scotland could and would have been possible – indeed, the Scottish Government was ready and willing to work on making this a reality. It is only through the UK Government’s stubbornness and vindictiveness that it was never introduced.

The world is paying attention

You can rest assured that this situation is not going unnoticed by the global community.

When I meet international parliamentarians, the first topic of discussion when they find out that I am a member of parliament from Scotland is almost always Brexit and independence.

They recognise that Brexit has been a backwards step that was forced upon Scotland and are not afraid to question when we will be returning to the international family of nations.

We have an opportunity here that was not present in 2014 to build support for independence abroad and ensure that the world is ready to welcome Scotland. Foreign politicians are ready and willing like never before to hear us out.

It is inspiring to see young SNP members leading from the front this weekend in hosting political activists from across Europe, building and fostering relationships that will only continue to grow in the coming months and years.

They recognise that by working with and learning from progressive counterparts from across Europe and around the world, we can improve the lives of people in our own local communities, and importantly, reciprocate that relationship.

The Scottish Government has not been afraid to lead from the front, particularly on climate change, where we have helped to inspire the world to think differently.

Our climate change targets have set the pace that others strive to follow, encouraging others to go further and faster in cutting emissions.

Our Climate Justice Fund – a world-first when it was originally introduced – gave the blueprints to countries to follow in our steps in helping to support those on the frontline of the effects of climate change.

More recently, our policy on Loss and Damage brought the topic to the forefront. More than 200 nations followed Scotland’s lead at COP27 and helped bring about a global approach that will benefit some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.

We, too, have benefited from looking abroad for policies which could help the people of Scotland.

The introduction of the baby box is just one example – a valuable step to helping new parents look after their newborns which was inspired by a long-standing successful scheme in Finland.

The National: Photo issued by the Scottish Government of graphic design student Leanne Young's winning design for Scotland's baby box

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The Scottish Government’s continuing focus on developing a wellbeing economy is yet another example where looking abroad and learning from the experiences of others has been of great benefit.

Scotland becoming an independent nation will open the door to further opportunities to learn from and co-operate with our international allies. With the full arsenal of tools at our disposal, we will be able to build a Scotland that works for all.

Our friends in the international community want to assist us – it is time to pick up the pace and work with them much more urgently.

This article is part of the YSI's international conference supplement