Scots are making a "profound mistake" if they believe independence is the only way the country could make a positive contribution to other nations, according to Tory leader Ruth Davidson.
The debate over Scotland's future allows the country to "send a message to the world" about how a "mature democracy could handle such an emotional decision", she said.
But she stressed being part of the UK gave the country a "greater international voice".
The Conservative MSP recalled how veteran Nationalist Winnie Ewing had famously declared: "Stop the world, Scotland wants to get on."
Ms Davidson argued that statement had "fundamentally misread the nature of Scotland's place in the world - that somehow we can only achieve our full potential as a nation through disengagement with the rest of the United Kingdom".
She insisted: "The world is changing, and Scotland is changing too. But to believe that we can only make a positive international contribution by cutting ourselves adrift from our partner nations is a profound mistake. The world does not need to stop to let Scotland back on, because Scotland never got off."
Ms Davidson made the comments in a speech in London about Scotland's place in the world. She pointed out the last two Labour prime ministers - Gordon Brown and Tony Blair - were both born in Scotland and that another Scot, George Robertson, had held the post of secretary-general of Nato.
"Being part of the UK provides Scotland with a greater international voice," Ms Davidson said. "It can be argued that Scotland, as part of the UK, benefits from 29 votes on the European Council, whereas an independent Scotland would have only seven, giving it influence on a par with nations like Slovakia."
Ms Davidson went on to argue that the establishment of the Scottish Parliament had "created a confident, outward-looking country that can benefit both from control over the issues closest to home while also being part of something bigger, a United Kingdom with a bigger profile internationally".
She suggested the independence referendum could serve as an example of how two rival sides could "continue to work in the best interest of a country" after the vote.