ONE of the most overlooked aspects of the independence debate is the increasing importance of being a sovereign state in the international system.

We live in a world which is increasingly defined by international challenges such as climate change, the refugee and asylum crises, and the emergence of an increasingly multipolar world.

These international issues can only be responded to by international co-operation and the organisations responsible for such international co-operation – the European Union, United Nations and Nato – are clubs made up entirely of independent, sovereign states. In other words, the international rules-based system is designed entirely around sovereign states.

Scotland is not at present a sovereign state – meaning it does not sit in these organisations in its own right and is “represented” by the UK Government. That’s why I never bought the line in 2014 that Scotland would somehow be better represented internationally as part of the UK. In my view, it’s a choice between effectively no or very limited representation as part of the UK or a seat at the table as an independent state.

As these international issues grow in importance, so too will the importance of organisations such as the EU, UN and Nato. We can already see this with how drastically the nature of the EU has changed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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The logic follows that as these organisations become more important, Scotland’s lack of input into them will also become more noticeable – and the necessity to do something about it becomes even greater. So, a lack of statehood is preventing Scotland from having its say on the international stage.

A good example of such powerlessness can be seen in the recent debacle over the EU potentially adopting Basque, Catalan and Galician as official languages.

The EU currently has 24 official languages – Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Maltese, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish and Swedish. All of these are state languages.

After the Spanish general election in July, the Catalan, Basque and Galician pro-independence parties found themselves as the kingmakers in the new Spanish government.

As we know, these governmental arrangements often depend on some key demands from the junior partner being implemented by the senior partner.

In this case, the pro-independence parties demanded recognition of Catalan, Basque and Galician in Spain’s congress, as well as their adoption as official EU languages, and full amnesty for and an end to all legal proceedings against the Catalan pro-independence politicians for holding the referendum on October 1, 2017.

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Basque, Catalan and Galician are practically unprecedented in terms of their adoption and prevalence as minority languages in Europe. I’d suggest the closest you would find, certainly in Western Europe, would be Irish in Ireland or Welsh in the UK and even then it’s a distant comparison.

At the moment, it looks unlikely that the EU will adopt these languages. This is partially due to the cost but the fear of a “Pandora’s box” effect – that it might bolster speakers of other minority languages – such as Frisian or Luxembourgish – to push for recognition of their own tongues.

Interestingly, it’s often among non-state nations and national minorities in Europe that the EU enjoys its strongest support – as in Scotland.

The advent of the EU and the abolition of a hard border between France and Spain has been instrumental in the proliferation of modern Catalan and Basque nationalism – allowing cross-border ties between those parts of the Basque Country and Catalonia previously divided by the political border between France and Spain.

Of course, there are also those who like to pretend that the EU’s main goal is to usurp the independence of its member states – and for the sake of argument – what better way to do that than to make official these non-state minority languages – in this case, ones historically oppressed by the Spanish state.

This could have been a historic first – a real opportunity for the EU to show its commitment to a Europe of all peoples – not just a Europe of accepted state cultures.

The debacle over official languages presents a specific problem for our Iberian counterparts but a more general lesson for Scotland, too. Only with full independence the likes of Scotland, Catalonia, the Basque Country, or Galicia see real representation in the international system.

The true cost of being limited to being a non-state actor, or a “region” of a larger sovereign state in the international system will only become clearer as these international organisations grow in importance.