Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh at the #CoppietersAwards

"Europe is a positive vision of our collective future," says Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh at the #CoppietersAwards

News / 20.2.17

Last 14 December 2016, Centre Maurits Coppieters foundation recognised Alex Salmond, Scottish National Party (SNP) International Affairs Spokesperson, at an award ceremony in Brussels for his service to Scotland and Europe with the first ever Coppieters award to honour individuals and organisations that stand out in defence of diversity, rights of minorities, self-determination, peace, and democracy in united Europe.

The Coppieters award ceremony featured, speakers from across Europe, including Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, Member of Parliament for the Scottish National Party. You can read her full speech below.

Tasmina from Centre Maurits Coppieters on Vimeo.

“On behalf of our party and my colleagues, I’d like to start by thanking Eric, Daniel and Marta for their comments so far, and for the Centre Maurits Coppieters for their kind invitation to attend this event today in support of my friend, colleague and mentor, the Former First Minister of Scotland, the Rt. Hon Alex Salmond MP.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I should begin by saying that twenty years ago I’d have viewed the possibility of standing here today at the heart of the European project ready to eulogise about Alex’s political vision and achievements as a highly unlikely prospect indeed.

But my experience, over the past two decades, has been that the inclusive and supportive manner in which Alex has dealt with me is reflective of his positive and enabling approach to politics. He is fiercely loyal to colleagues, our party and above all, our country.

Although I’m the SNP’s National Women’s and Equalities Convener, I’m currently only the second biggest feminist in our group here today. Alex is, of course, the first.

Politics is about people. And Alex Salmond has kept this personal approach at the centre of his politics for the past thirty years (or more). In fact, many have said that, if he had been able to personally meet all of those entitled to vote, then the Yes movement would have won.

He has, in my view, a lot to be proud of, not only in terms of the impact of his leadership on the internal politics of Scotland, but also on how he has led the way in establishing modern Scottish nationalism, and the Scottish National Party in particular, as a civic, outward-looking, internationalist movement.

He has played the leading role in selling the concept of Scottish Independence as a means for Scotland, and everyone who chooses to live there, to join the community of nations, not to withdraw from it. And for that, he has my thanks, the thanks of his party and those of the people of Scotland.

I recall the launch of the Yes Campaign in 2012, when Alex assembled an inclusive, diverse team representing all strands of Scotland’s tartan to support Scottish Independence. Under his direction, we built an unparalleled, positive campaign which almost doubled support for Scottish Independence in two years, setting the groundwork for the campaign to keep Scotland in the EU four years later.

Alex Salmond’s political career has been characterised by success. In the first election under Alex Salmond’s leadership in 1992, the SNP won three seats in the UK Parliament out of the 72 Scottish seats contested and gained 21 percent of the vote. In his last election as SNP Leader, the Scottish Parliament elections of 2011, the party formed their second Scottish Government after winning a majority of seats – 69 out of the 129 contested – on over 44 percent of the vote.

While we have not yet achieved our ultimate political aim, of an Independent Scotland taking its seat alongside the other great countries of Europe, it’s also true that today support for Scottish Independence is at a record high level. As he says in his famous book of the last 100 days of that campaign – The dream will never die.

What remains remarkable is that Alex Salmond’s legacy of a positive, inclusive vision of civic Scottish nationalism has meant that as well as providing a platform for the party to elect the first Muslim parliamentarian to the Scottish Parliament, and my own election last year as Scotland’s first female Muslim MP, he paved the way for the SNP to provide the strong, progressive leadership required to deliver a majority in favour of our continued membership of the European Union in the referendum held last June. Now, more than ever, we need to see European leaders celebrate the positive story that Europe has to tell, and the part that other new nations can play in this future.

I remember that before he became Scotland’s First Minster, Alex gave a speech in which he quoted the poet Hugh MacDiarmid in talking of a “multiform”, “infinite Scotland”. He went on to say: “Scotland is not small. It is not small in imagination and it is not short in ambition. It is infinite in diversity and alive with possibility”. I absolutely agree. Just as Europe is more than its combined total of treaties, directives and agreements. It is an idea, a positive vision of our collective future.

Alex Salmond’s vision of Scotland has paved the way for a positive, independent future for our country, working hand in hand with our partners and friends from across Europe.

I look forward to continuing to work with you all to build on the legacy that Alex Salmond has created. Thank you very much.”