Scott Macnab: Scotland’s small size need not dictate its global stature
An independent Scotland might prove size is no inhibitor to wielding influence on the global stage, writes Scott Macnab
What kind of role would an independent Scotland play on the world stage? Most voices in the referendum debate accept that the country would survive on its own, richer or poorer. But the identity it would forge in the brotherhood of nations remains a blank canvass.
Small countries face an innate disadvantage against the power and influence of their larger neighbours. A weaker even nonexistent military, and fewer resources like foreign embassies, can often undermine the autonomy of a smaller nation and leave them heavily dependent on bigger countries.
But there is an alternative view emerging. Dr Juliet Kaarbo, an international relations expert told the recent Scotsman conference this would see smaller countries “punching above their weight” and using their size to their advantage.
The drive to stimulate growth in Scotland lies at the heart of Alex Salmond’s vision for independence. The success of countries like Norway, with its oil and fishing riches, or Swiss’ banking success could be examples for Scotland to follow, but both have been achieved outside the EU.
The economic dynamism needed to shape policy best suited to Scotland’s needs will be critical. But are the increasingly restrictive fiscal confines of the EU the place for this? Even the SNP’s priority to slash corporation tax and attract big multi-nationals looks a non-starter as rates are harmonised across member states.
Jim Sillars, the former SNP deputy leader, backs a future outside the EU – but inside the European Free Trade Agreement (EFTA). Has this approach been overlooked so far – all the export and trade benefits, without the regulatory drawbacks?
And as the debate over Trident and its replacement intensifies, it remains inescapable that Faslane does have a critical strategic importance in the Nato alliance. It also gives this small country on the northern periphery of Europe, the support and clout of a major neighbouring ally, the UK, which would be reliant on co-operation.
As real politik takes hold, post-independence, the nuclear base could be a useful negotiating tool for a future Scottish Government – which of course may not necessarily be the SNP.
But perhaps the most influential role Scotland could have is in its “soft power” plays, seeking to change international thinking in key areas of progressive policy. Alex Salmond has heralded the renewables revolution as an area where Scotland could lead the way.
Engineering experts and others may have their doubts. But if the landmark target of generating all the country’s electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020 is met, it is likely to be an achievement that would make the world sit up and take notice.
What better way then for the newly emergent nation to forge its place on the world stage as a pioneer in the energy revolution of the future.
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