REPORTS this week confirm that massive environmental changes in Scotland's back yard are accelerating at a worrying pace.
Melting Arctic ice has huge implications for the environment and also for the geostrategic importance of the High North and northern Europe region around Scotland.
All of our North Sea neighbours are taking these issues very seriously: whether Denmark, Norway or Iceland. Sadly, the UK is not. At a recent maritime conference the UK didn't even mention the subject as a priority, and we know to the cost of RAF Kinloss and its personnel that Whitehall scrapped the entire Nimrod maritime reconnaissance fleet.
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In recent years we have seen the conventional defence infrastructure, units and bases in Scotland systematically dismantled, amalgamated and disproportionately reduced. While taxpayers in Scotland contribute more than £3 billion to the Ministry of Defence – far more than is spent on defence in Scotland – in Whitehall we see vital conventional capabilities cut even as wasteful spending on Trident nuclear weapons soars.
One of the main benefits of Scottish independence is that we will be able to make the appropriate defence decisions for our country and wider region. This is an exciting prospect, which I believe is one of the strongest reasons for a "Yes" vote in the forthcoming referendum.
With independence we will always have our defence priorities pursued by the Scottish Government, not just some of the time or not at all from Westminster.
With this in mind, I have looked closely at SNP defence and security policy. This has included visits to our neighbouring countries to review how things currently function. It is striking how important all of our North Sea neighbours rate continuing co-operation through Nato.
It is easy to see why if you understand that all air policing in northern Europe, including against potential terrorist threats, occurs through a Nato command centre in Denmark. When it comes to maritime patrol in our region this also occurs through Nato.
When considering the prospects of Scottish independence I think it is important for our neighbours and allies to understand that the SNP appreciates their priorities as well as our own. When they assess the impact of a sovereign Scotland I want them to understand that we will take our shared responsibilities seriously, and that includes mutual defence commitments. That is why I am proposing that Scotland should be prepared to continue working with the current 28 Nato member states.
Like the overwhelming majority of Nato members, we should not host nuclear weapons. That is why the motion I am proposing is subject to agreement that Trident will be removed from Scotland – whilst maintaining Faslane as a conventional naval base – and that Nato continues to respect the right of members to take part only in UN-sanctioned operations.
With independence, never again will Scotland get dragged into an illegal war like Iraq.
With such an outcome we would join Canada and Greece as Nato states that have removed nuclear weapons from their countries.
We already know from a detailed study conducted by Strathclyde University that the majority of SNP members agree with this position. Recent polling has shown that an overwhelming proportion of people in Scotland agree with an independent Scotland remaining in Nato, and that Scotland would be safer remaining in Nato.
Of course, voters in an independent Scotland will be able to choose the defence policy they think is appropriate. It is only right, though, for all parties to detail their preferred position for after independence, and Scotland will inherit treaty obligations, including Nato co-operation.
The defence policy update I am proposing to the SNP Annual Conference gives details on the purpose, tasks, scale, organisation, budget and capabilities of appropriate conventional Scottish defence and security policy. With agreement to withdraw Trident from Scotland, we should be prepared to work with all our neighbours and allies in Nato.
Angus Robertson is the SNP's Westminster leader and defence spokesperson