Building a New Scotland: An independent Scotland's Place in the World

This paper sets out the Scottish Government's proposals for an independent Scotland's place in the world.


In this, the eleventh publication in the ‘Building a New Scotland’ series, the Scottish Government outlines its proposals for what independence could mean for Scotland’s place in the world. How would Scotland conduct itself on the international stage? How could we contribute positively to peace and security as a responsible global citizen? How could we play a full part in a range of international organisations?

New independent states joining the international community of nations is neither unprecedented nor unusual – it is a well-trodden path taken by many countries over the last 75 years. When the United Nations (UN) was established in 1945, it had 51 members; today it has 193.[1]

Scotland becoming independent will mean that we would be able to represent ourselves on the international stage in our own right. We would be able to deepen the partnerships we already have, work hard to develop new ones and, through all the work we do, fully reflect the values we seek to promote.

In contrast, the UK Government’s approach to many foreign policy issues in recent years has been seen by some as a retreat from positive, values-based engagement.[2] The way the European Union (EU) referendum and its aftermath were handled and Brexit has been implemented has been detrimental to the people of Scotland.[3] The UK Government’s Global Britain agenda has also been seen to have had adverse effects on some of the most vulnerable in the world, as demonstrated by the cuts to vital international development assistance and the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers.[4]

Scotland being taken out of the EU against its democratic wishes is having a harmful impact economically and socially.[5] Independence is the only realistic way for Scotland to regain EU membership. A return to the EU as a sovereign state would allow us to re-join the world’s largest single market, one around seven times bigger than the UK.[6] The full prospectus for our EU membership, including an independent Scotland’s contribution to EU foreign policy, is covered in ‘Building a New Scotland: an independent Scotland in the EU.’[7]

More generally an independent Scotland would seek to be an open, engaged and positive international partner.

The first section considers how an independent Scotland could contribute positively to regional and global peace and ensure the nation’s safety and security. It considers how membership of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the EU could strengthen partnership working in these areas. It also sets out this Scottish Government’s position on the nuclear weapons currently based in Scotland.

The next section illustrates how an independent Scotland would ensure the country would be properly defended by a modern, effective and flexible defence and security capability.

Comparisons with similar-sized countries are given as an indication of the potential scale of our future armed forces. This section also covers Scottish serving personnel and veterans, and discusses support for and transition into an independent Scotland’s new armed forces.

The paper goes on to cover an independent Scotland as a ‘good global citizen’. It describes Scotland’s existing approach to international aid and tackling climate change and it explores how independence could allow us to do much more. It sets out how Scotland would honour its existing international commitments on human rights and protections. Building on the proposals set out in ‘Building a New Scotland: Migration to Scotland after independence,’[8] it explores how, with full powers, an independent Scotland could design a fairer and more streamlined asylum and refugee system, one which treats people with dignity and respect.

The next section sets out how an independent Scotland would be strengthened by the opportunities of open global trade arrangements within the EU’s umbrella trade policy. An independent Scotland – open, outward-looking and engaged – would seek to emulate the success of comparable independent countries, helping to create a better country for our own citizens and making a positive contribution to addressing global challenges.

The final section describes the strong relationships Scotland already has in these islands, across Europe and internationally. Independence would allow these partnerships to flourish. While Scotland already has many of the key institutions and structures needed to be a successful independent country, becoming independent will mean the development of other state infrastructure. This will include building a diplomatic network which can ensure that Scottish citizens and businesses travelling, working and trading internationally are properly represented.



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