Changing policy on Nato membership post-independence threatens
an uneasy peace within the SNP
Scottish independence: Nato membership a threat to peace inside the SNP
by Amy Lenathen and Laura Latre
Tension is building within the Scottish National Party (SNP) in regards to the future of Scotland’s relationship to Nato. With the party’s annual conference taking place in October, as many as 12 SNP MSPs have voiced their opposition to the SNP leadership position on scrapping the party’s longstanding anti-Nato membership policy for an independent Scotland.
The latest developments follow Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson’s proposal to end its opposition to membership of the military alliance post-independence, stating it was now time to “face up to the fact” that Nato was a key organisation for international relations.
SNP member and trade unionist Bill Ramsay said: “This is the first time the party has had any open debate on this issue for some years. We intend to flesh out our critique of why joining Nato will damage the Yes campaign and the referendum.”
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Robertson, along with several party chiefs, wishes to alter the party’s position on Nato as a result of Unionist criticism aimed at raising fears over how the SNP intends to defend Scotland post-independence. However, many SNP members who remain against changing the Nato policy claim that it would send the wrong message about Scotland and its intentions as a newly independent country.
A newly-independent Scotland should sign up, Robertson said, as long as Nato agreed that the new country should not play host to nuclear weapons and could opt out of wars not sanctioned by the UN.
“With agreement on the withdrawal of Trident and retaining the important role of the UN, Scotland can continue working with neighbours and allies within NATO,” said Robertson.
The policy change is also perceived as a decision that would appear to strongly contradict the SNP’s often repeated pledge to remove all nuclear weapons after independence has been obtained.
A spokesperson for Trident Ploughshares said: "To join Nato while claiming that you want rid of Trident just does not make any sense: Nato is a nuclear weapon alliance. If your state does not have nuclear weapons, as a member it means you accept that other members of the alliance are ready to use them to commit mass murder on your behalf.”
Two days ago, SNP leaders were accused of sanctioning “mass murder” by a group of nuclear weapons protesters, over proposals to U-turn the Nato policy. A protest has been planned to take place outside SNP headquarters, off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, later in the week.
A survey conducted by a Strathclyde University professor in 2007/08 found that 52.7 percent of the then 7,112 SNP members believed membership to Nato was in Scotland’s strategic interests, compared with only 22 percent who still wished to remain outside of the alliance.
Professor James Mitchell, who conducted the survey, said: “The majority of members would support Scottish membership of Nato, but it has to be said that it is a bare majority and the strength of feeling on this is not great.”
The SNP has restated its stance on non-nuclear defence, international law, the United Nations and supporting multilateral solutions to all potential challenges.
The SNP is has not been accustomed to intellect challenge from within the party in recent history and the concern for team Salmond is that as MSPs are now openly rebelling that opposition to SNP leadership may be emboldened.
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