Alex Salmond has taken his first venture into foreign policy, an area not included in the devolution settlement and which has traditionally been the sole reserve of the British Foreign Office, with a plea for representation at the next round of nuclear non-proliferation talks.
In a bold move, the First Minster has written to representatives of state parties of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty expressing his desire for Scotland to be granted observer status. If this request is granted it would mean that Scotland would be represented separately, rather than as part of the UK, as is currently the case.
The list of 189 countries, whose consulates or embassies Mr Salmond wrote to, includes states such as Iran and Zimbabwe. UK ministers are said to be outraged at the actions of the First Minister, which undermines British foreign policy.
Similar criticism came from Holyrood as Nicol Stephen, the Liberal Democrat leader, accused Scottish ministers of “grandstanding on a subject outside their responsibility," rather than concentrating on pressing matters which actually concern them.
The NPT is an international treaty which aims at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons. The treaty has five signatories, including Britain, which are acknowledged to have nuclear weapons.
The SNP believe that Scotland deserves direct representation at the talks because it is in Scotland that Britain’s nuclear defences are located.
Earlier this year, the Scottish Parliament voted 71 to 16, with 39 abstentions, against the £20 billion replacement of Trident. Such sentiment contrasts poignantly with that of Westminster and gives the Scottish Executive a strong cause to seek a direct voice for Scotland on the issue.
Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister said that the Scottish Executive was "opposed to the replacement of the Trident system and the deployment of weapons of mass destruction on Scottish soil."
The First Minister sent the letters prior to the nuclear summit which the Executive held in Glasgow last week.
The conference on Scotland’s Future Without Nuclear Weapons was part of the National Conversation launched by Mr Salmond back in August.
Bruce Crawford, Minister for Parliamentary Business explained that the summit has resulted in an agreement to establish “a small working group” which, among other things, would explore the possibility of achieving NPT observer status at its next meeting in 2010.
UN officials are rumoured to have indicated that they would be sympathetic to an application by Scotland. Whether or not this will be granted is uncertain, if it is, however, it will set a significant precedent for the future role of Scotland’s government.