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Scottish National Party Said Rethinking Position on NATO Membership

The British ballistic missile submarine HMS Vanguard. The governing party of Scotland is said to be reconsidering its position on NATO membership if the nation gains independence; that position could require Scotland to remain home to the British nuclear deterrent, experts said (British Royal Navy photo). The British ballistic missile submarine HMS Vanguard. The governing party of Scotland is said to be reconsidering its position on NATO membership if the nation gains independence; that position could require Scotland to remain home to the British nuclear deterrent, experts said (British Royal Navy photo).

Scotland's governing political party is said to be reconsidering its position on NATO membership should the nation choose to secede from the United Kingdom, the London Telegraph reported on Monday (see GSN, April 9).

Choosing to stay within the military alliance would mean forgoing plans to force the British nuclear deterrent out of an independent Scotland, according to issue specialists.

The Scottish parliament is presently led by the fiercely anti-nuclear Scottish National Party, which is pushing for a vote on full independence. In order to promote support for the move among Scottish voters, the ruling party is presently weighing whether to reverse is longtime objection to NATO membership, according to well-placed insiders.

The SNP national council is slated to convene in June in Perth to decide whether the party should support an independent Scotland's participation in the Western military bloc, anonymous sources said. Party leaders are rumored to believe they can secure the reversal on NATO, according to the report.

Party chiefs are anticipated to argue that accession to NATO would not contradict the SNP call for expelling ballistic missile submarines and nuclear warheads currently based in Scotland.

However, former NATO Secretary General George Robertson in an interview with the Telegraph said all alliance members must formally agree to the Strategic Concept, which "commits NATO to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons -- but reconfirms that, as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance."

The document, updated in 2010, spells out that the "supreme guarantee" of members' defense is the strategic arsenals of France, the United Kingdom and the United States.

"If you are going to be in NATO, you have to accept all the obligations of membership and the Strategic Concept behind it," said Robertson, who led the alliance from 1999 to 2004. "NATO membership is important, not just for Scotland and the U.K.'s defenses, but also for our significant manufacturing industries."

Ex-Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell said Scotland would have to accept the alliance's nuclear status if it wishes to be covered by extended deterrence.

Campbell criticized the SNP leadership's seemingly contradictory policy on NATO. "For years the SNP have maintained their irrational opposition to NATO membership but now they want to have their cake and eat it. They want to join the alliance, which has a nuclear dimension, but not to endorse NATO's doctrine."

"They want to benefit from the protection of the nuclear umbrella but not have any responsibility for it," he said (Simon Johnson, London Telegraph, April 16).

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