IN Scotland today, I think there is just cause for optimism because when I envision this country's future, I see great potential and great opportunity for us as a nation to choose what is good and right. In just over two years, in the 2014 independence referendum, we will be given the chance to choose who we want to be, what we want to do and where we want to go. The independence referendum is, however, about more than just standing on our own two feet, and managing our own affairs.

It is also about harnessing the potential of our nation and shaping the future, and there are few issues as pressing and urgent as Trident.

The Trident nuclear weapons system is unjustifiable, immoral and grossly expensive and we must use this opportunity to get rid of it. One of the great prizes of Independence, for all nuclear disarmers in the whole of UK, will be the consequence for the UK's Trident programme. In essence, it will be stopped in its tracks.

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For decades, anti-nuclear has been the heart and soul of the Scottish National Party and the 2011 manifesto made reference to continued opposition to UK plans for new nuclear weapons.

This brings us to the crux of the debate about Nato membership which will, of course, be decided by the first Scottish Government after the independence elections in 2016.

Will Scotland be able to get rid of Trident if it remains a member of Nato? Current SNP policy is that an independent Scotland should not be a full member of Nato as it is a nuclear alliance with a first strike policy, a position which Nato affirmed in May of this year at the Chicago conference.

Nato's position on nuclear weapons has not, therefore, changed since the SNP reviewed its decades-old policy in 2002 and I believe that it will be much more difficult to get rid of Trident if Scotland stays in Nato.

The experience of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands provides a clear warning to Scotland. Each of them still has American nuclear weapons on its soil despite efforts to get rid of them.

In 2010, a concerted effort was made by them to urge Nato to rethink its nuclear policy but this initiative has run into the sand.

Scotland would find itself in exactly the same position if it remained a member of Nato.

The good news is there is an alternative which could pave the way for a nuclear-free Britain, which might, in turn, be the start of real nuclear disarmament in Europe with a knock on effect across the rest of the world.

This is because Trident has nowhere to go when Scotland says goodbye to it after independence, a case which is convincingly argued in the CND paper of that name published in February.

There is no viable alternative site for Trident in the rest of the UK, the US or France, so it will be decommissioned and a huge leap forward will take place on nuclear disarmament.

Scotland has a chance to make a real difference after independence and we should have the confidence to project ourselves as a modern nation, with a vision which is rooted in our concern for humanity.

What better way to do that than to insist on the end of Trident nuclear weapons.

We should not let Nato membership cloud that vision, as it undoubtedly will, but we should be bold and show leadership to the rest of the world as we embark on the next exciting chapter of Scotland's history.

Dave Thompson is SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch