Thank you very much to [Jeff Anderson] for inviting me to speak to you about Scotland in the world.
It is a privilege to be here today in the Riggs Library here at Georgetown University and I am grateful to you, to Phoebe Wood and to the BMW Centre for the opportunity.
During my years as an opposition MP at Westminster I served a spokesman for my party on foreign, defence and international development issues.
I am therefore very aware of the range and extraordinary quality of both the teaching at the research undertaken at this university’s School of Foreign Service and Department of Government.
It is no coincidence that this institution counts President Clinton among its graduates and Secretary Albright as its Mortara Distinguished Professor of Diplomacy.
Last month I had the honour of meeting Dr Albright and introducing her as the guest speaker at an annual business dinner in Glasgow, back home in Scotland.
Her insights were as prescient as ever and her comments on the value of keeping countries together were both welcome and positive - at least for those of us who wish to keep our United Kingdom together.
And it is on that topic that I want to speak with you this afternoon.
Scots’ impending choice in 2014 on whether they want to remain within the UK family or leave it forever with all the implications that has for Scotland itself, the rest of the United Kingdom and our respective relations with the wider world.
Ladies and gentlemen, for the past two and a half years I have served in the UK government as Secretary of State for Scotland.
One of 5 Liberal Democrat cabinet ministers.
Sitting at the cabinet table, my job is to represent the specific needs and interests of Scotland in the government’s decision-making process.
Those issue are diverse, from agriculture to aviation and energy to defence, where Scotland’s requirements vary in profile from other parts of the United Kingdom, it is in the interests of all of the UK that this is understood and reflected in government policy.
The economy is no exception.
The government of which I am a member is the first coalition government that the UK has experienced since Winston Churchill.
At that time the coalition government faced a world-war and came together to work in the national interest.
The government that I am part of faces a very different form of global challenge, but still serious, as we respond to the financial crisis.
When the coalition took office in 2010, the UK was running a deficit equal in size to that of Greece.
It has been our task to reduce spending while taking the decisions that will set our economy back on the right track, while in the midst of a Europe-wide crisis.
We have a complex economy to deal with.
For Scotland, that has required an understanding of the needs of the oil and gas industries in the north east, the banks and insurance companies centred primarily around Edinburgh and the extensive engineering, manufacturing and export sectors that feature in the economy.
Taking all their considerations into account been a key priority.
And has had a clear demonstration of the UK government’s commitment to its success.
This is timely.
Because the economy is not the only fundamental issue that the government must address with regard to Scotland.
The most important debate of my life-time - indeed of most people’s life-time - is currently going on in Scotland.
In 2 years time those of us who live in Scotland will have the opportunity to cast our vote on the future of our country in a referendum on Scottish independence.
We will make a fundamental choice between remaining a key part of the United Kingdom, or leaving it and going alone into the world
It is the most important collective decision people in Scotland have ever been asked to take.
There are many questions to ask and answers to give on the impact of such a permanent and irreversible step.
This isn’t a decision that will just affect our day-to-day lives within Scotland and the UK.
It is a decision that will affect our relationships with people and countries around the world.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I’m very clear on my view: Scotland is better off within our United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom is very much better off with Scotland part of it.
Today I am going to set out why that is the case.
To show how Scotland has flourished and achieved within and because of the United Kingdom - not in spite of it.
How Scotland can continue to contribute to and benefit from our United Kingdom
And why that contribution is important to us all: not just in Scotland and the rest of the UK, but overseas too - here in the United States.
I believe that by standing together we can continue to achieve, as Scots within the United Kingdom and with our friends and partners across the globe.
But first, let’s think about how we got here.
There’s the long story - and the short story.
Let’s start with the short story: 2011 was a big year in Scottish politics.
The Scottish National Party’s outright win in the May 2011 election to the devolved Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh means that Scotland has its first single-party majority government since the devolved Parliament was established in 1999.
That is significant.
The SNP entered that election campaign with a manifesto pledge to hold an independence referendum and succeeded in electing more than enough Members of the Scottish Parliament to set the legislative agenda in Holyrood.
But what it didn’t have was the legal power to hold that referendum.
In the settlement which established the Parliament in 1999, the responsibility and power over all aspects of the constitution was retained at Westminster.
That is why nearly 12 months ago now - the UK government took the first step to ensuring that rather than just talking about a referendum, there could actually be one.
For the Scottish Parliament to have acted alone - would have been to act outside the law. And as any government knows: the rule of law is a fundamental first principle of government; abandon that at your peril.
So the UK government worked with the Scottish government to agree a framework to ensure that we can have a legal, fair and decisive referendum in Scotland.
A framework that allows the decision on Scotland’s future to be taken by people in Scotland.
After many hours of discussions and deliberations on 15 October the Prime Minister, David Cameron and I signed an agreement with Alex Salmond, the First Minister for Scotland and the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to take the necessary legislative steps in both the UK Parliament and the Scottish Parliament to pave the way for the referendum.
That agreement is about the referendum process.
It is about making sure that the referendum is above legal challenge.
That it is held in a way that is fair - and seen to be fair by both sides of this passionate debate.
And that by sticking with the procedures set out in our agreement the referendum produces a decisive result that allows everyone in Scotland to feel a conclusion has been reached.
The Parliamentary process is underway to ensure that the Scottish Parliament has the legal power to introduce a Referendum Bill, and we expect that legislation to be introduced early in the New Year.
Reaching an agreement on the process was a big moment.
But now we are entering a new phase of this debate.
One where we move from process to substance.
What should Scots do?
Reaffirm their commitment to the most successful family of nations the world has known or leave it forever?
And that is where the long-story comes in.
For while the 2011 elections to the Scottish Parliament brought the independence question to the fore, the debate about Scotland’s place in the UK has been going for some time.
For Liberal Democrats like me, the debate is about greater ‘home rule’, as we style it - essentially the notion that decisions about how we lead our lives should be taken as close to the peopled affected as possible - a position that the Liberal Party first adopted back in Gladstone’s time.
For the modern Labour party, there have been supporters of devolution for most of the past century, and a firm commitment to it in the past quarter century.
And for Conservatives the support for devolution has been more recent still, but the latest tax-raising powers passed to the Scottish Parliament were part of a shared coalition commitment delivered by me and my colleagues earlier this year.
These parties disagree on a lot but, today, we are united in our support for a devolved and effective Scottish Parliament embedded in a strong secure United Kingdom.
But the outlook of the Scottish Nationalists is different.
Their very raison d’etre for the past 70 odd years of the SNP’s existence has been to create an independent Scotland.
This sets them apart and constitutes the fundamental fault line in the constitutional debate as it stands.
So it’s been a lively debate for some time. Or as we might say in Scotland, a good rammy.
The referendum is making all of us consider things from first principles, as we should.
Alex Salmond has said that for him, the key driver of his support for independence is not the economy, but Scotland’s sense of itself as a nation. That nations always do better when they are independent countries.
I do not share this view - and I don’t think that the majority of Scots share this view either.
The United Kingdom does not oppress Scots: on the contrary, it is a partnership of nations in which each has to contributed to the whole and benefited from it.
The United Kingdom does not stop us celebrating our sense of Scottish identity, be that about place, people or traditions: it embraces it, alongside traditions from other parts of the UK.
That is not to say that emotion plays no part in this debate. Of course it does.
My own story is a case in point - I am a proud Scot, but like many of my fellow countryman, mine is a family with a very British story.
My parents are from Northern Ireland and that is where I was born.
But I moved to Scotland early in life and my younger sisters were born and raised there.
My wife was born in England, but we now live happily in Scotland with our daughter who is being raised to be proud of her Scottish and British heritage.
I don’t want my daughter to have to choose. I don’t need a legal frontier to establish my identify, and nor does my daughter: we are Scottish and British and we are proud of it.
I have made - and will continue to make - the emotional case for my country’s place within the United Kingdom.
But we must consider evidence and reason alongside emotions.
Because Scots are already saying loudly and clearly that they want the decision they take to be fully informed, as it should be.
This is a debate about what is best for Scotland, now and in the future.
That is something with which I am wholly comfortable.
Because the facts are many and clear.
And the case for the United Kingdom is real and robust.
Why Scotland should remain in UK
Over the past 300 years Scots have achieved so much from within the UK family.
To illustrate this there is an embarrassment of riches spanning global commerce, scientific invention and military endeavour.
So let us illustrate Scots’ achievements here today by looking at one specific area of particular relevance.
Just a brief tour of the historical links between Scotland and the United States demonstrates the contribution that Scots have made to American life.
On a visit 15 years ago to New York’s Ellis Island, my eyes were first opened to this.
In the excellent museum there was a large map of the United States. Push a button and you could see where you could find descendants from your home country.
First I pushed the Irish button - hundreds of lights lit up across the map: with large concentrations in New York, Boston and Chicago.
Then I pushed the Scottish button, and the Irish were put in the shade.
Nearly 30 million American citizens - according to the 2010 US Community Census - can claim roots in Scotland, the vast majority making that journey since the creation of the UK.
From New York to Virginia to Tennessee, Scots came to America, shaped America, built America, so often with the Presbyterian ethic of self-reliance and hard work that still forms a core part of the American story today.
And if America is the land of rugged individualism, look at what individuals of Scots ancestry have achieved collectively over the years.
Nearly half of the signatories of the Declaration of Independence could claim Scottish ancestry: the role call of surnames bares testimony to that.
Moving forward, some of the greatest presidents, with the most impressive legacies have been from Scottish stock.
Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence.
Wilson and liberal internationalism.
Johnson and the Great Society.
And more recently, a leader of a different sort.
The late Neil Armstrong had his family origins in Langholm, a town in the Borders of Scotland.
And just 3 years after his moon mission, Armstrong visited Scotland to receive the freedom of the Burgh of Langholm.
This link between Scots and the United States is one that has continued.
The role of Scots past, present and future in the United States is recognised on 6th April every year in parades and events held right across the States to celebrate the Annual Tartan Day.
These international events help us to celebrate our national identity - and as a Scot that is something I am fiercely proud of.
I’m proud because when I come here to talk to you today, I know I can do so not just on the basis of what Scots have achieved in the past, but also what they are achieving in the here and now.
Today, as part of the UK, Scots are still doing great things in and with the United States.
This is particularly true of business.
Whilst I’m here in the States I will be visiting Scottish companies who have established a presence here, including Optos, originally based in Dunfermline.
Optos is a leading provider of devices and solutions to eye care professionals and demonstrates the strength of high-tec Scottish companies.
Their devices can produce high resolution digital images of approximately 82% of the retina, something no other device is capable of doing in any one image allowing significant steps forward in the diagnosis and management of eye disease. The majority of the 4,400 devices that Optos has worldwide have been installed in North America.
I have already visited this morning one of the many US companies with a base in Scotland.
Honeywell is a US owned technology and manufacturing company that has a strong footprint in Scotland. Honeywell’s Newhouse Campus in Scotland was established in the 1950s and employs up to 800 of the 7000 staff that Honeywell employs in the UK.
There are of course other, better known, trade links.
In the first half of 2012 Scotland exported £1.5 billion worth of goods to the USA.
Of these, our top export remains Scotch Whisky which accounted for about a third of all Scottish exports to the US in 2011.
Quality textiles too are a major and growing export market with Scottish cashmere top of the list and - if I may point out - heavily centred on my own Borders constituency.
But these very Scottish success stories are amplified by a very British support system.
Because it’s not just Scotland that has forged close trade links; it is all of the UK’s constituent parts that, together, are reaching new heights.
The UK and the US are one another’s single largest foreign investors: we have almost one trillion dollars invested in each other’s economies.
Just over one million people in the United States go to work each day for British companies based here in the States and likewise over a million people in the UK go to work for US companies based in Britain.
And we provide each other with vital export markets: the US is the largest single destination for UK exports and the UK attracts over 25% of all US investment in the EU.
And what sustains this?
Companies like Optos rely on the strong embassy networks that the United Kingdom has, with over 14,000 people in nearly 270 diplomatic offices, enabling real reach and influence around the world.
They benefit from the 150 offices that UK Trade and Investments have around the world, covering 98% of global GDP.
This kind of support system - this access to expertise - is open to Scotland because, in partnership, the UK family has had the size, strength and skill to build it.
Working with these UK networks Scottish companies like Optos, defence companies and those in the oil and gas industry are able to engage in markets around the world. In turn US companies have confidence investing in Scotland as part of the United Kingdom and as a member of the EU.
What would be lost if Scotland left UK?
But this debate it is not just about setting out and reflecting on the things we have achieved as Scots within the UK, important though that is.
We must also think about the ‘what if’s?’
There can be no doubt that leaving the United Kingdom would reduce Scotland’s horizons.
The United Kingdom is a partnership, it is not a single entity: it is made up of 4 parts all of which bring their diversity, traditions and skills together to create something bigger than the sum total of its parts.
I’ve set out some of strengths of Scotland’s international exports, but what we must also acknowledge is that around two-thirds of Scottish exports are to the rest of the United Kingdom.
Scotland’s 5 million citizens are currently part of an economy of 60 million people with no boundaries, borders or rules dividing them, but with a common currency and set of regulations.
This provides enormous opportunities for both business and individuals.
It is a powerful argument for all including American businesses based there, with access to all of the UK, be it the defence budget or the rest of the UK’s 60 million consumers.
There is a lot we gain and so there is a lot at stake for us - it would take some impressive arguments to persuade Scottish businesses to let go of the network of support that the UK provides around the world, including here. And vice versa I believe.
Leaving the United Kingdom would turn Scotland into a separate state from the rest of the United Kingdom.
That’s a fact.
And the impact on our domestic trade would be real.
The Act of Union removed the border between Scotland and England more than 300 years ago.
In doing so, it made possible a single domestic market in which the United Kingdom’s family of nations have traded fully and freely with one another, and shared influence and success across the globe.
Today that domestic market is as integrated and seamless as ever.
The UK has one set of domestic financial regulations, a single regulator, and a pensions and insurance sector that covers all of our nations.
Within our borders there are no discriminatory economic policies.
And together the United Kingdom remains, despite all the challenges and obstacles, the seventh largest economy in the world, and the third largest in Europe.
The UK’s membership of the EU has broken down trade barriers, lifted trade tariffs, and opened up new markets for my country and for every country that has joined it.
And as a large and influential member, the UK’s priorities - Scotland’s priorities - help shape the EU position when it comes to World Trade Organization (WTO) negotiations and bilateral trade deals around the world.
In this way, Scotland’s economic prospects, within the UK family, benefit from a triple guarantee.
An integrated domestic market.
An expanding European market, despite its own economic challenges.
And a liberalising global market where the pace will only quicken and key players will determine the direction.
This matters to people in Scotland, in precisely the same way as it matters to people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
We all want our businesses to prosper, our jobs market to strengthen, our family finances to grow.
Our integrated economies require the same conditions to make that happen.
And, by shared endeavour, our triple guarantee is the way to achieve it.
But that guarantee is not a single transferable good.
It is an inherent benefit to being part of the United Kingdom.
And leaving the United Kingdom would put all of it at risk - for Scotland certainly, but for the rest of the UK too.
Creating a separate state - no matter how well it gets on with its closes neighbour - creates new barriers either immediately or over time, and divides single domestic markets.
Sometimes that comes about through gradual economic divergence.
Sometimes through diverging regulator regimes.
And sometimes through the different political and economic decisions made by separate states.
It is wholly natural for individual countries to adopt different regulatory regimes, to establish different insurance frameworks, and to set different interest rates.
There are good domestic reasons to do this, but the plain fact is that these movements spell the end of integrated economies and the strength, resilience and ease of trade that comes with them.
Let’s take one recent example.
Following the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1992 a customs union was created between the new Czech Republic and Slovakia.
But despite the creation of this customs union - just 10 years after dissolution total Czech Republic exports to Slovakia had fallen from 22% to 8% and the 42% of Slovakian exports that went to the Czech Republic had fallen to 13%.
This was not a blip - these reduced levels remain even now.
Today, Scotland’s principle trading partners are the other nations of the United Kingdom; independence would erode the foundations on which that relationship is built.
It would also dilute Scotland’s influence in Europe.
Based on legal and academic opinion, the most likely outcome in the event of Scotland leaving the UK is that the remaining UK would continue as an EU member state.
By definition, the remaining UK would be a smaller entity, shedding influence, but it would remain a comparatively large, wealthy and powerful player.
Scotland, as a new state, would be required to seek membership, on negotiated terms, with the unanimous approval of every other EU member state.
That means a smaller state, negotiating for influence, from a position of weakness.
Setting aside the political challenge of persuading every government that Scotland, in principle, should join the club, agreeing new terms of membership would put Scotland’s economic interests - indeed Scotland’s broader interests - at risk.
How would Scotland negotiate in good faith yet stay out of the euro when the commitment to join is a legal requirement for all new member states, given explicitly by every new member since 2005, and the plainly stated intent of Iceland and Croatia as part of their ongoing application process?
How would Scotland opt out of Schengen membership when, again, every new member is required to join and, if we did join, how could we then avoid the need to establish a land border between Scotland and England?
And how would Scotland ensure not only good deals on agricultural funds, structural funds and fisheries quota - but how would it influence the future management of these plus the regulation of Scotland’s oil, gas and financial sectors, and the EU’s priorities on trade both at the WTO and elsewhere?
Those who want Scotland to leave the UK family tell us that all of this is possible.
But assertion is no substitute for fact.
If it is possible for a country of 5 million people to leave a country of 63 million, and seek membership of the EU on improved terms, maintaining them despite reduced clout in the European Council and reduced overall representation in the European Parliament, then we should be told how.
But to these questions, there have been no answers.
A Scotland that downsizes its influence on the European platform, also downsizes its influence on the world stage.
As of now, the United Kingdom sits at the top tables of the EU, the G20 - the G7, where the big economic decisions are taken.
And under the last government, the Prime Minister and Finance Minister who sat there were both Scots, and proud of it.
If Scotland, and all of the United Kingdom, are to retain tomorrow the influence we have today on the economic direction of the world, we must stay together.
I believe that Scots understand that too.
It is not the usual way for nation states to shed influence voluntarily over their own destiny or reduce their influence on the international front.
That would be the counter-intuitive impact for Scotland in leaving the United Kingdom.
But I do not believe that it is the road that Scotland will take.
When the Scottish people are asked to vote on their future, there are many issues on which they will reflect for which I believe that they will vote to remain part of the UK.
But the strength of our economy will be of vital importance to their thinking.
The strength of our domestic market.
Our influence within the EU.
Our role on the global stage.
Each of these is crucial to the kind of economy we want to shape and through which we can prosper.
As I said, they comprise the triple guarantee on the economic future for Scotland and our UK partners.
By standing together, the nations of the United Kingdom can exert greater influence and achieve more.
That is why I believe that Scots will vote positively to remain in the UK family.
But independence wouldn’t only have an impact on trade.
There would also be major implications for defence and foreign policy - for Scotland, the remaining UK, and our friends and allies.
The ‘Special Relationship’ between the US and the UK is often mentioned with pride on both sides - and this genuine, deep friendship is truly valuable. As President Obama said in September this year, the UK is the US’ closest ally.
Our shared history and priorities have seen the UK be the partner of choice for the US since World War 2 leading to unparalleled military cooperation in defence of our shared global interests.
Through the Cold War to the conflict in Afghanistan our countries and our armed forces have stood shoulder to shoulder.
As David Cameron said in July 2010, our mutual sacrifice in Afghanistan offers no clearer, more tangible illustration of Britain and America standing together with a shared national interest.
Together the UK and US have worked as close allies to take tough decisions and support people across the world through key organisations including the G8, the UN and (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) NATO.
As a key member of that military alliance the UK is one of the largest contributors, and reinforcing our close cooperation with the United States.
I saw this at first hand as a member of the UK’s delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly between 2007 and 2010.
In an uncertain world, we both take our global responsibilities seriously.
Using our influence and shared values to act in concert on a whole host of strategic global issues including, for example, our cooperation in the Middle East - on Syria, Libya and Iran - which is second to none.
For the UK, our commitment to internationalism, combined with our close alliance with the US enables the UK to make a significant influence on the world stage, that extends far beyond what might be expected given our geographic size.
The motives for our action vary - for either or both domestic and international security as in the case of Afghanistan, or for the prevention of violence and promotion of human rights as in the case of Kosovo.
This brings with it an enormous moral responsibility:
To do what is right by ourselves and the world.
Yes, mistakes are made, but for our democracies to play a central role in the twenty-first century world order is, in my view, both a duty and a privilege.
From my own point of view as a Scot, I believe that one United Kingdom can fulfil that role more fully and effectively by remaining as one country, working in concert.
There are some on my side of the constitutional argument who think of Scotland’s military role in terms of improved job prospects for Scottish personnel or who think primarily of the security gains for Scotland that come from being part of a large and militarily capable country.
Both of these arguments are right.
But for me there is a bigger picture.
If, as Scots, we believe not just in our own security but also in the promotion of peace, democracy and human rights for others, then Scotland’s role is maximised by our place in the UK.
The UK’s capacity strengthened by the personnel and geographical facilities that Scotland contributes to our overall defence capacity.
And the United States and the broader international community has a more coherent and capable partner than it would if our country separated into its constituent parts.
The same is true for other international organisations.
I have already touched on the value for Scotland of being part of a big EU member state that holds real influence on the range of policy issues.
Just last week, for example, I visited Brussels where, as a UK cabinet minister, I was able to make the case for the oil and gas industry - one of Scotland’s biggest industries right at the heart of Europe.
Our position within the EU combined with our special relationship with the US puts us in a unique position to help support and strengthen links between the US and the EU - to provide, as has been said before, a bridge between America and Europe, that serves all parties well.
We are currently supporting the EU-US High Level Working Group process, looking at all options to more fully integrate EU-US trade, including the establishment of a comprehensive free trade agreement.
This will benefit all within the EU and the US - including Scotland - but a downsizing UK within an ever-expanding EU would find that productive position harder to maintain.
Now is not the time to divide among ourselves and fall short of our greater potential.
In a turbulent but inter-connected world, now is the time to stand tall, stand together, and play a role of which we can be proud.
Trade, defence and security, foreign affairs: the arguments that those of us who support Scotland remaining part of the United Kingdom can make - and do make - are many and varied.
And we are winning the argument.
Recent opinion polls show that support for independence continues to hover at around one in three; sometimes a little higher, sometimes a little lower - but always in line with historical trends.
Amongst businesses the views are even clearer, a survey published just last week shows that almost three-quarters of all corporate decision makers in Scotland believe that independence would be bad for Scotland’s economy.
But those of us who support a strong Scotland within the UK are not complacent.
We will keep making the case and setting out the facts on behalf of our parties, our government and people in Scotland.
This is a debate that we are determined to win, to settle once and for all Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom.
It is not just an issue for government, Better Together, a cross-party campaign has been established in Scotland under the leadership of former Labour Chancellor Alistair Darling.
The campaign allows those from all parties and none to come together to make the case.
Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom is an argument of both the heart and the head. I’ve set out my perspective on both sides of this debate here for you today.
And I leave you with a question.
What is to be gained from breaking up our partnership and bailing out after 300 years?
What needs could be better served by the reduction of the United Kingdom?
To these questions, I am yet to hear any adequate answers.
We Scots have achieved so much within the United Kingdom - not in spite of it - but because of it. And there is so much more that we can continue to achieve together.
“We can seize this future together, because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions.”
Those were the concluding words of President Obama’s acceptance speech after the US elections last month. I hope you don’t mind me borrowing them..
They define what the United States of America is - but they could just as easily define the United Kingdom family in the context of the independence debate.
It is our United Kingdom - and I am confident that when Scots have their say in referendum in 2014 they will seize a future together.