2014 Matters: Justice in Foreign Policy, Immigration and Human Rights

**2014 Matters is an event focussing on the global and human rights impact of Scottish Independence. Though not organising the talk, our society was invited to attend the debate and run a stall. The following blog is by Anne T. Zerr, please note that opinions stated are those of the author and may differ from Amnesty International, who do not take a stance on Scottish Independence**

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With the referendum on whether or not Scotland should be an independent country approaching fast, everyone is aware of just how much the decisions made in 2014 matter. Consequently, various NGOs – such as People & Planet, NIDOS, Jubilee Scotland, Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, WWF, the World Development Movement and Friends of the Earth Scotland – have joined together to form the 2014 Matters programme, which aims to explore global justice and Scotland’s future in the context of the referendum.

The programme’s launch event “Justice in Foreign Policy, Immigration and Human Rights”, that took place on Tuesday, January 28, 2014 in the University of Edinburgh, brought together the panelists Ian Macwhirter (Sunday Herald), John Finnie MSP (MSP for the Highlands and Islands, Independent), Dr. Kieran Oberman (Politics and International Relations, University of Edinburgh), and John Wilkes (Scottish Refugee Council) for an inspiring panel discussion moderated by Sarah Beattie-Smith.

The discussion about Scottish independence has so far largely addressed the advantages for Scotland and its people itself. However, one of the central questions on Tuesday night was: “How can Scottish independence be beneficial to social and environmental change?” Dr. Kieran Oberman answered decisively: “The only way we can achieve climate change is to leave fossils in the ground!” Renewable forms of energy being a priority in the White Paper on Scottish Referendum, Scotland seems to be on the right track.

The discussion clearly shifted the focus from issues of Scottish national identity to questions of global responsibility – a theme which can be best expressed by John Finnie MSP announcement: He had never really seen himself as a nationalist, but rather as an internationalist. As such, Scottish independence is just as much a global as a national concern: Ian Macwhirter sees Scotland’s possible role as a strong moral force when it comes to issues of immigration and human rights: “Scotland needs more immigrants, not less!” Similarly, John Finnie, MSP for the Highlands and Islands, calls for an active participation of minorities and a cultural diversification in all parts of Scotland – Scotland can only profit from a diverse civil society which promotes creativity and discourse.

This year, we might be becoming part of history. Because as one of the attendees pointed out the similarities to the demands for social and environmental change in the 1960s: “If not NOW, then WHEN? And if not US, then WHO?”

But whatever the outcome will be on September 18, 2014 – and as different as our opinions on the referendum itself may be – what united the attendees at the “2014 Matters”-Event on Tuesday night was the common belief that change for the better concerning foreign policy, immigration, and Human Rights is conceivable.

In a sense, the possibility of an independent Scotland makes this change seem more tangible than it has been for a very, very long time.

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To join the conversation, follow the debate on the Twitter wall #2014matters!

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