AS the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) celebrates its 75th anniversary this year it faces an existential moment in an ever-more complex world.

A lot can change over a relatively short period of human history. When the treaty establishing Nato was signed in Washington DC on April 4, 1949, the world had barely emerged from the bloody devastation of the Second World War and entered the Cold War era.

Across these islands, the NHS was barely a year old.

In Europe, the Marshall Plan which would help Europeans rebuild their destroyed cities was only coming into effect. King George VI presided over a British Empire that was beginning to break up, with decolonisation taking on a rapid speed over the coming decades. The Soviet Union dominated Eastern Europe alongside Communist regimes from Poland to Yugoslavia.

In my own party, the SNP, we had contested several elections by this point and had only succeeded in winning one by-election, with Robert McIntyre holding his seat for only three months before the 1945 General Election.

Today, the names may have changed but one thing remains true: the world is facing a deeply uncertain period of heightened instability. The EU remains one of the world’s greatest peace projects and has done a good job of bringing many of the former Warsaw Pact countries into its membership.

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Yet serious discussions are ongoing now in Brussels about Trump-proofing European security (and I include us in that) on a continent which is playing catch-up with defence spending.

For many, defence spending can be dirty words. Nobody wants to think of having to engage in wars or conflict. At all times, we should always try and pursue the peaceful option first. There is no point using a hammer to solve every problem when sometimes a lighter touch or calm words can help with de-escalation and find a resolution. Often it is what you don’t say rather than what you do that keeps open a space for dialogue.

If you do not have an adequate deterrence though, you simply invite threats to come closer to home. Being prepared for conflict does not imply that one is looking for it. In today’s uncertain world, we must be more prepared than ever and not just to conventional threats in a world of disinformation, drones, cyberattacks and more.

Defence implies wielding a range of tools appropriate to the situation. Given the first duty of any state is to protect its citizens, this means that (with very few exceptions) it requires well-resourced and well-equipped armed forces.

With the end of the Cold War, defence spending was slashed here and across the continent. Equipment was put into storage or rusted away. Personnel numbers fell. Today, we see the consequences of such naivete playing out.

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On the positive side, there is serious discussion and action now about how we in Europe can adequately defend ourselves.

That it took Putin’s attempted decapitation of the Ukrainian state in February 2022 is a damning indictment, but the question is no longer if but how Europe should defend itself.

My party believes that Nato is the cornerstone of those efforts, as do Finland and Sweden who have just acceded to the alliance, but we are also very mindful of developments in the European Union.

We are beginning to see more Nato countries reach the mark of spending 2% of GDP on defence. Most notably, Germany’s zeitenwende will see €100 billion spent on upgrading its own armed forces (Germany is also only behind the US in terms of military support for Ukraine, providing €17.7bn in military aid so far). And as indicated in December, Nato is increasing its own military budget by 12%.

There are also questions about what role Nato can or should play in the 21st century. I’d argue that for the sake of all our collective security it is vital for Scotland’s own. With an aggressive Russia, a hostile Iran and a Chinese state which looks to redraw the international system in its favour, I want us to be in as many structured alliances as possible.

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Scotland after all occupies a key role in the northern hemisphere, functioning as the gateway to the North Atlantic, the North Sea and the Arctic. Geopolitical competition in our neighbourhood is only going to heat up and we must ensure that we are in a position to defend it if necessary.

An independent Scotland would look to pull its own weight within Nato, contributing where it is needed and most effective – not where we imagine ourselves to be more powerful than we are, as the UK seems to think. We have a strong legacy of shipbuilding and our defence firms continue to provide valuable jobs and investment into our communities.

Whether it’s investment in drones, ships or our military medicine, an independent Scotland will take its responsibilities in Nato seriously and can also do it now to support Ukraine, as my friend Stewart McDonald MP recently suggested.

Nato still has a fundamental role in ensuring our own security as it enters its 75th year but it is not the only game in town and the UK risks being frozen out of EU developments by accident.

It is incumbent on European states to ensure that they pull their own weight within the alliance. When the time comes for Scotland to play its own part in defending our friends and allies, I am confident that we will be up to the task.