The writer is the first minister of Scotland.
When the United Nations was formed at the end of World War II, its membership comprised barely 50 independent countries. Today that number has grown to almost 200 — a sure sign that the right to democratic self-determination has been among the foremost prevailing factors in the world as we have moved into the 21st century.
And the voice of the United States has often been instrumental in that process.
As first minister of Scotland, I lead a country that once was independent and aspires to that status again. In autumn 2014, we will offer the people of Scotland the opportunity to vote to reclaim that independence.
As part of the debate in the run-up to that referendum, it is important that the facts are laid out as clearly as possible, and that is why The Post’s Oct. 31editorial [“If Europe crumbles; An independent Scotland would be bad for the West”] was so disappointing.
To begin with, the assertion that an independent Scotland would “withdraw from NATO” is quite wrong. The Scottish National Party voted this year for an independent Scotland to continue in NATO membership. Independence will certainly mean an end to the stationing of nuclear weapons in Scotland, that is true, but this will merely put Scotland in the same non-nuclear category as 25 of the alliance’s current 28 members.
The claim that an independent Scotland would be “unable to contribute meaningfully to global security” also is untrue. Would the same be said of European nations such as Norway, smaller than Scotland, or Denmark, almost identical in size? As it happens, these two countries combined flew more air sorties in the internationally sanctioned action in Libya than did the United Kingdom.
Further, the assertion that London might veto independent Scottish membership of the European Union and its use of the pound as a currency is not borne out by the facts. The recent Edinburgh Agreement, signed by myself and U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, commits both our governments to respect the referendum and to implement the outcome, whatever the result.
And it is likely that any London government would be keen to see an independent Scotland continue to use the pound, given the large sums that Scottish sources — not least North Sea oil and gas, the vast majority of which lies in our territorial waters — make to that currency’s balance of payments.
Scotland and the United States share close ties stretching back centuries. Many U.S. presidents trace their ancestry to Scotland, while the Declaration of Arbroath, the 14th-century document asserting Scotland’s status as an independent nation, has been held by a U.S. Senate resolution as a direct influence on the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
The long-standing ties between our two countries will only be strengthened once Scotland regains its place as an equal member of the global family of nations. After all, the Republic of Ireland gained its independence in the 20th century and enjoys the warmest of relationships with the United States. Does anyone in the United States seriously consider that this relationship would be improved by seeing Dublin return to rule from London?
Former president Bill Clinton recently recognized that it is increasingly important for national identities to be accommodated along with the need to make common cause to tackle global problems. Independence in an interdependent world means that the 21st century can see just such a global partnership evolve hand in hand with the political self-determination of which the United States has so often been such a vociferous champion.
Indeed, in considering the true interests of the United States, perhaps The Post would do well to reflect that democracy and self-determination must by their nature represent the real interest of America, because they are the core principles on which the country was founded.
There is something else worth reflecting on in the Scottish civic debate. In a process of self-government that has taken the best part of the last century, not one person has ever died arguing for or against Scottish independence.
The national movement in Scotland is peaceful, democratic and civic in its nature — something perhaps, in this troubled world, to be encouraged as in the true interests of both the United States and of Scotland.