It was with heavy hearts that MEPs returned to Brussels on 4 January to join in Europeʼs three minutes silence marking the Asian tsunamiʼs tragic toll. The SNP is committed to ensuring that the Commission maximises the level of finance released to alleviate the suffering and assist the economic recovery of communities devastated by the disaster.

International aid is set to dominate the EU agenda this year. Before the UK takes over in July, itʼs the turn of a tiny, independent nation - Luxembourg (pop 400,000) – to hold the EU Presidency. A chance for Scots to take note of how much more the independent nations of Europe are achieving over "legislative regions" like Scotland. A chance to see how much more an independent country can do to create a just and humanitarian world.

Luxembourg and Malta, with populations roughly equal to Edinburgh, have 11 MEPs between them, and a Commissioner each. Both take their turn at the helm of the EU Presidency, and, in equal partnership with their larger European neighbours, they play a key role in setting Europeʼs agenda. In fact of the new countries joining the EU last year following enlargement many, like Scotland, have around 5 million citizens. Of the 25 countries now in the EU, some 19 have populations of 10 million or less, leaving monoliths like the United Kingdom way out of step with the new Europe in which small nations form the majority.

The EU doesnʼt have a rule to say a country has to be so big before it can be a member - just that it has to be an independent, sovereign state. Thatʼs where Scotland misses out. The same goes for the United Nations where Scotland is nowhere to be seen. This is in spite of the obvious priority Scots place on humanitarian issues, evidenced by the millions of pounds donated by Scottish citizens and businesses in response to Decemberʼs tragic events.
However until such a time as Scots demand that Scotland be recognised as an independent nation state, our country as a force for good in Europe and the wider world can never be fully realised. Scots should take a long hard look at the small successful independent nations of Europe, like Luxembourg and Malta, and take a leaf out their book. Perhaps then Scots will demand
equal status with in the EU and the world, as is our right.

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