The MP delegation to New York, I took part in, earlier this year was in representation of the SNP Westminster Group and included high-level talks with representatives from UN Women, UNDP and the UN Youth envoy, discussing work on gender and equalities, people living with disabilities and international youth engagement. I attended as the SNP Westminster Spokesperson on Disability. We were also involved in promoting Scotland’s art and music scene as well as meeting with many Scottish organisations and societies.
The trip was funded by ‘short money’ and falls very much under the guidelines of what the funding should be used for. The purpose of ‘short money’ is to allow the group to fulfil the role of opposition to the government - which includes liaising with external bodies and stakeholders. One of the main purposes of the trip was to promote Scotland – everywhere we went we were welcomed and either complimented on what Scotland was doing in terms of policy etc e.g. disability benefits or they were eager to hear our stance or opinion. Interestingly whilst some believe, at home, we are too wee, too poor and too stupid those abroad look at us in awe and admiration – what was it Burns said about the giftie gie us. To see oursels as ithers see us!
While the SNP group's attendance at the Tartan Day march received negative media coverage – which I can only describe as frenzied - it is worth noting that parliamentarians from both the Conservatives [Edward Mountain MSP] and the Labour Party [Ken Macintosh] were also in attendance but surprise, surprise this received little media attention.
Why was this? My own opinion is, the British Nationalists don’t want Scotland being promoted. They don’t want SNP MPs speaking internationally because during the referendum in 2014 t was easy for the world to see us through Westminster’s eyes – but now, here we were – promoting Scotland, talking up Scotland and what the British Nationalists feared the most was we were being well received – credible, outward thinking, internationalist, sincere and capable – all the stuff the establishment don’t want people to know about Scotland.
Whilst it was amazing to attend the parade and be in New York for Tartan Week the portrayal of it being a jolly couldn’t have been further from the truth – suffering from jetlag and with meetings back to back it was a non-stop few days – but so worth it!
So once again the media machine and British Nationalists on social media went to town with a negative campaign to damage the good work undertaken on this trip. Sowing that seed of doubt we had done something wrong -more of the same character assassination!