WITH the saga of the so-called “Salmond Inquiry” becoming really tedious – and providing fertile resource for Unionists and nay-sayers – the piece by Gerry Hassan, Scotland... in the world (Sunday National 14 March) was refreshing. His article provided a retrospective of comment and writing by David Pratt, Stephen Gethins, and Azeem Ibrahim on Scotland and the challenge of rejoining the international stage. This is a topic that should encourage really rich debate around foreign affairs, security policy, defence; around how an independent Scotland will project itself to the world.

In his analysis, Hassan observes that after the May election – and aiming beyond the new referendum which will follow – there needs to be longer-term discussion about the wider international environment and the choices Scotland will face.

Presumably though, the excellent publication ‘Scotland’s future’ (2013) which provided our guide to an independent Scotland during the run-up to the 2014 Referendum is as relevant in the debate now in 2021 as it was back then in 2014. In it, Chapters 6 and 7 on international relations, defence, justice, security, and home affairs, offer ample resource for fruitful debate.

READ MORE: Gerry Hassan: The challenge for independent Scotland to rejoin the world stage

In its preparations to becoming a state, and setting out its own foreign affairs, Scotland will have to establish new relations with rUK and Ireland, and, if we agree in coming years that we should be in the EU, a start will have to be made to that membership process. Subsequently, the Europeanisation of our foreign affairs would be set in motion. As post-neutral and Europeanised Sweden puts it, “the EU is our most important foreign and security policy arena”.

Regionally, as an independent state in north-western Europe, we ought to establish cooperation at every available level with the Nordic Council and the Nordic Council of Ministers. These bodies already have forms of cooperation with the Baltic States and with the German state of Schleswig-Holstein.

Additionally, we should apply for observer status in the Arctic Council joining 13 other near-Arctic states with that status. Otherwise, as a small- to medium-sized state, the UN will be Scotland’s principal forum for international relations, and in that wider world, relations will doubtless be fostered with Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Are there areas in which Scotland could make a valuable and distinctive contribution, Hassan asks. How about in aid and its allocation? The example of Sweden again may offer a template.

For many years SIDA (the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency) had focused its aid on projects in so-called programme countries, almost like “adopted” countries.

Over many years, this system aided Gambia and the Cape Verde Islands for example, among others. Deeper Scottish aid could be directed to Malawi where programmes and projects have been in place for some years in the education, health, and renewable energy fields.

When it comes to security, our strategic choices are limited somewhat by geography and what Hassan describes as our “pivotal geopolitical” position.

Basically, our geographical position requires us to do “something”, and that “something” has to be membership of Nato, just as Iceland, Norway, and Denmark (Greenland) each are.

Scotland also has to think about military capacity, and in that regard, Hassan observes that Scotland will have to invest in the expertise, research, resources, and skills, that foreign affairs, security, and defence requires in the modern world.

In Sweden, with base closures, reductions in all branches of the Armed Forces, fewer military personnel, and the scrapping of conscription, the country’s Supreme Commander made the headlines in 2013 when he said that Sweden would only be able to defend itself for a week.

Sweden in 2021 is now reorganising its military and civil defence infrastructure, increasing defence spending to an annual 89 billion kronor – about £7.5 billion, and, as Scotland is half the size of Sweden, we might expect a Scottish budgetary allocation to defence of at least £3.75 billion annually.

The debate about Scotland’s future foreign, security, and defence policies has every prospect of being an interesting and stimulating one, offering inventive solutions. It will be interesting to see how it develops.

Graeme D Eddie
(Author of Swedish foreign policy, 1809-2019: A comprehensive modern history, New York, Peter Lang, 2020.)