SCOTTISH civil servants are investigating how to create Nordic-style intelligence services post-independence.
The Sunday Herald understands government officials have been sounding out international experts on security for more than a year.
Their focus, sources stress, is firmly on developing the kind of counter-espionage and counter-terrorist capacity developed in Nato members Norway and Denmark and neutral Sweden.
The international community of intelligence academics is tiny and meetings between Scottish civil servants and experts have been widely discussed in the corridors of world universities.
One, Colin Fleming, a security expert at Edinburgh University, said: "This is what you would expect to happen.
"It demonstrates that the Scottish government is prepared to listen and talk to people not just in Scotland but in other states.
"It demonstrates a serious attitude to the issue."
Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's deputy first minister, earlier said her officials were completing a "substantial piece on work" on a new independent intelligence service.
Details, she said, will be published as part of the independence white paper close to the end of the year.
The Nordic nations – which were effectively on the front line of the Cold War – have developed sophisticated domestic security services.
They do not, however, have the kind of overseas spy networks employed by big states such as the US, Russia, China and, historically, Britain.
However, as respected intelligence partners the Nordics have shared intel from western allied intelligence services, including America's CIA and Britain's MI6.
Pro-UK politicians have cast doubts on the ability of any Nordic-style Scottish domestic security service to quickly become a trusted ally of MI6 and the CIA.
Former MI6 officer Meta Ramsay – a Labour peer – has called SNP rhetoric on the issue "extremely naive".
However, Ramsay, who served in Finland and Sweden during the Cold War, is also an admirer of Nordic intelligence services.
But she also disagrees on how easy it would be to create a Nordic-style domestic security service, perhaps on the basis of existing police special branch capability.
Other intelligence experts contacted by the Sunday Herald acknowledge Scotland would take time to build up relationships – but stressed the country would have information that it could bargain for access to the intelligence services of western allies.
Asked about the civil servants investigation into creating a Nordic-style intelligence service a Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government is engaging with a wide range of experts and stakeholders in developing its proposals for independence.
''This engagement includes informal discussions as well as consideration of proposals by leading experts in panels such as the Fiscal Commission Working Group, the Welfare Commission, and the Expert Commission on Energy Regulation announced earlier this month."