AN independent Scotland could “do better” than the “diminished” UK on the world stage at crucial summits like COP28, a Scottish Greens MSP has said.

On the Holyrood Weekly podcast, Mark Ruskell spoke about the “quiet confidence” of Nordic countries and smaller independent states who can have a seat at the table at large international conferences, like the United Nations climate change summit.

The MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife said that Nicola Sturgeon’s influence at COP26 in Glasgow on pushing the cause of funding for loss and damage showed the influence Scotland has, adding that the aspiration should be more than simply “leading the thinking”.

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Ruskell also pointed to the UK Government’s move away from crucial net-zero policies under Tory Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

COP28 is currently underway in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), one of the largest producers of oil in the world, and has not been without controversy.

Speaking on Holyrood Weekly, Ruskell pointed to countries such as Iceland and Ireland which have a seat at the table at COP28 and can take part in negotiations.

World leaders are working towards the goal set out in the Paris Agreement in 2015 to limit global warming to 1.5C, but the process is never a simple one, with the final text agreement frequently up in the air.

The National:

*You can listen to the latest episode of Holyrood Weekly at the bottom of this page*

“It's like they're sort of 10 feet tall when they get up on stage,” Ruskell said about smaller independent states at the summit.

“There's something there about being a representative of a small independent state that is going somewhere, that knows its place in the world, that is confident, and is able to articulate that, and it's inspiring to see.

“It's inspiring to see Iceland, with a country of less than 400,000 people.

“It's inspiring to see, you know, Irish government colleagues doing that internationally as well. “And so it's like a quiet confidence that these countries have, and I think we've kind of got that in Scotland, but we just don't have the opportunity to shine and that's what we really need.”

It comes as the UK Government has been pushing for further extraction of oil and gas in the North Sea, signing off on scores of licences for fossil fuel companies, when scientists have warned against any further exploration or production.

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And, Sunak was accused of having “blood on his hands” after rowing back on several key net zero policies earlier this year.

“It's really, it's quite sad to see the UK in that position because there are some areas where the UK as a state has led, but that's just being completely undermined by this Westminster Tory Government at the moment,” Ruskell told the podcast.

“And I think you've seen that now with former Tory ministers who are coming out just, you know, who've either resigned or are deeply critical of this Government because they just see Britain's kind of standing in the world that's been utterly diminished.

“So we can do better than that. Scotland, I think, I'm convinced.”

The National:

When COP26 was held in Glasgow, then-first minister Sturgeon committed £2 million to a fund for loss and damage, putting up another £5m ahead of COP27. Humza Yousaf has continued to champion the cause, with £2m given to projects across the globe this year to help vulnerable countries suffering the impacts of climate change, caused by richer nations.

Ruskell said that the influence Sturgeon had at the meeting in Glasgow, despite not having a proper seat at the negotiating table, showed the possibilities for an independent Scotland.

“It shows what can be done with a small kind of sub-state country, we're not an independent state,” he said.

“Imagine if we were at the table, properly at the table and actually able to move text into agreements and actually negotiate on text, rather than leading the thinking.

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“Leading thinking is great, it’s soft power, but we need a bit more than that and I think that's where the aspiration [should be].”

Ruskell also discusses issues around a just transition for oil and gas workers and what other key issues that will come up at the summit that will impact Scotland on this week’s episode.

Elsewhere, our journalists discuss the main stories coming out of FMQs, Alex Cole-Hamilton allegedly dialling in from the Parliament’s pub, and Rishi Sunak’s latest dystopian immigration plans.

You can listen to Season 2: Episode 12 of Holyrood Weekly below, on Spotify and the Omny streaming platform.