Scotland's governing party could reverse its longstanding resistance to membership in NATO if nuclear weapons are removed from the country's territory, the Scotsman newspaper reported on Tuesday (see GSN, April 17).
Scottish National Party defense spokesman Angus Robertson intends to petition members at the annual SNP conference in October to allow the change in party platform as a means of reassuring the Scottish public over the future defenses of an independent nation following a potential 2014 vote on secession from the United Kingdom.
As the Scottish National Party strongly opposes nuclear weapons and NATO is a nuclear alliance, the proposed change is anticipated to face strong objections from many SNP stalwarts. On Monday, Scottish parliament lawmaker and SNP member Jamie Hepburn said he "may well consider" attempting to thwart the proposed change.
The proposed shift in platform has the support of Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his No. 2, Nicola Sturgeon, according to well-placed sources. Salmond has been the driving force behind calls for an independent Scotland.
Robertson is to propose that an independent Scotland stay in NATO but that it no longer host the United Kingdom's nuclear-tipped Trident missiles and ballistic missile submarines. Robertson and other SNP leaders believe an independent Scotland would be grandfathered into the alliance. His resolution points out that other non-nuclear countries such as Denmark, Norway and Iceland are all NATO members (Andrew Whitaker, Scotsman
, July 17).
Not everyone agrees an independent Scotland would automatically be granted NATO membership. If Scotland is not grandfathered in, it might have to get in line behind other alliance hopefuls such as Macedonia.
"This policy, if approved, does not make sense," ex-Liberal Democrats chief Menzies Campbell said in an interview with the Glasgow Herald. "It is based on a doubtful assumption that Scotland would automatically inherit all of the treaty obligations entered into by the U.K."
The alliance, which operates by consensus, would be unlikely to accept Scotland as a member if it insists on the removal of British nuclear weapons, according to Campbell. "An independent Scotland, on these assumptions, would want the shelter of a nuclear umbrella but without the responsibility" (Michael Settle, Glasgow Herald
, July 17).