It is deeply disappointing to see the Scottish Secretary of State, Michael Moore, use his trip to the US to talk Scotland down, when it could have been used to talk the merits of our nation up (your report, 10 December). Mr Moore comments that independence will reduce Scotland’s clout on the global stage.
This is intriguing, given the UK’s already diminished impact on that stage, with declining military forces and its being viewed in many parts, especially of the Muslim world, as an international pariah, given the illegal war in Iraq.
Much of this global impact is in part due to membership of the European Union, a membership which is to be tested by Mr Moore’s Con-Dem government through an inevitable referendum, with UK public reaction in favour of withdrawal.
Many smaller nations have used independence as an opportunity to act as a force for good in the world, and one only has to look to the example of Norway in the Middle East and Sri Lanka to see this in action.
An independent Scotland acting in such a way will clearly have a greater impact than the UK, whose international reputation is tarnished and which is trying to cling on to the vestiges of a global influence that has not existed for some time.
Defence is likely to be an important issue for an independent Scotland and while the recent decision to become a non-nuclear member of Nato goes a long way towards clarifying the position, I suggest that we might also benefit from looking further afield for ideas.
New Zealand is, of course, a non-nuclear country and though smaller than Scotland in population has not dissimilar geography, with a very long coastline. Their 2011 defence review, which was completed after wide-ranging public consultation to discover what New Zealanders actually want for their money, produced interesting results.
Their Unified Defence Force will comprise 8,758 regulars and 2,368 reserves, plus 2,669 civilian staff members, across the navy, army and air force.
These resources will provide not only conventional defence but also make a contribution in the case of civil emergencies such as the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 and the coal mine disaster in 2010 on South Island.
Interestingly, they currently have some 500 defence force personnel deployed on 16 UN missions and defence exercises across 12 countries, from Afghanistan, where they have an SAS operating, to the Solomon Islands and Sudan.
Perhaps Scotland can learn something from New Zealand, and not just on the rugby field.
East London Street