The foreign, defence and security policies that an independent Scotland would pursue is a subject of interest not just to those who, like many students in Scotland, will vote in next year’s referendum, but to our neighbours and friends around the world.
Scotland is recognised as a country with a strong and enduring commitment to democracy, the rule of law and fundamental human rights. Under devolution our involvement in international development and climate justice has demonstrated the kind of ambitions the Scottish Parliament has and the role many of us see Scotland playing in the world, yet with independence our roles and responsibilities would reach much further than they do now.
For many people in Scotland, myself included, the decisions taken by the UK on defence and security are one of the reasons we favour independence. It’s a decade since hundreds of thousands of Scots marched against the war in Iraq. A war that the UK entered without the intelligence to back up its claims of weapons of mass destruction.
Scots clearly opposed entry into the Iraq war but without the powers to make our own decisions we were left looking on as the UK Government acted in our name. One option under independence would be to enshrine in a written constitution the grounds on which Scotland’s defence forces could enter overseas action.
Similarly whilst the UK prioritises spending on nuclear weapons with independence Scotland would secure the powers to remove from our nation both the financial cost - estimated to the Scottish taxpayer at around £163 million each year – and the moral burden of Trident nuclear weapons.
Scotland could realise the opportunities that cancelling Trident would bring, by developing Faslane into a conventional naval base and by investing in the conventional defence forces, public services, jobs and infrastructure projects that a progressive and socially just Scotland would need.
As with any independent state, Scotland would need to secure our borders, land, air space and sea, deter attacks and protect our citizens and assets. We will protect our wider national interests and economic well-being, alongside promoting the key values and underlying principles that support Scottish society and our way of life.
We would maintain strong links with the rest of the UK, with Ireland and our closest neighbours, reflecting our cultural history and family ties, our shared interests in trade and security.
An independent Scotland would make defence and security decisions in line with the values and interests of its people, and would take its international defence and security responsibilities seriously, working together with allies and partners through bilateral relations and key international institutions.
Our international engagement could be an opportunity to increase respect and understanding in relation to human rights worldwide, and to advocate socially just foreign, defence and security policies.
Work on defence and security in an independent Scotland is being taken to develop responses and a model for defence and security functions that would meet the needs of Scotland in the 21st century.
The Scottish Government will publish a series of papers, covering the main arguments for independence, leading to the publication of a White Paper this autumn that will set out the Government’s proposals for an independent Scotland.