THE SNP’s foreign affairs team has visited Nato’s Brussels headquarters to hear briefings on Ukraine, Afghanistan, disinformation and more.

Alyn Smith, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Stewart McDonald, defence spokesperson, Carol Monaghan, spokesperson for military personnel and veterans, and Defence Committee member Dave Doogan all travelled to the Belgian capital for the visit.

During the trip the delegation had meetings at the Nato HQ, visited the Scottish Government’s Brussels hub, and met with the UK Mission to the EU as well as the European Policy Centre think tank.

McDonald described the visit as “productive”, while Smith said it had been “great” to be back in the city where he formerly represented Scotland as an SNP MEP.

McDonald told The National said all the issues discussed at the meetings were of importance to Scotland.

"As Europe’s security debate evolves at pace in the shadow of intensified Russian aggression in Ukraine, it is vital that we as parliamentarians obtain a deeper understanding of how the security picture is changing – not least in our own northern-European neighbourhood where it looks likely Sweden and Finland will soon formally apply for Nato membership," he said.

The MP added that Nato and EU membership represent the "twin pillars" of security in Europe, but Scotland has access to just one of those institutions while part of the UK.

"We will ensure that voices from Scotland are part of Europe’s evolving defence and security debate, which is crucial not just for the next independence referendum, but in discharging our responsibilities as a party of government in Scotland and opposition at Westminster," he added.

While the SNP long opposed membership of Nato in an independent Scotland, this position was changed following a vote at the 2012 party conference. The move sparked the resignation of MSPs John Finnie and Jean Urquhart at the time.

Ten years on the issue continues to be a divisive one in the party, with the Nato debate brought back to the forefront by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

READ MORE: Why is Russia invading Ukraine, what is Nato and which countries are members?

In Ukraine on Saturday, officials said that Russian forces have attacked a steel plant in the shattered Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.

It is an apparent bid to eliminate the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance in the strategic city the Kremlin claims its military has otherwise seized.

The assault was reported by an adviser to Ukraine’s presidential office as an estimated 1000 civilians sheltered in the Azovstal plant alongside the remaining Ukrainian fighters, while Russian forces pressed their offensive elsewhere in the eastern Donbas region amid fierce Ukrainian counterattacks.

The presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovich, said during a briefing that Russian forces had resumed air strikes on the massive seaside plant and were trying to storm it, which would represent a reversal from an order Russian President Vladimir Putin gave two days earlier.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin on Thursday that the whole of Mariupol, with the exception of Azovstal, had been “liberated” by the Russians.

At the time, Putin ordered him not to send Russian troops into the plant but instead to block off the facility, an apparent attempt to starve out the Ukrainians and force them to surrender.

Ukrainian officials have estimated that about 2000 of their troops are inside the plant along with the civilians sheltering in the facility’s underground tunnels. Arestovic said the Ukrainian forces were trying to counter the new attacks.