Scotland is to play host this month to a gathering of senior ministers from Nato countries involved in the Afghanistan conflict.

While it is not technically a full Nato summit, the meeting of international ministers in Edinburgh will come close to that status, with all the security implications that entails.

The meeting is of Nato's "Group of the South" bloc, all of which have troops on the ground in Afghanistan.

This includes the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Netherlands, Denmark and emergent Eastern European nations such as Estonia and Romania.

Full details will be outlined today, but The Herald was told by a Foreign Office source last night: "Ministers get together from time to time to discuss issues as part of this group.

"This is an opportunity for Des Browne as Defence Secretary and foreign ministers who are contributing to the effort in Southern Afghanistan to discuss the latest position and the way forward."

While defence is reserved to Westminster, First Minister Alex Salmond has made clear he wants to thwart the update of the Trident nuclear weapons system, and the ministers' meeting offers him an opportunity to press home the point.

Speaking last week in a BBC interview, the First Minister said of the Trident decision: "There's a variety of ways within the legislative competence of the Scots Parliament that we can look at which would make that decision very difficult to implement for a Westminster Government".