PEOPLE from Scotland may find themselves stuck in danger zones abroad because of the size of the country's defence forces after independence, says a report.

Scots have had to be rescued from South Sudan, Libya, Lebanon and Sierra Leone over the last decade-and-a-half, according to Professor Andrew Dorman, from King's College London, writing in the Chatham House journal International Affairs.

He said independence would mean "far less certainty for those Scottish citizens living abroad about their chances of evacuation should need arise".

His wide-ranging report also warns the size of the Scottish Defence Force, as well as its anti-nuclear stance, could leave an independent Scotland struggling to join Nato.

But he says a No vote could also see the armed forces and defence industry in Scotland take a hit.

In recent years Scottish forces have been protected for political reasons "despite their poor recruitment record", the report says.

But after September's vote UK ministers may stop "­placating" Scotland to the detriment of England.

"The same issue will also play out in respect of base closures, equipment orders and support contracts - for example where the new aircraft carriers will be serviced," it adds.

Fear of "neverendum" could also "provide a further reason for defence consolidation south of the Border", the report continues.

It also predicts the remaining UK after a Yes vote would give up Trident - because the costs of relocating the nuclear deterrent would be too great.

On Nato, the report warns that to join the organisation an independent Scotland may have to agree to a membership "tied to much larger defence capabilities than those envisaged in the White Paper".

The SNP's plans for 12 to 16 Eurofighter aircraft is also "far too small" to maintain a Quick Reaction Alert force to protect Scottish airspace. The paper predicts a call from Nato to maintain 30 or more Eurofighters.

Angus Robertson, the SNP's defence spokesman, said that another leading think tank, the Royal United Services Institute, had "used the word 'reasonable' in response to defence proposals by the Scottish Government".

He added: "Following a Yes vote, Scotland will work together with our friends and neighbours in the rest of the UK, as well as other allies in Nato, to provide defence cooperation and support.

"And deciding defence policy in Scotland rather than West- minster will deliver the safe removal of the obscene Trident nuclear weapons dumped on the Clyde."

Shadow defence minister Gemma Doyle said: "This is yet another intervention from an expert making clear the failure of the Nationalists to provide any credible policies on defence in a separate Scotland.

"It is clear the White Paper manifesto for breaking up the UK was nothing more than a wish list without a price list."