Scottish Governing Party Says Nuclear Stance Compatible With NATO

The leading Scottish political party on Monday fired back against claims that it would be pursuing contradictory aims in advocating for a nuclear weapon-free independent Scotland as well as membership in NATO, the Glasgow Herald reported (see GSN, April 16).

NATO is understood to be a nuclear alliance and its 2010 Strategic Concept states the "supreme guarantee" of member nations' defense are the strategic arsenals held by France, the United Kingdom, and the United States. 

The governing Scottish National Party is pressing for a 2014 vote on secession, after which it hopes to expel the British ballistic missile submarines and their associated Trident missiles and nuclear warheads that are based in the nation.

Party leaders were earlier reported to be considering pushing for a change in the longtime stance against NATO membership as a means of assuaging voters' concerns about the defense of an independent Scotland.

The Scottish National Party believes there is a precedent set by NATO member Norway for maintaining an anti-nuclear weapon position while also enjoying the security benefits of extended deterrence. The party pointed to the remarks made by  then-Norwegian Defense Minister Johan Holst nearly 25 years ago.

Holst stated that "nuclear weapons will not be stored in or deployed to Norway" and "special storage sites for nuclear weapons will not be established in Norway" (Robbie Dinwoodie, Herald, April 17).

Scottish Shadow Secretary of State Margaret Curran criticized the Scottish National Party for seeming inconsistencies on NATO membership and nuclear weapons, the London Telegraph reported.

The opposition Labor Party lawmaker said SNP leader Alex Salmond had created a "pattern of confusion" and the territory's ruling party seemed to be "making it up as they go along."

British defense analysts have said an independent Scotland would likely be required to continue hosting the United Kingdom's nuclear stockpile if it wishes to join the Western military alliance.

"The SNP are in chaos over an issue as fundamental as defense of the country but this fiasco speaks to a deeper issue within the SNP. It is a case of 'if you don't like our values, we have others,'" Curran said.

"It would appear the SNP are willing to ditch a policy they have promoted for many years on the grounds of expediency, causing great division amongst their own ranks," she said.

A SNP spokesman fired back that "an independent Scotland will get rid of Trident nuclear weapons whereas Margaret Curran agrees with the Tories in wanting to waste up to [$159 billion] on a new generation of weapons of mass destruction."

The United Kingdom expects to make a final decision in 2016 on replacing the four submarines that carry the nation's nuclear deterrent.

Scottish National party leaders are reportedly optimistic they will be able to convince the SNP national council in June to vote to change its position against NATO accession. Lawmaker and SNP member John Wilson said any such alteration in policy would be "incompatible" with the party's stance on nuclear arms.

"The current policy of the SNP is to oppose not only the siting of nuclear weapons in Scotland but also the NATO commitment to the use of nuclear weapons as a first strike option," he said (Simon Johnson, London Telegraph, April 17).

April 17, 2012
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The leading Scottish political party on Monday fired back against claims that it would be pursuing contradictory aims in advocating for a nuclear weapon-free independent Scotland as well as membership in NATO, the Glasgow Herald reported.