By SIU's Chief Executive Pamela Nash and SIU Director Alastair Cameron
Protecting Scotland’s global influence
In Scotland, we are rightly proud of our heritage. Our ancestors were world-leading inventors, innovators and global leaders – putting Scotland on the map.
Not only have we punched above our weight for centuries, but when we travel the world we are greeted with big smiles wherever we announce that we are from Scotland.
Our produce, from whisky and salmon to shortbread and haggis, are renowned across the globe; our entrepreneurship and digital talent helps advance modern technology; and our universities here at home continue to attract the best international talent.
This established and continuing global success has not been achieved despite being part of the UK; it has been driven by us being part of the UK.
As proud Scots, maintaining our position and influence in the world is key. And it’s clear from opinion polls there is little appetite to diminish our global standing.
Yes, small countries contribute and achieve – and nobody is suggesting that a separate Scotland wouldn’t be able to do so. But as part of the UK, we not only contribute and achieve... we lead.
Internationalism, not nationalism
Our UK membership of international bodies NATO and the G7, and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, allows us to take decisive action and encourage other countries to do the same – on everything from defence, to global poverty, to the climate emergency.
That influence is just not possible for small countries with smaller economies and capabilities.
We can almost hear nationalists screaming, “we are not too wee, too poor,”. Of course we are not “too wee and too poor” – that’s a phrase only the SNP uses. It is the nationalists who lack ambition for our nation, and want us to turn inwards – undoing centuries of achievement.
Those with genuine ambition for Scotland want us to look outwards and be a main player on the global stage. That is best achieved as part of the UK – through internationalism, not petty nationalism.
Our seat at the top table
A new poll we commissioned from Survation reveals that 82% of people in Scotland believe membership of NATO is important to the UK.
Yes, a new, separate Scotland could be a member of NATO, applying to join as Finland is currently considering. That is the SNP’s position, even if the party is split on it – and it’s not the position of their government partners, the Greens.
But by being a country that is not only much smaller in terms of our economy, military and contribution to NATO, while actively removing our nuclear deterrent, it is hard to see why we would be a voice to be listened to by our international colleagues.
With so much upheaval and uncertainty in the world, Washington – and other capital cities in the world, NATO members would be likely to take a dim view of a country that seeks to join a nuclear alliance while demanding that the alliance’s key nuclear deterrent is moved a few hundred miles away, yet still insisting on its protection.
NATO’s own website states: ‘NATO is committed to arms control, disarmament and non-proliferation, but as long as nuclear weapons exist, it will remain a nuclear alliance.’ As These Islands’ Kevin Hague put it recently: you can be a non-nuclear member of NATO, but not an anti-nuclear member.
Our survey showed a clear majority of Scots - 58% - are in favour of the UK keeping the nuclear deterrent, almost three times as many as those who said that we should not keep it (20%).
This doesn’t mean that many in Scotland don’t want to work towards a world free of nuclear weapons.
But there is a clear recognition that while there is a threat to us from a nuclear power, then it is important that we have the capability to deter those weapons from ever being used.
Britain’s standing on the world stage
Scotland’s military regiments are some of the most recognised and respected in the world. As part of the UK Armed Forces, we have played our role in both conflict and peacetime.
If Scotland were to leave the UK, Britain’s standing on the world stage would be hugely diminished, for practical and psychological reasons.
Other countries would look askance at a nation which appeared to be breaking apart. In practical terms, it would be harder to defend the UK if the creation of a new foreign country to our immediate north meant that we had to find alternative bases for the submarines currently at Faslane and the fighter jets and maritime patrol aircraft which launch from Lossiemouth to counter Russian probing of our air defences.
Scotland leaving the UK would also weaken NATO’s ability to deter Russia in the North Atlantic and high north. The ‘Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap’ has been of strategic importance since the Cold War, as it is the area through which ships and submarines of the main Russian fleet need to transit to get to wider oceans. Scotland, as part of the UK, provides a bulwark for NATO in this area.
Having one of the alliance’s nuclear powers shaken in this way, and in practice losing a strategic base which has recently hosted other NATO nuclear-armed submarines, could even make NATO’s nuclear umbrella seem a bit less robust.
Scotland leaving the UK would diminish Britain’s heft in the world; challenge the UK’s standing internationally; and disrupt NATO and other international bodies.
Rebuilding a fairer global economy
As if we have not suffered enough in recent years, we are alarmingly heading into a cost-of-living crisis that has been heavily influenced by international events.
The UK holding a seat at the table of the G7 (the world’s leading democratic economies) is clearly valued by Scots, as 79% of us say that this membership is important to the UK.
We have led the way in the G7, securing agreements that have provided lifesaving medication to millions living with HIV, cancelling the debt of the poorest countries, and reducing the emissions produced by member countries contributing to climate change.
The same goes for our permanent seat on the UN Security Council – one of only five countries given this responsibility. Again, 79% of people in Scotland view this seat as being important to the UK.
Looking ahead, the G7 and the UN Security Council, with us as members as part of the UK, will be crucial in dealing with the fallout of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, recovering from the Covid pandemic and ensuring vaccines reach the world’s poorest countries, and rebuilding a fairer global economy.
Scottish people would instantly lose our representation at the G7 if we left the UK. We wouldn’t even be close to being in the G20, with an economy less than half the size of the smallest economy there. We deserve to continue to be at the top table for the world’s big decisions.
Good global citizens
The people of Scotland have been active global citizens for centuries. We travel widely, meet people from different cultures, and enjoy what the world has to offer.
We also suffer from the problems that know no borders such as climate change, and we must continue to participate in finding global solutions. The internet and relative ease of travel have interconnected the world in a way that is increasing all the time.
SNP politicians are frequently trying to put themselves on the global stage. But they remain driven by an insular ideology that would put an extra border between us and the world.
They are ready to walk away from the power for good and influence we have at the G7 and the UN, and to diminish our standing in NATO, which has been key to our peace and safety for decades.
Their nationalism is tired and dated.
Scottish people want to continue to participate fully in the world; to make the most effective contributions to global institutions, and to retain the benefits of this membership.
Remaining part of the UK is the best way to protect and enhance Scotland’s global influence, and to support our friends and allies across the globe.
Read our latest polling here.