PRESSURE from the UK's international allies could put back for a generation the SNP Government's desire to see an independent Scotland free from nuclear weapons, according to a Commons report.

Westminster's Foreign Affairs Committee today claims "serious gaps" exist in the Scottish Government's prospectus for foreign policy should Scots vote yes to independence in next year's referendum and says "there is a pressing need for more clarity and candour about what Scots would lose and what the Scottish Government could realistically deliver in foreign policy terms with the resources available to it".

However, in its report on Scottish independence and its impact on foreign policy, it also notes, should Scotland become independent, it would be "inevit-able" the UK's reputation, in foreign policy terms, would be damaged and that if it had, because of Scottish independence, to relinquish its nuclear deterrent, it would be viewed by some as "a power in irreversible decline".

Nicola Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, branded the report "partisan" and said it was aimed at protecting the interests of the UK but also claimed the logic of it was to support the Scottish Government's call for pre-referendum "technical discussions". Referring to Whitehall's "steadfast refusal" to engage in such talks, Ms Sturgeon adds: "As the report and the UK Government are primarily concerned with maintaining the UK's international reputation and protecting its position as a nuclear state, perhaps the committee's encouragement that the UK's international reputation will be harmed if it continues to take this attitude will be a lesson to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor."

On Trident, the report refers to expert evidence that warned about an independent Scotland moving too quickly to get rid of nuclear weapons, which would "make enemies very quickly". One witness suggested there might be hostility from allies, such as America and France, which could block an independent Scotland's attempt to join Nato and the EU.

On the EU, it says membership might be fast-tracked but this would not mean it would be "straightforward or automatic" as it could come up against the vested interests of other member states.

And on Nato, it says automatic membership for Scotland is an "overly optimistic assertion".

The report states that, with just over a year to go before the referendum, it is not clear the SNP Government has a "costed and coherent vision" of the security and intelligence infrastructure an independent Scotland would need to protect its citizens.