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INSIDE TRACK: We must not lose sight of our place on global stage

I was hoping to be at the Scottish Parliament tomorrow.

Unfortunately due to pressing work commitments I will not be able to make the round table discussion session of the European and External Relations Committee to which I was invited.

It's frustrating not to be there and voice opinions on issues close to my heart, not least because I'm sure those colleagues able to attend, among them leading academics and activists, are sure to make insightful contributions on the topics up for discussion.

The session will look at aspects of the Scottish Government's White Paper and proposals for independence in relation to foreign policy and international relations.

Coming under scrutiny will be Scotland's potential membership of international organisations such as Nato, the UN and Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Human rights and tackling climate change will also be on the agenda.

Last but not least the session will consider how any independent Scotland might be represented abroad through its embassies and what could be learned from the experiences of other small countries in working together.

In terms of the referendum it has often been said that such issues are of secondary interest to those preparing to cast their vote on whether or not Scotland should go the route of independence.

This, I have to say, has not been my experience. Yes, I do tend to move in circles involved or connected with foreign affairs, but way beyond these tight parameters I have found myself time and again discussing Scotland's place in the world with many people.

Scots have always been internationalist in outlook. They are as curious as to other parts of the world - its culture, politics and people, - as they are about how others respectively perceive Scotland.

I have little doubt that as an independent nation Scotland is more than capable of contributing to the world in its own right.

Previously in this column, I have expressed what I believe to be a pressing need for a take on foreign affairs viewed through a specifically Scottish rather than Westminster telescope. Recently I have been lucky enough to become involved with the independent think-tank Scottish Global Forum (SGF), whose members and fellows are dedicated to the analysis of issues which are of significance to Scotland and its place in the world.

Yes, there are many pressing concerns and issues that lie at the heart of the referendum debate, but it would be remiss to underestimate the value many Scots place on their country's standing globally.

Should independence become a reality then we have the opportunity to shape that standing in a way that makes even a small nation such as ours worthy of respect and admiration.

No one is under any illusions that this will be easy. It will be slow, protracted even, but if weighed up properly and backed with serious commitment it is achievable. This week's European and External Relations Committee session is just one of many steps along the way.

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