The First Minister has challenged US claims that an independent Scotland would be unable to contribute to global security.

Alex Salmond pointed out that Norway and Denmark, two countries of a similar size to Scotland, flew more air sorties together over Libya in the recent conflict than the UK.

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Writing in today's Washington Post, Mr Salmond challenged the newspaper's controversial editorial which said Scotland would be "unable to contribute meaningfully to global security" if it left the UK.

The article has been used by his opponents to attack the case for independence but Mr Salmond said it is was full of "mistakes", principally its out-of-date claim about the SNP's position on Nato.

Today he told Post readers that the October 31 editorial was "disappointing".

"Independence will certainly mean an end to the stationing of nuclear weapons in Scotland, that is true," he said.

"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 UK.

"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."

He cited the Edinburgh Agreement which commits both governments to work towards their mutual best interests whatever the outcome of the referendum, and Scotland's oil reserves which contribute to the pound's balance of payments.

Mr Salmond said the US has been instrumental in promoting democratic self-determination in the past.

"The Republic of Ireland gained its independence in the 20th century and enjoys the warmest of relationships with the United States," he said.

"Does anyone in the United States seriously consider that this relationship would be improved by seeing Dublin return to rule from London?"

He added: "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."

He pointed out that no one has died arguing for Scottish independence in the last century.

Mr Salmond concluded: "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."

A spokesman for pro-union campaign Better Together said: "The First Minister seems to love spending his time grandstanding around the world.

"Perhaps he should remember that it is people in this country that he has to convince to buy into his separatist gamble."

A Scotland Office spokesman said: "There remains no clarity or certainty about the role Scotland could play in the world if we were to leave the security of the UK family.

"That is true of Scotland's defence posture and our membership of international organisations including Nato and the EU. Membership requires agreement on terms from all member states and this agreement does not exist.

"As the Secretary of State has said previously, the referendum agreement commits both sides to a legal, fair and decisive referendum with Scotland's two governments working together as they should. It contains no magic paragraph that defines the future or eliminates the risks if Scotland chooses to leave the UK."