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Friday, 19 October 2012

Alex Salmond on NATO and nuclear submarines – Radio Scotland 18th Oct. 2012

Gary Robertson: On the issue of NATO, which your party is discussing at your conference, is a change in policy crucial to reassure Scotland when it comes to voting in the referendum?

Alex Salmond: No, I think a change of policy is the right thing, because all parties should change their policies to equip them for the modern, and the long-term consistency in SNP policies has been our opposition to nuclear weapons. I mean – the SNP in my lifetime has been pro-NATO, we’ve been anti-NATO, we’ve been in favour, as we are now, of Partnership for Peace, which is a NATO organisation. So that’s been an emphasis in the policy, but the underlying consistency is our opposition to nuclear weapons and the best way to remove Trident from Scotland.

Gary Robertson: So would an independent Scotland allow nuclear-armed vessels from allied countries to enter Scottish waters or ports?

Alex Salmond: Well, an independent Scotland would not have possession of, or allow nuclear weapons on Scottish territory …

Gary Robertson: So you’re saying no to to NATO members with nuclear armed vessels ..

Alex Salmond: As you well know ..

Gary Robertson: .. to enter Scottish waters?

Alex Salmond: As you well know - that – the presence of nuclear weapons on a vessel is never confirmed by any power. There’s many examples of this, but 26 out of the 29 countries in NATO are non-nuclear countries. It’s perfectly feasible for Scotland to be one of these, but still engage in collective defence with our friends and allies.

Gary Robertson: But it is a nuclear – broadly, it’s a nuclear umbrella as it were – so it’s all very well saying on one hand you’ll get rid of Trident – but you are suggesting here that, if nuclear weapons arrive on Scottish shores from NATO members, they would be welcome.

Alex Salmond: I didn’t say that, Gary, as you’re well aware. I’m just pointing out that no country ever confirms the presence of nuclear weapons on its ships. But what you’re trying to tell me is that the policy, for example, pursued by the Canadian Government is somehow inconsistent, or the policy pursued by 26 out of the 29 NATO countries is inconsistent. I mean, I can’t wish away nuclear weapons of the United States of America: what I can do is remove the nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction from Scotland called Trident – and I can do that if Scotland votes for independence in two years time. and we can devote the enormous resources that are wasted on these nuclear weapons just now to things like employment for young people and further investment in Scotland’s colleges.

Gary Robertson: But when we go back to Kosovo – when you called that an act of unpardonable folly, you also talked about it being “an act of dubious legality”.  Why would you want to be part of an alliance that acts in a dubious legal way?

Alex Salmond: Because we are under no requirement to follow any provision of international policy which is not sanctioned by the United Nations. If you look at my attack on the Kosovo policy, it was specifically because it wasn’t sanctioned by the United Nations – and if I can take you to a more recent example ..

Gary Robertson: But Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty says an attack on a member is seen as an attack on all NATO members, so you could well find yourself being involved in conflicts that you don’t agree with

Alex Salmond: An attack on a member state – it’s a  - it’s a collective security alliance. Kosovo was not an attack on a member state – and I if was going to point out to you a much more recent example, of course … If you remember back to the famous debate between two nuclear – two NATO countries, that is France and America over the illegal war in Iraq, with the American Government along with Tony Blair and the UK Labour Government and Conservative parties arguing to get into that illegal war – and the French Government and other NATO countries arguing against that illegal war ..  Membership of NATO doesn’t commit you to taking part in international engagement which are not sanctioned by the United Nations and of course, the motion before the party conference explicitly makes it clear that we’d only be in NATO on condition that we were a non-nuclear country, like the vast majority of members, and that we had the right to follow United Nations precepts on international engagements. That doesn’t tie our hands at all in engaging in collective security with our friends and allies.

COMMENT

The essence of this vital short exchange is in the following questions, posed by Gary Robertson, and the First Minister’s responses. I won’t say answers, because he didn’t answer them. But in failing to answer directly, his responses, despite the evasion, gave a vital and, for me decisive insight into just what is in the SNP leadership’s mind.

EXCHANGE ONE

Gary Robertson: So would an independent Scotland allow nuclear-armed vessels from allied countries to enter Scottish waters or ports?

Alex Salmond: Well, an independent Scotland would not have possession of, or allow nuclear weapons on Scottish territory …

Gary Robertson: So you’re saying no to to NATO members with nuclear armed vessels ..

Alex Salmond: As you well know ..

Gary Robertson: .. to enter Scottish waters?

Alex Salmond: As you well know - that – the presence of nuclear weapons on a vessel is never confirmed by any power. There’s many examples of this, but 26 out of the 29 countries in NATO are non-nuclear countries. It’s perfectly feasible for Scotland to be one of these, but still engage in collective defence with our friends and allies.

Gary Robertson: But it is a nuclear – broadly, it’s a nuclear umbrella as it were – so it’s all very well saying on one hand you’ll get rid of Trident – but you are suggesting here that, if nuclear weapons arrive on Scottish shores from NATO members, they would be welcome.

Alex Salmond: I didn’t say that, Gary, as you’re well aware. I’m just pointing out that no country ever confirms the presence of nuclear weapons on its ships.

No, you didn’t say that, First Minister – you didn’t say very much at all …

The question is avoided completely in its initial. straightforward, crystal clear formulation , by a simple repetition of SNP nuclear policy by the FM. When Robertson persists. the FM retreats behind the eyes closed, don’t know, don’t want to know position, followed by yet another repetition of the mantra of what the non-nuclear NATO member countries do.

But in not answering, the First Minister has answered, by default.

An independent Scotland in NATO will offer, without question, safe havens to any nuclear submarine of any NATO nation without insisting on an inspection – perfectly feasible – to determine whether they are carrying nuclear weapons.

In other words, we will become a passive, notionally non-nuclear dock for nuclear armed vessels of a nuclear alliance committed to first strike, NATO.

SECOND EXCHANGE

Gary Robertson: But when we go back to Kosovo – when you called that an act of unpardonable folly, you also talked about it being “an act of dubious legality”. Why would you want to be part of an alliance that acts in a dubious legal way?

Alex Salmond: Because we are under no requirement to follow any provision of international policy which is not sanctioned by the United Nations. If you look at my attack on the Kosovo policy, it was specifically because it wasn’t sanctioned by the United Nations – and if I can take you to a more recent example ..

Gary Robertson: But Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty says an attack on a member is seen as an attack on all NATO members, so you could well find yourself being involved in conflicts that you don’t agree with

Alex Salmond: An attack on a member state – it’s a - it’s a collective security alliance. Kosovo was not an attack on a member state – and I if was going to point out to you a much more recent example, of course … If you remember back to the famous debate between two nuclear – two NATO countries, that is France and America over the illegal war in Iraq, with the American Government along with Tony Blair and the UK Labour Government and Conservative parties arguing to get into that illegal war – and the French Government and other NATO countries arguing against that illegal war .. Membership of NATO doesn’t commit you to taking part in international engagement which are not sanctioned by the United Nations and of course, the motion before the party conference explicitly makes it clear that we’d only be in NATO on condition that we were a non-nuclear country, like the vast majority of members, and that we had the right to follow United Nations precepts on international engagements. That doesn’t tie our hands at all in engaging in collective security with our friends and allies.

The First Minister’s response to Gary Robertson’s simple question - Why would you want to be part of an alliance that acts in a dubious legal way? – is distorted to make it sound as if he said that the Kosovo was an attack on a member state, thus allowing the FM to mount a defence based on his strawman. Robertson did not say that. If I may offer my understanding of his question, it was -

The Kosovo attack was an illegal, unilateral attack on another nation by NATO. Why would anyone, least of all Alex Salmond who had rightly condemned that attack, want to be part of an alliance that had so recently been capable of such a crime?

What follows in the FM’s closing statement offers a fairy tale world, in which moral, non-nuclear Scotland is partners with this international nuclear gangster, NATO, permitting it to come and go as it please with it WMD-armed submarines in Scottish waters, using non-nuclear Scotland as a key base to launch attacks at any time that would carry unimaginable destructive power to the four corners of our planet, but somehow escapes any responsibility for what it does because the Scottish Government prefers not to ask what the subs are carrying, and can draw its skirts back in mock horror, disassociating itself from anything morally dubious.

This is the morality of someone who rents his property to a whoremonger, but claims no knowledge of what is done on his premises.

Has your pragmatism and flexibility come to this Blairite position, First Minister? Do you expect the Scottish electorate to endorse such a contemptible course of action on their way to – independence?

15 comments:

  1. I entirely agree - the conference decision is morally despicable. I joined the SNP because it was a left-leaning party with a visible chance of winning representation. Labour was gone, replaced by the monstrous, ultra-Tory, New Labour, though the rot had set in long before Bair's accession to the leadership. Are we seeing the same rot now in the SNP? Have they been co-opted to the neo-con 'consensus'?

    I am heartily tired of the voices telling us that only independence matters, and every box and barrel must be flung overboard to keep that ship afloat. What will this independence be for? We'll still have the nukes, we'll still be accomplices in foreign wars of aggression (mass murder, to put it more bluntly), we'll still have the bloody silly monarchy - and there will be no enquiry into the conviction of Abdelbaset al-Mehrahi, because the CIA wouldn't like that. I'm not usually one for quoting the bible, but:

    "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

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  2. I also joined SNP because I stupidly thought we were taking ''another path''.....how wrong am I !! Yesterdays's vote ha finished the SNP for me.Yes to Indy,No to SNP.(GREAT PIECE!)

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  3. I resigned some time ago because I thought this was how the vote would go, and I can't be part of a party that advocates NATO membership. But I'm an old man...

    If you are younger, think about this - the vote was far narrower than any of the NO to NATO camp thought it would be, me included.

    And the speeches from the NO faction in the party were superb and uplifting, some of the finest of any political party conference (see my YouTube channel, TAofMoridura) And that conference was committed real debate and to a democratic vote.

    These are good people, great people, and there were hundreds of them in the conference hall and more outside. I would respectfully suggest that you stay with them, because they ARE principled, they DO want to take another path, and they need YOU.

    regards,

    Peter

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  4. You have every right to oppose NATO membership but please do it on the basis of honesty. No, you would not "have the nukes" and be a member of NATO. Canada is a non-nuclear nation and is a member of NATO. Greece is a non-nuclear nation and is a member of NATO. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc. Etc.

    Of course after independence, Scotland would not necessarily go in the direction of the policy of the SNP. That would surely be up to the elected government of the country which might or might not be the SNP. But even so, it is always best to make these arguments honestly.

    I was struck by the honest and open debate at the SNP conference, something you won't see at many party conferences. Some people, including Peter, said that the SNP leaders would not allow that. The people who said that were wrong. I think it is a shame if some people would abandon such a party because their side was not the majority, but that's their right too.

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  5. I don't agree with your position on NATO, but I don't accuse you of dishonesty.

    There was an open debate, of a force and vigour that the leadership never planned, never expected, and were manifestly aghast at. That was because a lot of people like me - and a lot better than me - took enormous time and trouble to make it an issue, and rocked the complacency of the leadership to its complacent foundations.

    You can reiterate the leadership's pro-NATO mantra of "what about Norway and the other non-nuclear nations" until you're blue in the face - but Scotland is in a fundamentally different strategic position to every one of them, and the parallels are meaningless.

    As for the honest and open debate, it occurred in spite of leadership pressures, openly referred to by anti-NATO speakers, to suppress or mute dissent. It was achieved because it was forced on them, and now the party is anxious to draw a line under it for the moment, as I am (see my response above to someone propsing withdrawing.)

    The vote was narrowly carried by party manipulation and by rabble-rousing slogans unrelated to core arguments by Kenny MacAskill. (The rest of the pro-NATO speakers were lack lustre and devoid of conviction or passion.)

    It is people like you who keep trying to whip it up again.

    I intend to move on.

    Thanks for posting.

    Peter

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    Replies
    1. In the event, I couldn't move on totally.

      After the FM's de facto confirmation today on the Sunday Politics Scotland to Isabel Fraser that he will pursue a "don't see, don't tell" policy of allowing WMD-armed nuclear subs into an independeny "nuclear-free" Scotland's waters, I cannot ignore this lethal compromise.

      I urge the New Zealand position on the Party, vote or no vote.

      Moral credibility leaks out of the leadership while this 'safe havens' hypocrisy is in force.

      Peter

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  6. "Of course after independence, Scotland would not necessarily go in the direction of the policy of the SNP."

    True. So which of the non-NATO, non-nuclear parties do you suggest we support after independence?

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  7. The SNP - currently the only credible option, but with a demand for an immediate review of policy or, God help us, a referendum a la Spain 1986 on NATO.

    The minority parties are unelectable in sufficient numbers. The Big Three are all nuclear bombers. What other choice is there, Vronsky?

    Alex Salmond on Marr: "The SNP have no God-given right to be the government of an independent Scotland."

    regards,

    Peter

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  8. The concern is the creep of pragmatism can destroy principle in the push for power.

    It is a concern not without substance - we only need to look at the politics of Labour and the quality of democracy as practised within the Westminster model to weigh the quality, competence and commitment this leads to.

    Perhaps the word 'Government' with all its connotations of power should be dropped in favour of 'Administration'.

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  9. Thanks for posting!

    regards,


    Peter

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  10. I agree with your abhorrence of WMDs (as a veteran of the Aldermaston marches, I would - we won at Greenham, though). I disagree with your rejection of NATO which I see as something akin to an insurance policy.

    It may be fanciful, but it is not impossible, that a resource-rich but isolated Scotland could be vulnerable to military attack and occupation. Let's face it, Iraq (Kuwait first), Libya, the Falkland Islands, etc. have been.

    In an increasingly power-starved world, the control of Scotland's large resource capability could be targetted by unfriendly powers. Inside the NATO tent, with 26 other non-nuclear states, we have some protection.

    Iceland is in NATO and it doesn't even have an army.

    Vronsky - I hate quoting the Bible too, but -

    "Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof"

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  11. I disagree profoundly with all that you say, Barney.

    Iceland has a population less than that of Edinburgh. It matters not a jot whether they are in or out of NATO. Scotland's situation is unique becuase of its hosting of the UK nuclear deterrent. If you can't see that, I have nothing to offer you.

    regards,

    Peter

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  12. Peter,

    As should be obvious from what I have said alrready, I do not disagree with everything you say, only some of it. Surely you cannot argue against Scotland having conventional forces which are allied with others by treaty?

    That NATO includes three nuclear powers, the USA, France and England, is a bit of a bummer but I'd rather be on their (conventional) side than contemplate the alternatives.

    Of course I can see the uniqueness of Scotland's situation. That's what makes it such a difficult problem to sort out. I am convinced that the abomination on the Clyde will go. Its just that I think it is easier to achieve this by arguing from inside the tent.

    It is my belief that the continuing presence of WMDs in an independent non-nuclear Scotland would contravene the Non-proliferation Treaty. Canada and Greece have seen the removal of US-controlled nuclear weapons from their soil and it is possible that Belgium and the Netherlands will soon follow suit. It is unlikely that England will want to, or even be in a position to, refuse Scottish requests to relocate them under the terms of Article 1 of the NPT.

    (I'd be wary of telling any Icelander that they matter "not a jot". They're big lads, you know.)

    Enough. I'm too auld for this. I'll leave you the last word if you can be bothered. Can I just say that you have plenty to offer me. I admire your commitment to those CND principles we share but I am not going to apologise for my current pragmatism. Ideals can be suspended (never forgotten) to achieve a greater good. If we can do that, who knows what we can do then.

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  13. I have just written, then scrapped about 300 words of response, Barney, but I addressed the words of an old jazz song to myself - "If you can't say anthing real nice - then best not talk at all is my advice".

    NATO will have to go on a holding shelf till independence is won. But the party will never seem the same again to me and many others after 19th of October 2012.

    Here's to a YES in 2014!

    regards,

    Peter

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