The Commonwealth of Nations
Scotland in the
The Commonwealth of Nations, usually
known simply as The Commonwealth, is a global association of 54 member
states, all but two of which were parts of the former British Empire.
The expression “Commonwealth of Nations” was first coined by a Scot, the
fifth Earl of Rosebery (later Prime Minister), in 1884 during a visit to
Australia, when he recognised that change was inevitable in the face of
the movement towards independence by the nations of the Empire.
The name British Commonwealth of Nations
was formally adopted at the 1926 Imperial Conference, and, with one
after another of the member countries of the Empire gaining their
independence, in 1949 the term “British” was finally dropped from the
title in order to reflect the institution’s changing nature. The
modern Commonwealth has long since outgrown its imperial origins to
become a considerable force for good on the world stage in its own
right, with recognition by and status at the United Nations.
Nowadays, the independent member states
of the Commonwealth, with a total population of over 2,000 millions,
support each other and work together towards shared goals. These
include the promotion of
rule of law,
The Commonwealth is not a
but an intergovernmental organisation in which countries with diverse
social, political and economic backgrounds are regarded as equal in
status, with decision making by consensus.
Membership by independent Scotland would
be as good as automatic.
The many practical advantages of
membership include Commonwealth citizenship, educational, youth, sport
and other programmes, and for small nations like Scotland consular
representation in non-Commonwealth countries.
The principles and aims of the
Commonwealth were laid down and developed in a series of major
conferences over the years, notably in Singapore, Harare, and not least
Edinburgh. These endeavours were crowned in December 2012 with the
promulgation of the Charter of the Commonwealth. One of the noblest
declarations of ethical principles ever formulated by any organisation,
the Charter is a document with which Scots can readily identify, and as
a nation can guarantee to uphold.
It goes without saying that Scotland’s
links with the Commonwealth have for centuries been embedded in our
national consciousness. There is hardly a family in Scotland that does
not have relatives in one or more Commonwealth countries, the residents
of which include a large proportion of the estimated 40 million people
who constitute the worldwide Scottish diaspora.
Scotland’s centuries-old economic links
with the Commonwealth countries were severely damaged by the UK’s entry
into the European Economic Community in 1973, but membership still
offers substantial economic opportunities in a market with considerable
scope for expansion as development proceeds.
In this connection, the Commonwealth
Business Council (CBC), set up in 1997, aims to utilise the global
network of the Commonwealth more effectively for the promotion of trade
and investment for shared prosperity. The CBC acts as a bridge for
cooperation between business and government, concentrating efforts on
these specific areas enhancing trade, facilitating
mobilising investment, promoting
partnerships. The CBC
has a dedicated team, CBC Technologies, based in London, and is focused
on the international technology and global services industry throughout
the Commonwealth. In short, the Commonwealth offers Scotland more
opportunities for enterprise today than it ever did in imperial times.
As the major Commonwealth Games events
in Edinburgh (1970 and 1986) and Glasgow (2014) demonstrate, Scotland
has no difficulty in identifying with the Commonwealth as a community,
and in playing a positive and vigorous part in its communal life as an
Scotland can therefore unequivocally
affirm its solidarity with all of the aims of the Commonwealth,
especially with those values and aspirations set out in its inspiring
Charter. As our nation reverts inexorably to its former status of
equality within the interdependent global community at large, active
participation in the Commonwealth of Nations will not be the least of
the goals Scotland will be pursuing.