Baroness Patricia Scotland,
Baroness Patricia Scotland,

The 10th of 12 children born in Dominica in the Caribbean in 1955 to a mother from Dominica and a father from Antigua, Baroness Scotland has been a ground breaker throughout her life.

Baroness Patricia Scotland,
Baroness Patricia Scotland,

In 1991 she became the first black woman to be appointed Queen’s Counsel (QC) and the only woman to have been Attorney General in the UK since the post was created over 700 years ago in 1315, when she was appointed by Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2007.

Speaking about her firsts at a ceremony to mark her assumption of office, Baroness Scotland said: “I have always been rather sad that I am the first.

“More than that, I certainly don’t want the first to also be the last.

“So, I am looking forward to where the next generation of female leaders will come from, and the next and the next after that.”

She added: “And I will be so happy when someone tells me I’m the second or the 202nd woman to be appointed to a post so many women have qualified for.”

Presenting her agenda for her four-year tenure, Baroness Scotland had four themes: tackling violence against women and girls; the threat of climate change; trade and good governance; and young people.

She said dealing with violence against women and girls had always been a priority for her, noting that one in three women in the world was affected.

“Violence and abuse robs children of the ability to develop and grow into their full potential and so it is literally stealing our futures,” Baroness Scotland said.

“Across the Commonwealth people have told me that if we continue to allow women to be abused and disregarded then that has a huge impact on the social and economic health and wellbeing of our world.

“If there is not peace in the home, there will not be peace in our world.”

On climate change, Baroness Scotland said that coming from a small island “this is something I understand all too well”.

She added: “And so for many of the small island states this is not about the future, we are living with the reality of climate change now and have been for decades.”

Baroness Scotland pointed out that people had been working together to make a change.

“Put simply, we would not have the global climate change agreement without the work started by the Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean and Pacific, forward to the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to success in Paris in November,” she said.

Touching on her third agenda theme, Baroness Scotland said: “One of the big issues that we have all identified today – not least in the UN Sustainable Development Goals – is how we together address corruption, champion good governance, human rights and the rule of law in line with the Commonwealth Charter.

“We are fortunate in the Commonwealth that we share the common law and we can create a best practice toolkit to deal with corruption and other legal challenges.”

On the issue of young people, Baroness Scotland said that of the Commonwealth’s population of two billion in 53 countries in all regions of the world, 60 per cent were under the age of 30.

She said they were the Commonwealth’s “greatest asset, because our true common wealth is who we are and who we want to become”.

Baroness Scotland added: “So many young people have shared with me their vision for a future that is bright and hopeful and we need to make sure they have the health, the security and safety, the support in social and cultural skills and education to make those dreams a reality so they are not tempted by the destructive agenda of the extremists.”

She said she would like to see the Commonwealth become “a beacon of knowledge and understanding in the world [so that] if we are really to meet the aspirations and hopes of all the people we serve then we need to get our own house in order”.

Baroness Scotland said she wanted to start a “conversation” with Commonwealth member states and citizens “about how we own the values we all share as a family of nations and peoples – a real commonwealth”.

She said she was a “classic child of the Commonwealth”.

Born in the Caribbean, she moved to the UK when she was two.

“I have had a fascinating journey from being born in a small village in St Joseph, Dominica, growing up in Walthamstow in the East End of London and then to the House of Lords and now to Marlborough House for the Commonwealth,” Baroness Scotland said.

However, her selection at the Commonwealth Heads of State and Government Meeting in Malta in November last year was not a straightforward affair,

CARICOM, the Commonwealth Caribbean grouping of nations, whose turn it was to hold the Secretary General’s position, had three candidates vying for the position, including Baroness Scotland and Sir Ron Sanders of Antigua and Barbuda.

Some Caribbean leaders such as Antigua and Barbuda’s Prime Minister, Gaston Browne, wanted Dominica to drop Baroness Scotland.

Mr Browne argued: “Baroness Scotland is actually an active member of the British Privy Council and therefore is not a Caribbean candidate.”

Nevertheless Baroness Scotland won the day in Valetta and on Monday it was all sweetness and light at the ceremony to welcome her – the occasion made sweeter by the spectacular triumph of the West Indies cricket team over England in the World T20 competition in India the day before.

Baroness Scotland succeeds Kamalesh Sharma from India who served two four-year terms.

She thanked Mr. Sharma “for a lifetime of dedication to public service”.

Source: GNA

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