Edward Snowden's NSA revelations have highlighted security concerns around the world.
Edward Snowden's NSA revelations have highlighted security concerns around the world.Reuters

An independent Scotland could offer political asylum to Edward Snowden, whose disclosure of classified NSA documents on US surveillance techniques prompted an international storm.

Members of the Scottish parliament (MSPs) have considered a call for the former NSA contractor, who is currently being sheltered in Russia, to be given political asylum in Scotland if voters opt for independence in September's referendum.

Campaigner Mick Napier, a former university lecturer, put forward a petition to the Scottish parliament's Public Petitions Committee, saying Snowden was owed a "debt of gratitude" for his actions and that hosting him would be an "honour for Scotland".

"Edward Snowden has revealed information to us that we would not otherwise know, it is of significance to every single citizen in Scotland," Napier said.

"He acted out of the purest of motives and an offer of asylum to the man by an independent Scottish government - an offer made today conditional upon an outcome in September - would itself be news and would allow the members of this committee to strike a blow for a private life for all of us."

Committee members expressed "sympathy" with Snowden's situation, with the Scottish National Party's John Wilson even going as far as saying that he would make the offer now if Scotland had the power.

The proposals were greeted with fury by US officials, with Washington's top intelligence chief Congressman Mike Rogers saying Scotland should be more grateful to America for "saving" Europe from the Nazis during World War II.

Speaking to the Scottish Sunday Express, Rogers, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, said: "I am confounded that a close ally would consider granting asylum to a traitor whose leaks of military secrets have placed American and allied troops at risk, including Scottish soldiers serving proudly in Afghanistan.

"America and its allies bore great costs saving western Europe, including Scotland, from the Nazis in World War II. The former NSA contractor should walk away from Vladimir Putin's embrace and face criminal charges in the United States for betraying his country."

Scottish politicians said further consideration of the petition would be deferred until after the referendum on 18 September.

However, the idea came under heavy criticism from some MSPs.

"If SNP MSPs want Scotland to become the laughing stock of the world, this is exactly the kind of agenda they should pursue," Scottish Tory Murdo Fraser told the Scottish Sunday Express.

"Such madcap views are incredible from an MSP with designs on being in a separate Scottish government. It shows again the party has no idea how to conduct highbrow international affairs with any effectiveness at all."

International relations expert Dr Daniel Kenealy, deputy director of Edinburgh University's Academy of Government, said offering Snowden political asylum would provoke a major diplomatic crisis.

"The reaction from the US would be outrage comparable to the decision to release the Lockerbie bomber," he said.

"There'd be one hell of a diplomatic reaction you can be sure, with efforts no doubt by certain US members of Congress to whip-up 'boycott Scotland' sentiment. We saw the same with Megrahi."