Place In World Hotly Contested

An independent Scotland's place on the world stage has been one of the most hotly-contested issues of the referendum.

For the first time Scotland would have its own voice in the community of nations and an opportunity to pursue a different agenda, one that advocates of independence say would far better serve the interests of the nation.

In the alternative view, Scotland's influence would be greatly diminished and the country could find itself outside key organisations battling to get in.

As the world waits for September's outcome, the opinions of leaders abroad have been seized on by the referendum campaigns, not least on the question of Scotland's future in the European Union (EU).

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso caused a stir earlier this year by claiming it would be "extremely difficult, if not impossible'' for an independent Scotland to join the EU, a view dismissed by the Scottish Government as "pretty preposterous''.

Another furore developed when the No campaign was accused of "misrepresenting'' remarks made by Mr Barroso's newly-appointed successor Jean-Claude Juncker on a break in the expansion of the EU after it was wrongly suggested he was referring to Scotland.

The SNP administration's white paper on independence says the country will have a "smooth and seamless'' transition to EU membership on the same terms as it currently enjoys.

As Scotland is currently a member as part of the UK, it already meets the requirements and could renegotiate its position from within during the 18-month transitional period after a Yes vote, it argues.

Independence would also protect against the threat of Scotland being taken out against its will as a result of Prime Minister David Cameron's promised in-out referendum on Europe, the Nationalists say.

It is a position strongly disputed by Westminster, which claims a new Scottish state would be forced to start from scratch and go through the long and complex process of reapplying to join.

Scotland would also not necessarily be able to agree the same favourable terms as the UK, such as exemptions from the eurozone and the Schengen area of free travel, the UK Government warns.

Similar arguments are put forward on Scotland's membership of other international organisations such as the UN and Nato.

The Scottish Government says Scotland would negotiate transition after independence but Westminster claims membership would not be automatic and the SNP administration's stance on nuclear weapons would be a "significant complication'' for Nato.

The white paper is adamant that Trident would be removed within the first term of the Scottish Parliament after independence.

The nuclear weapons system is "an affront to basic decency'' upon which billions have been wasted, it says.

UK Government ministers argue moving Trident from its base on the Clyde would have a negative impact on the biggest employment site in Scotland.

The future of jobs tied to defence industries, and the industries themselves, has loomed large in the debate.

Scotland's aerospace, defence and marine industry employs nearly 40,000 people across more than 800 companies, according to Scottish Development International.

The UK Government maintains that a substantial amount of the sector in Scotland is sustained by Ministry of Defence spending, not least in shipbuilding.

Pro-union campaigners highlight the thousands of jobs on the Clyde and at Rosyth tied to the construction of the Royal Navy's massive aircraft carriers, the first of which - HMS Queen Elizabeth - was officially named in a pointed ceremony at the Fife dockyards earlier this year.

Westminster's position is that defence integration would come to an end after a Yes vote for national security reasons.

Companies in an independent Scotland - a foreign country - would either no longer be eligible for contracts or would have to compete to win orders in an international market, it is claimed.

These concerns are dismissed by independence supporters, who say the shipbuilding industry would continue to have a healthy order book.

The white paper envisages an annual defence and security budget of £2.5 billion with a focus on building the nation's maritime capabilities.

Jobs on the Clyde would be sustained by the building of four new frigates, preferably through joint procurement with the rest of the UK, it says.

The Nationalists argue there are "strong reasons'' why joint procurement of future naval vessels would be in the best interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

They also dismiss the suggestion that Scots would not enjoy the same protection under independence.

A Scottish defence force would, after 10 years of independence, consist of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel, according to the white paper.

Negotiations would be held to transfer units of the UK armed forces to Scotland, maintaining the names and traditions of Scottish regiments.

UK ministers say that in practice it would not be so simple.

Scotland would not be able to "co-opt'' units already fully integrated into the UK forces, a Westminster defence analysis paper says.

Strong bonds of loyalty that exist in the armed forces would have to be overcome for the Scottish Government's plan to succeed, it concludes.

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