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Showing posts with label SNP Conference 2012. Show all posts
Showing posts with label SNP Conference 2012. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Democracy and political party democracy

Scientists sometimes talk of the tyranny of the dominant theory, or in another manifestation, the complacent invulnerability of the established system. Theory - scientific, economic, medical, social or political - often plays a key role in decision making, and decision making affects lives.

In religion, theory becomes dogma and as history shows, the tyranny of religious dogma can be oppressive, stultifying and at its worse, murderous. Political theory can manifest all the characteristics of religious dogma, with equally appalling results, as the history of the 20th century demonstrates, and we are well on our way to repeating the horrors with a lethal mix of old religious dogma and new political dogma in the 21st.

But let’s leave religion and look briefly at economic theory, since it intimately affects the geopolitical climate, and appears to have failed humanity in a spectacular fashion in the very recent past. Since I am neither political scientist nor economist and certainly not a mathematician or statistician, bear with in my layman’s analysis as I struggle to understand ideas that perhaps a new PPE graduate could easily expound on …

For most of the last century, the dominant economic theory has been the theory of utility. As best I can express it, utility theory makes the base assumption that all decisions are made rationally, and analyses – and attempts to predict – all decisions based on the value (utility) that the decision maker places on the elements in the decision.

The problem is that this is not how people actually behave when they make real decisions, as the the work of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman – and many others – has conclusively demonstrated. The work of the games theorists took this further in the 1950s and 1960s, and anyone who enjoyed the Russell Crowe portrayal of John Nash in the film A Beautiful Mind might want to try the dense, complex book on which the film was based about the work of John Von Neumann and John Nash at Princeton and the RAND Corporation (CIA)

Suffice to say that the utility theory didn’t roll over easily and give up when confronted with the incontrovertible new evidence and new theory, any more than the financial traders of Wall Street shut up shop when they were confronted by equally incontrovertible evidence (from their own trading records, rigorously statistically analysed) that stock trading has a success rate over time slightly less successful than random picks, and that, as Daniel Kahneman has observed, a blind monkey throwing darts at a board would have had a better hit rate. Similar reactions came from clinicians when confronted with disturbing analysis of diagnostic and treatment success, and from experts in a wide variety of disciplines who got into deep doo-doo when they ignored the numbers and trusted their experience, gut feel and ‘expert’ judgement alone.

What has all this got to do with a pound of mince and Scotland’s politics? Well …


A thought before I continue … The fate of the world may soon be in the hands of a US President, Commander in Chief of awesome nuclear destructive forces, of the CIA, of the American military and effectively of NATO, who believes that a young American had an angel appear to him in the early 1820s in upstate New York and lead him to a place where he dug up gold tablets with a holy book inscribed on them, which amongst other things, said that one of the lost tribes of Israel found its way to America.

The gold tablets mysteriously vanished, there is not a shred of historical evidence of any kind for the claims, and all that is left is The Book of Mormon, translated from the mysterious tablets. The rest of Mitt Romney’s beliefs about the world, current affairs, social matters, economics, etc. are now a matter of embarrassing - and often hilarious – record, but the people who will vote for him appear unbothered by all this.

Perhaps we should bear all this in mind when we remember the SNP’s recent vote to join NATO, and when we are tempted to hope that democratic politics is even half way rational. But I do live in hope …


I have long experience, covering decades, of the political and organisational behaviour of trades unions, including some brief but intense experiences as union member, a union representative and a committee member, including the formative experience of being on strike.

But my experience of political party membership and of party democracy is very much briefer, superficial , and in itself, one from which no deep conclusion could be drawn about wider political behaviour.

My experience of politics and the behaviour of political parties as a citizen and voter, however, crosses eight decades, from the 1940s to the ‘teens of the 21st century, and throughout all of that time I have maintained an active interest in current affairs and politics, both as a voter and a citizen, and in my professional life because of the high relevance of politics to my work. You must judge the relative value of what I say in that context against that of commentators who have much deeper inside knowledge of politics, including activists, politicians and specialist academics.

In making that judgement however, try to bear in mind my opening preamble on the tyranny of the dominant theory – and therefore the dominant theorists and practitioners – and the complacent invulnerability of the established system.

Democratic politics are imperfect, but the alternatives have been consistently shown to be much, much worse by the lessons of history - and democratic processes can be improved. Scotland has a long, honourable record of contribution to democracy, in fact can be seen as a cradle of democracy, and there is no reason why the contribution should stop in the new age that we are entering.

Recent events have forced me to focus, as a voter, on some aspects of that democracy and, since I am a nuts and bolts man by background and instinct, I’ll leave the endless theorising about neo-liberalism and macro-economic theory to the think tanks, academics, assorted lefties, righties, gandy dancers and railroad men who revel in that kind of arcane discourse. But there is a kind of dominant theory of how political parties operate in a democracy, about their role in elections and in government, and a feeling of complacency about the way the party and branch systems operate, especially in relation to policy formation when a party is in government. 

Perhaps that dominant set of assumptions should be challenged.

Consider the role of parties in an elective democracy. The Founding Fathers of American democracy didn’t want them, because party is faction – groups with a core common political agenda who act in concert when they can. The Founding Fathers did their best to avoid them, by separation of powers between the judicial, legislative and executive functions, by federalism, and by having a President elected indirectly by an electoral college.

Despite all this, political parties are what they wound up with.

In the UK, a constitutional monarchy, at least the fiction of being without faction, i.e. party, could be maintained, and while first-past-the-post still operates at UK level as the system of election to Westminster, the pretence can be maintained that voters elect the person, not the party. In the case of someone standing as an independent, this is still true. The ballot paper asks the voter to choose between named candidates, not political parties.

But with the advent of proportional representation in its various forms, this ceased to be true, and party now has an overt role. Indeed for many years there have been electoral rules governing party election expenditure and other matters in the UK.


The method adopted for proportional representation in the Scottish Parliament is the d’Hondt method. Candidates stand either for an individual constituency seat or are placed on a list by their parties. After the initial results are in, the  parties are ranked on by the number of votes cast, the votes in each region are divided by 1 + number of seats won, and each party is ranked and re-ranked on a ranking list by an iterative process

One example should suffice to demonstrate how the d’Hondt method works. Party gets 100,00 votes and wins one seat - 100,000 divided by 1+1 = 2. Party’s vote is now 50,000, and it is re-ranked on the list, and so on until process complete and list seats allocated.

Voting in the Scottish Parliament

If you don’t understand this, don’t worry – all you need to know is that some MSPs are elected as individuals (73 in total) by voters for a specific constituency, and some are allocated a seat by the outcome of a list computation (56 in total), and are known as list MSPs. Each voter therefore has two votes – the constituency vote and the regional vote – and one constituency MSP but seven regional list MSPs for each of the eight regions.

Under the d’Hondt system, the fiction cannot be maintained that party has no role in the electoral process – it clearly has, and a crucial on at that.

Do you get to choose the person you vote for?

Answer: No, you get to choose among the people chosen by the political parties, and if you always vote for one party, only the person chosen for you by that party.

Of course, if there is a candidate standing as an independent, a choice of the individual can be made. Among Scotland’s famous independents we may number Margo Macdonald and Dennis Canavan, both of whom are about as individual as one can get …

Or you can stand for election yourself – all you need is a deposit, and the willingness to lose if too few vote for you!

So in most cases, a voter is voting for the party and its policies and programme as outlined in its manifesto when they vote for an individual, although dependent on how deep party loyalties run, the character and record of the individual may also influence voters, especially floating voters.

To be able to stand under the banner of a political party as a candidate for a constituency, a prospective candidate must first persuade a party selection board to adopt them as candidate. To do this, they obviously must be a member of the party in good standing and agree to ‘take the party whip’ if elected, which means voting the way they are told, except on the rare free votes on matters of conscience.

(In theory, this process is controlled not by the national party but the constituency party and branch structure: in practice, party HQ often has a significant and sometimes dominant input. Gerry Hassan and Eric ShawThe Strange Death of Labour Scotland – give the following insight on page 119 into the 2006 by-election in Dunfermline and West Fife -

Labour was not aided by allegations of attempts to get the candidate the leadership wanted, with evidence of ‘a high-level “fix” to select the [Labour] candidate. This had transpired because party bosses sent out a leaflet on behalf of Catherine Stihler’s campaign hours before she was selected to fight the seat. (Sunday Herald 29 January 2005 ?)

Gerry and Eric seemed to have slipped a year here on the 2005 date of the Sunday Herald story – it must have been 2006. Catherine Stihler lost that election, but she is now an MEP, elected on a list by the d’Hondt system. When the Party wants you elected, the Party gets you elected – the voters are incidental to the process. Catherine is, of course, much in the news over the FOI request and allegations against Alex Salmond.)

Similar requirement exist for ‘getting on the list’ for possible election as a regional list MSP, with the key difference that the electorate play no role directly on electing a list MSP except by their choice of party for the regional vote. On the constituency vote, the voter may feel they have some kind of choice influence over the individual elected, but on the list appointee they have none – it is entirely in the gift of the party.


Members of political parties understandably feel they have some rights over policy in the party of their choice, rights not shared by supporters who are not party members, and certainly not rights shared by the wider electorate. The world of politics belongs to the active, the committed, the involved. Even within a political party, the active branch members and officers and the active campaigners - who give up so much of their time and energy – feel that they may reasonably claim rights not shared by the wider, passive branch membership.

This is the way our democracy works – it is the way all democracies work – and one may draw close parallels with the trades unions, who operate with similar structures and who share a set of similar assumptions.

Now the true democrats in political parties and in trades unions are prepared to face squarely the sometimes unpalatable truth that democratic principles enshrine absolute power in the individual voter - the vote, and its collective expression when exercised in elections. This principle requires that the wider, passive, less participative membership of a political party or a trade union must be given clear information of choices to be made, encouraged to become involved in those choices, and to cast their vote when they are entitled to.

But observance of this principle requires an almost heroic selflessness from activists who have sacrificed time, energy - and perhaps money - to the cause, often at the expenses of their personal lives and objectives. So it is understandable that the involvement of a wider membership in vital matters that the activists understand deeply is sometimes given no more than token recognition at best, and at worst, is marginalised or deliberately ignored.

Examples of deliberate entryism in politics and trades unions abound, and simple levers and mechanisms are there to be pushed and utilised by individuals or groups who want to exercise an influence that is essentially undemocratic over nominations to office, to proposing and adopting of resolutions, to the selection of delegates or members of key committees and ultimately to the nomination of candidates.

A danger has always existed in politics and trades unionism that democratic politics shade imperceptibly into Tammany Hall and machine politics. At a time when corruption in UK political and financial institutions has brought trust in these institutions, in politicians and in democratic government itself to an all-time, highly dangerous low, it is vital that the danger signs are recognised and dangerous trends nipped in the bud before we slide towards something ugly in our national life and our democracy.


In my view, the SNP is the most truly democratic party in UK politics, with the possible exception of the Greens. Until now, they have managed to contain certain centre right (that’s being kind!) views within what is broadly an anti-nuclear, social democratic party of the left, under the over-arching objective of independence for Scotland.

But under pressure of the opinion polls, which despite the enthusiastic, optimistic and infinitely creative interpretations of supporters and the party spin machine, remain stubbornly intractable, they have begun to slip inexorably down the Blairite route of placing electability before core belief, albeit with rather more justification than Blair. The monarchy, Britishness, sterling, the social union – all defensible as policies individually– have come to seem to many as, collectively, a dangerous blurring of the line of what an independent Scotland is all about.

The wider core support, uneasy but loyal, have resorted to what I call the magic wand solution – all criticism, all differences must be subordinated, the leadership must be credited with infinite wisdom and have blind trust placed in them until 2014 and the referendum, because everything can be magically undone, modified or changed once independence comes.

In the even wider, non-SNP support for YES and independence, this manifests itself as the variant that in 2016, somehow the SNP may be magically dumped in an election which may be – if negotiations are concluded with rUK - for an independent Scottish Parliament, and similar miraculous transformations of policy can be accomplished by a government of a different political complexion. This is a two-pronged magic wand, which not only ignores the complex nature of the commitments given and the long-term, binding agreements that will be entered into to achieve that independent Scotland, but additionally conjures up a magical realignment of the parties who have up to this point constituted Better Together, the bitter opponents to independence.

A new party of the democratic left – or right - is going to spring fully formed from the head of - who or what? Henry McLeish? Jim Sillars? The Jimmy Reid Foundation? Reform Scotland? Civic Scotland? The CBI? The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations?

I won’t go over all of the lead-up to the NATO vote – my analysis and the reactions to it are well-documented in my back blogs, which I can confidently assert are revisited by a negligible amount of SNP supporters, many of whom (not all!) have a marked distaste for having their shining certainties being blurred by anything resembling facts or detailed analysis, an approach that they share with the media they hate so much.

What can be plainly seen by anyone who examines the timeline objectively is that the SNP leadership driving the NATO U-turn did not expect the reaction they got, and in fact they planned a quick, low-key debate and a conclusive endorsement of the NATO proposal. They got something rather different …

My concern here is to examine the events and the party structures that led to the voting patterns that resulted at Perth on 19th October.

Having launched their superficial little paper on NATO in July - having spent  the earlier part of the year trying to pretend that no U-turn was planned - Angus Robertson and Angus MacNeill were stunned by the broad-based coalition against it that sprang up almost instantly. But they still appeared to retain their confidence in recent polls they quoted, but principally in the outdated Mitchell Report, (questionnaires sent out between 16th and 19th November 2007, when the SNP memberships stood at  13,203, with two other mailings up to March 2008.) which appeared to give them a 3:1 majority for their viewpoint. They appeared unconcerned by the fact that the membership had grown from 13,203 to 24,000 or so, and a number of major events had occurred since the original poll.

The point that neither they nor their support in the party seemed able to grasp - then or now - was that as the party of government, the one that would be charged with negotiating the terms of Scotland’s independence after a YES vote in 2014, they could not and should not treat such a fundamental policy shift as though it was in the gift of a few hundred party delegate to an SNP Conference, to be quietly railroaded through without consulting at least the full SNP membership, the key members of the YES Coalition and ideally the electorate.

The branches, from my anecdotal evidence gleaned from correspondents and on Twitter, were slow to react, more than a little uncertain about the significance of the NATO proposal, and substantially under-informed. This was hardly surprising, since some leading SNP figures (e.g. Alyn Smith) were boasting of their lack of knowledge – and patently of interest - in defence matters. This was not helped by the commentariat and the media, who by and large, with a tiny number of honourable exceptions, showed the same lack of interest and knowledge.

In marked contrast, the NO to NATO campaign, especially CND, were highly informed and produced detailed fact sheet after fact sheet, which appeared to remain entirely unread by at least half of the SNP membership and perhaps a significant majority, judging by the Perth debate and vote.

In among all this was a wriggling, radioactive worm in the SNP/NATO rosy apple – the question of safe havens for nuclear submarines of other NATO countries, including those armed with nuclear weapons. Put at its starkest – as it was by the sole media commentators to appreciate its significance, Gary Robertson on BBC Radio Scotland and Isabel Fraser of the Sunday Politics Scotland and Newsnicht to the First Minister – this meant that an independent and notionally nuclear-free Scotland would allow such WMD-laden vessels to come and go freely on a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ basis.

Not only did the press and media fail to pick up or follow up on this, the NO to NATO campaign and the SNP conference speakers against the NATO proposal also missed it, or failed to see its vital significance.

And so the lead-up to the Perth conference and the debate.

An increasingly nervous leadership group steeled themselves for a harder time than they had planned, as the word came back that at least some of the branches were awakening from their Mitchellite trance of being ‘relaxed’ about NATO membership, Bill Ramsay of the SNP CND group was devastatingly articulate on the media, a disparate range of groups under the NO to NATO Coalition were omnipresent, a group of dissident MSPs had more and more to say, and the best efforts of SNP proxies such as George Kerevan weren’t cutting the mustard on media.

Having tried to slide the NATO U-turn paper through low key, after initially pretending it didn’t exist, Robertson and MacNeil were now trumpeting the debating and democratic party virtues of the SNP. Instead of being a triumph of party democracy, Conference was now to be celebrated as a triumph of debate.

What followed was fascinating, uplifting and encouraging in one sense, yet profoundly depressing in its outcome.

The delegates (759 from the voting outcomes) arrived in various states of preparedness for the great debate. Some were there with a free vote, presumably permitted by their branches. Many were mandated in advance by their branches. I have no statistics or information on what went on in the branches, other than anecdotal, from Twitter exchanges, and from emails and comments, many of a confidential natures.

But what I can say with reasonable confidence is this -

1. No general detailed, specific effort was made by any SNP branch to canvass and collate the views of the wider, non-active branch membership. (If there was, there was no evidence of such a consultation)

2. Some branches thought the whole affair very low key and gave it little attention or thought. They were, to use the phrase quoted again and again, “relaxed about NATO membership”.

3. Some branches gave it a lot of discussion, voted on it, and mandated their delegate or delegates accordingly. Some delegates had a very narrow mandate, based on a narrow margin, some were virtually unanimous.

4. No mandated delegates were given authority to change their minds, based on the arguments they heard in the debate. (Bear in mind, there had been no pre-conference debate mounted or indeed encouraged by the party – the debate drivers all came from the NO to NATO camp.)

The delegate group of 759 permitted in the conference hall for the debate therefore included delegates with no mandate who were at least in theory free to decide on their vote based on what they heard from the platform speakers and delegates who were pre-mandated and therefore had to be immune to reason and argument from the platform.

The debate itself was a triumph of passion, cogent argument and principled belief, but the context of the debate, especially what preceded it, was close to Tammany Hall politics. Some anti-NATO speakers came close to saying this. Some have said it to me in confidence, one which I respect. All were torn between their horror, not only at what the party was doing but also how they went about it, and an overriding imperative to close ranks for the sake of the YES campaign.

The outcome was quite simply this -

759 members of a political party that constitutes the Government of Scotland have voted to take 24,000 party members, a much wider number of party supporters who are not members, and a Scottish electorate of millions into a first strike nuclear alliance if independence is secured, and - without any vote, discussion or consultation whatsoever  - into a grossly hypocritical and perhaps lethal arrangement to permit nuclear submarines armed with Trident WMDs to come and go freely in the waters of an independent Scotland.

If this is what the dominant theory of our party politics has brought us to, then that dominant theory and all its related assumption, practices and procedures require urgent revision, because this is not democracy as I want to see it in an independent Scotland. I hope my fellow Scots agree with me.


Christine Grahame – and others – have called upon John Finnie and Jean Urquhart to resign their seats as MSPs because they were elected as list MSPs on a party vote.

On the contrary, any SNP list MSP who supported the NATO U-turn should resign, because the voters who placed them in Holyrood voted for a party that was clearly opposed by policy to NATO membership, and committed to Partnership for Peace.

Get your dubious principles right, please …

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Coda – the NATO debate, SNP Conference 2012

The full debate is up on other clip. I selected these end clips to give my personal impression - and it is only that - of the quality of the speakers and the delegate reaction.

It leaves me with the question I posed elsewhere - given the calibre of the anti-NATO speakers and the audience reaction to them - how did Conference end up endorsing the motion? Some branches had pre-mandated their delegates, some had not. Some delegates came with their minds made up, some didn't. Some changed their minds, some didn't.

The anti-NATO speakers all gave cogent arguments why Conference should reject this misconceived motion and think again. The pro-NATO speakers opted in the main for strident assertions of their anti-nuclear credentials while advocating joining a first-strike nuclear alliance for expedient and, for me, highly questionable reasons.
In Kenny MacAskills's case, it was a piece of shameless rabble-rousing populism, eschewing argument for pushing easy anti-nuclear buttons in the audience, while calmly dumping a lifetime of principled opposition to nuclear and NATO for realpolitik and a place in the sinister NATO corridors of power.

Sadly, his approach probably consolidated the pre-debate pressures on some delegates and swung the vote with the unmandated, undecided remainder.

The fatal die was cast ...

Saturday, 4 August 2012

The SNP and NATO – an internal party matter or a question for Scotland?

Here is a little problem for a class of undergraduates studying politics and international affairs, majoring in defence matters -


A political party within a democratic nation state has a long-standing policy relating to a defence alliance, of fundamental relevance to the relationship that state has with other states. The political party is in a highly unusual situation - probably unique in world affairs - for the following reasons -

1. It is currently the party in a devolved government for one of the four component countries of that nation state.

2. It only exists as a party in that country and its raison d'être is to secure its independence from that nation state.

3. The long-standing defence alliance policy is not within its devolved powers, and is reserved to the nation state, which is a member of that defence alliance.

4. The political party forming the government of the component country of the nation state has scheduled a referendum in two years time to seek a mandate from that country’s electorate to negotiate with the nation state for its independence. The nation state is totally opposed to the independence of the component devolved country, but accepts that the referendum will determine the will of its people.

5. A general election for the government of the nation state will take place in May of the year following the referendum, a period of around six months. A devolved Parliamentary election for the country seeking independence will take place one year after that, a period of around 18 months from the referendum.

6. If the result of the referendum is a YES vote for the independence of the devolved country, complex negotiations will follow and are likely to last at least two years, and will therefore cover a period embracing two critical elections, either of which could result in a change of government.

7. The crucial issue, and potentially the most complex issue in these negotiations will be the defence issue. Central to that is the issue of nuclear weapons, and a policy to possess and use these weapons.

8. The nation state is a member of a defence alliance that includes in total 28 member countries, the dominant country in that alliance being one of the most powerful countries in the world, arguably the most powerful, although that dominance is being challenged.

9. The party that forms the government of the devolved country seeking independence from the nation state has a non-nuclear policy that it will implement if it secures its independence. The devolved country hosts the entire nuclear capacity of the nation state of which it is a component part and it is virtually certain that if it refuses to host that nuclear capacity - if and after it secures its independence - the nation state will lose its nuclear status, since it has no suitable place to host the nuclear weapons systems. It will therefore lose its place among the top three countries in the defence alliance who effectively control that alliance, and it is likely also to lose its place on the Security Council of the global body that has a major impact on world affairs, especially military affairs.

10. The party that forms the government of the devolved country – with an unchallengeable Parliamentary majority – has now proposed to its membership, through its strategic leadership with the de facto endorsement of its party leader, who is also First Minister of the government, a defence policy that reiterates its non-nuclear stance but intends to reverse its long-standing policy of opposition to membership of the nuclear alliance committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons.

It now wishes to remain in – or join – that nuclear alliance, with the pre-condition that the nuclear weapons crucial to the nation state and significant to the defence alliance be removed from its country. It proposes to debate that policy change, together with its total defence policy, at its annual conference with delegates to that conference, and if the policy is endorsed, it will then constitute the entry position to the negotiations that will follow a YES vote in the referendum two years later.

The defence policy (already extant as a party conference paper) will be presented to the country’s electorate about a year later, together with comprehensive statements about every aspect of the position of the devolved government, as part of the campaign for a YES vote to independence a year after that.


Discuss the following in group session, then reach your conclusions and recommendations -

Consider the above scenario and the following facts -

the party of government of the devolved country will not face the electorate until after the referendum on independence

such a policy change is therefore unchallengeable by the electorate until after the referendum

it will therefore form the entry position on defence matters in the negotiation that follow a YES vote

the negotiations will have been underway for some 18 months – and may well be close to completion - before the devolved government faces the electorate

a general election will take place some six months after the referendum result and the start of the negotiations that could result in a change of government of the nation state and therefore the composition of the other side of the negotiating table


i) Is the defence alliance question a routine party policy matter, one only for delegates of that party to decide on?

ii) Is the defence policy a major or a minor matter in terms of significance to the electorate of the devolved country, or does it also have significance to the nation state, the members of the defence alliance and to world affairs?

iii) Is it it reasonable or democratic that such a crucial policy change be debated by a small number of delegates from one political party only, or should there be a wider consultation among the total electorate of the devolved country and in its devolved Parliament?

Friday, 3 August 2012

My Twitter lead-up to the NATO U-turn

After the denial period by SNP supporters in the Spring of this year, when a NATO U-turn was something being got up by the wicked media – encouraged by me, apparently – and no senior party person was even considering it – so said the true believers - there was a period of quiet.

Then a press release from the SNP on the cost of Trident, emphasising the Party’s non-nuclear stance came out, and I loyally tweeted various facts from it. Maybe I should have recognised the danger signs – fifteen days later, the press began to speculate authoritatively about a U-turn on NATO, and on the 16th came the Angus Robertson/Angus MacNeill defence paper.

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Labour claims a social conscience, yet squanders billions on WMDs, claims to be internationalist, yet makes war on other nations. Johann?

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Scotland’s share of WMD costs, £215m could have funded 11 Community Hospitals (at £20,000,000 per hospital). Your turn, Johann Lamont? ...

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Scotland’s share of WMD costs, £215m could have funded 5,972 teachers or 27 single stream Primary Schools or 11 Secondary Schools. Johann?

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Scotland’s share of WMD costs = £215m - could have funded up to 430 doctors (at £500,000 per doctor) or 5,119 nurses (at £42,000 per nurse)

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

£2.54bn was spent on running costs of WMDs in Labour’s last 3 years in office. Labour says Yes to WMDs, but NO to Scotland's independence.

1 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Angus Robertson: "The social cost of the UK's nuclear obsession. ...warped priority of investing in WMDs before better local services"

1Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Over next 6 yrs Scottish taxpayers will spend £83m a year on nuclear warheads that can't be used. Enough for another 1500 service personnel.

Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

When Scotland goes, UK lose its WMDs, its oil and whisky revenues, its raison d'etre. Scotland, England, Wales recover their

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

The negotiations on the terms of Scotland's independence will be dominated by the defence debate, Everyone is commenting on it - except ..?

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

RUSI: "..were Scotland to dissolve the Union, then the question of the UK's nuclear deterrent may be the most serious and difficult of all"

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

RUSI: "the future of UK nuclear deterrent should Scotland go it alone, an issue likely to dominate security agenda in event of a Yes vote."

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO, dominated by the US, says it would never use Trident in a first strike attack. The US is the only nation that has used nuclear weapons

2 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

The two events of August 1945 - Hiroshima and Nagasaki - are the only use of nuclear weapons in war to date. A first strike attack by the US

4 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Defence and an independent Scotland - Sitting on de fence on defence … via @moridura

4 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

UK Committees with no SNP voice - Sitting on de fence on defence - … via @moridura

4 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Defence - a big yawn for the Scottish electorate? Will they still be yawning at ground zero when the WMDs rain down? …

4 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Labour AM Mark Drakeford opposes Trident fleet in Wales …

5 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Defence is lynchpin issue for independence negotiations. Most of my blog readers must be indy supporters, yet they don't read defence blogs?

7 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Dean Acheson, Kennedy's NATO advisor in 1962 "Britain's role as an independent power is about played out." 50yrs on, fiction kept up by UK

8 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Will an Independent Scotland Throw Out UK Nukes? … Aye, but how long after independence before it's done? Say no to NATO

9 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Back devomax and you back WMDs - the continuation of Trident in Scotland and more misguided foreign wars. I say NO to devomax, YES to indy.

9 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Two news discussion tonight on indy and devo max. Both managed to avoid the nuclear/WMD aspect. BE CLEAR - Yes to devomax means Yes to WMDs.

10 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Only independence will deliver a WMD-free Scotland. Devo max advocates are lethally compromising this key objective

10 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Devo max = Trident stays = foreign wars = zero international influence for Scotland. So does devo-anything else. Say YES to independence

10 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

We are told there is a majority in Scotland opposed to nuclear weapons, but also that a majority that favours devo-max. Does not compute ...


10 Jul  Gregor Murray@grogipher

@moridura People said that about Devolution (not in favour of devo-max, but neither do I buy your argument!)

10 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@grogipher You think a vote for devo max will remove nuclear

11 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Why do the nuclear bombers love devo max? Why do politicians slide away from defence matters? The UK’s nuclear panic …

11 Jul  Hugh Hunter@Gabicabi

@moridura Absolutely. I feel everyone is hedging their bets until someone throws their hat into the ring with a definitive position.

11 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Gabicabi I wish I could escape the gnawing suspicion that a nuclear fudge is being contemplated. October SNP Nato vote will be litmus paper

11 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Gabicabi Should qualify my last tweet - non-SNP party activists don't give a damn about Trident or WMDs. The activists most certainly do.

11 Jul  Hugh Hunter@Gabicabi

@moridura Yet again I agree. I believe SNP may sacrifice their position on Trident as a concession to appease scared/undecided voters.

11 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Gabicabi Voters don't give a damn about Trident, defence. If they did that, it would be as a negotiating bargaining chip after a YES vote

The Watershed: 16th July 2010 - Angus Robertson’s media announcement on the NATO U-turn

16 Jul  NConway@NConway2

@moridura SNP could drop opposition to Nato if Trident is removed from Scotland - Politics - -

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 I saw it - something I've blogged on and expressed concern about for some time now.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Who now doubts that the SNP leadership and Angus Robertson want to join NATO? What the Party will say in October is another matter.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO - SNP preparing to join? If the Party votes to remain in NATO after independence, I will resign my membership. …

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

The SNP leadership wants to join an alliance- NATO - committed to the use of nuclear weapons so they will remove nuclear weapons. Aye, right

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Trident poisons Scotland: Nuclear leaks, Faslane - a 2009 clip … This is what we will STILL have if we join NATO. Say NO!

16 Jul  Stuart Crawford@509298

@moridura Peter, I did say this would happen. Where now for people like you? #Labour is pro nuke, so only the #Greens seem to fit the bill?

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@509298 Resign from the party, campaign for independence, vote SNP in by-elections, re-assess Scottish parties policies after independence.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@509298 The $64 question is - will Labour be pro-nuclear in an independent Scotland. I say NO, with a reasonable amount of

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@509298 @moridura If you read @thesnp defence proposals you'll see the provision for joining #NATO is removal of Trident anf Nukes #yesscot

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp I know that - and they're nuts if they think they can negotiate any such thing - it will go into very long grass

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@509298 @moridura If you read @thesnp defence proposals you'll see the provision for joining #NATO is removal of Trident anf Nukes #yesscot

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp NATO is going to surrender Trident and the UK nuclear deterrent of we join NATO? Dream on: the idea is ludicrous

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @moraymp @509298 @thesnp He'll have answers. It will depend on the interviewer whether they cut any ice. I'm not sure at all.

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura Then an Independent Scotland won't be joining #NATO , the conditions are clear. Non-negotiable. @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland They're calling spirits from the vasty deep - it is not that simple, but it's beyond Twitter scope.

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura Angus Robertson ( @moraymp )is on #scotnight as he helped write the proposal I'm sure he'll have answers. @509298 @thesnp

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @moraymp @509298 @thesnp He'll have answers. It will depend on the interviewer whether they cut any ice. I'm not sure at all.

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura It is simple, no nukes or no NATO. Clear as day @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland I wish I had a pound for everyone who said that before getting monumentally screwed in negotiation.

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura It is simple, no nukes or no NATO. Clear as day @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp @yesscotland You could try finishing your tweets with END OF - you're headed that way ...

16 Jul  Paul Clarkson@Clarkson77

@moridura It's clear to me, if @thesnp can't deliver, we'll just have to vote someone else in 2016 who can. @509298 @yesscotland

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland If we join NATO, we'll either be locked into an unbreakable deal or be in open-ended negotiation.

16 Jul  Jim @jafurn50

@moridura @Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland Serious question Peter. how do the other non-nuclear countries in NATO do it?

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@jafurn50 @Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland They don't have the UK's nuclear fleet in their waters - read my blogs.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

To save trying to answer endless queries on complex arguments, please go to my blog, check the index for NATO. Complex arguments need space

16 Jul  Jim @jafurn50

@moridura @Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland I do read ur blogs The point is with #indy WE decide. Do you not trust SNP (if elected) ?

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@jafurn50 @Clarkson77 @thesnp @509298 @yesscotland If you've read, you haven't understood. I have no more to say that would be helpful.

16 Jul  Isobel Waller@IsobelWaller

@moridura @Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp But surely that is a given with SNP? no trident?

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@IsobelWaller @Clarkson77 @509298 @thesnp I'm beginning to wonder just what can be taken as a given with the SNP at the moment.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@ElaineKY2 Of course I'm not against the YES vote. Try reading my tweets of yesterday and my blog. And see today's tweet re Norway.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

#NATO Norway parallel is false as is that with other non-nuclear NATO members. None of them have the UK's nuclear arsenal on their doorstep.

16 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO, the SNP, Angus Robertson, Isabel Fraser … This was effectively a filibuster by Angus to stop awkward questions.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

The idea that UK/NATO will give up Scottish nuclear base for Trident as quid pro quo for an independent Scotland joining NATO is ludicrous.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

I feel utterly deceived by the SNP's posture on NATO up to yesterday's news - smoke and mirrors over whether such a thing was contemplated.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@bordersbankie May 2016 SNP will still be negotiating terms. If they're voted out, incoming Labour-controlled coalition won't reverse indy.

17 Jul  David Munro@bordersbankie

@moridura Not sure but presumably then we would say bye bye to Nato. Bigger worry is if pro-Union parties comprise first Government imo.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@bordersbankie The NATO 'offer' is a way for SNP to get an empty promise to disarm/remove nukes, then have the issue shelved for i20 years.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO resolution seems clear-cut - but is it?

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

SNP will maintain Nato membership subject to agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and will only take part in UN operations.

17 Jul  Pat Kane@thoughtland

@moridura: SNP NATO resolution seems clear-cut - is it?” Seems 2 b. Vote should b on B-plan tho. A-plan pines unnecessarily 2 b "credible"

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@thoughtland I'll need to anwer in full in blogs, Pat. Meanwhile, this will have to do for the moment.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

NATO is a nuclear alliance: it will brook no interference on its WMDs from member countries with non-nuclear policies e.g. Norway, Scotland.

17 Jul  David S. Berry@DavidSBerry

@thoughtland @moridura May not legitimise but are examples to follow. A non-nuclear world needs us "inside the tent" of NATO to change it.

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@DavidSBerry @thoughtland The utter folly of that argument is Labour, inside the UK tent since 1945 - zero influence on nuclear policy.

17 Jul  NConway@NConway2

@moridura Peter that would be a shame are you not better inside the tent arguing ur case than outside

9:28 PM - 17 Jul 12 via TweetCaster for Android · Details

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 I'm not outside it till the vote in October. But I don't believe in staying inside wrong tents - it never works. Look at LibDems.

17 Jul  Lilly Hunter@LillyLyle

Those of you complaining about @thesnp tonight, have a look south of the border & count your blessings

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@LillyLyle Those of you afraid to confront your party when they're fundamentally wrong - remember Robin Cook, the last decent Lab MP

17 Jul  NConway@NConway2

@moridura @LillyLyle nato is a non issue who says SNP will ever form the 1st or 2nd government or any government of an independent Scotland

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 I heard the non-issue argument months ago when naive SNP supporters were denying that the SNP had any such plans. It's an issue.

17 Jul  NConway@NConway2

@moridura Thanks Peter...please stay in the tent :-)

17 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 Until - and if ...

18 Jul  David S. Berry@DavidSBerry

@moridura @thoughtland Perhaps that's more down to Labour's folly and not my arguments: they sold out any principle on this in the 1980's.

18 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@DavidSBerry @thoughtland Long before that, David - it started with Aneurin Bevan's "going naked into the conference chamber" remark.

18 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

SNP leadership want to maintain nuclear virginity by getting rid of Trident yet join a nuclear alliance committed to retaining and using it.

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Jim Sillars view of Scotland:"NATO's aircraft carrier" If this remotely reflects the SNP view what's the point of indy? …

20 Jul  NConway@NConway2

Jim Sillars: Scotland is bound to stay in the club - Comment - -

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 A club I won't want to be in - Scotland as NATO's aircraft carrier. What point to independence if this view holds sway?

20 Jul  David Robertson@Daveinmaryburgh

@moridura what would your thoughts be on membership on same basis as Iceland ?

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@Daveinmaryburgh NATO exists as a reality that we must interact with, David. The only interaction I support is through Partnership for Peace

20 Jul  Ron Wilson@TartanSeer

@moridura @NConway2 The point being the people can vote for parties opposed to NATO & if given demo assent remove Scotland from alliance

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@TartanSeer @NConway2 If that means "join and we can get out later" Ron, I say no - it means "go along with anything till indy then get out"

20 Jul  Ron Wilson@TartanSeer

@moridura It means playing hardball 4 the prize, NATO a Unionist fox shot by Robertson, real choices after indy when you & the people decide

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@TartanSeer I disagree fundamentally with that, Ron. I'll have a blog up on Sillars later today.

20 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Twitter is not exactly awash with tweets from our fearless, outspoken MSPs about how they feel about NATO. How do whips work in Holyrood?

21 Jul Stewart McDonald@StewartMcDonald

@freescotlandnow like the UN?

21 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@StewartMcDonald @freescotlandnow UN does not endorse the use of nuclear weapons, nor the policies of member countries. …

21 july Peter Curran@moridura

If SNP votes to join NATO they will move from being the best option for a nuclear-free Scotland to least worst option. I'll still vote SNP.

Peter Curran@moridura

NATO Kosovo campaign 2001 failed to avert a humanitarian disaster - a questionable model of humanitarian intervention. …

21 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Kosovo - NATO's shining hour? Absolutely not. Review of NATO’s War over Kosovo Noam Chomsky …

Peter Curran@moridura

What NATO says about its nuclear policy. Support NATO membership and you support this …

21 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Presence of US nuclear forces in Europe committed to NATO provides essential political/military link between European and N.American members

21 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Alex Salmond - against NATO intervention in Kosovo …

Peter Curran@moridura

Public support for NATO won't translate into YES votes for indy, but "Why leave UK if in NATO?" Most NATO supporters support the deterrent.

Peter Curran@moridura

Whatever most Scots think, Scots won't be allowed to determine nuclear status. If we join NATO, indy Scotland won't get rid of Trident.

22 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Poll shows majority of Scots in favour of Scot.Govn. making decision on nuclear weapons. Most of them mean a devolved government, not indy

22 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

Pro-NATO nats rejoice in poll showing majority of Scots in favour. Hardly surprising - most want to stay in the UK if other polls accurate


Independence for Scotland contains all the Devo Max you could ask for- free!

23 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP And we won't get it if the party goes down the NATO route you favour, Angus - a golden gift to the devo/status quo brigade.

24 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP If you haven't read my blogs on this, I don't plan to repeat it all here. You'd better get beyond such simplistic thinking.

24 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP @bordersbankie Powers? What 'powers'? NATO = 3 nuclear states with a veto dominating 25 non-nuclear. Scotland's 'powers' = 0


@moridura so long as u move powers from.Westminster to Scotland ..Scots can decide what forums they are in. I'd choose NATO :-)

23 Jul  Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP I know you would, Angus - you've put your name to the motion. You're giving up on independence with this one

SNP party supporters and the NATO question – the comment themes

One recent comment perhaps sums up the nature of the opposition to my arguments against NATO membership and the SNP’s handling of it.

“Peter it is becoming increasingly clear that you would like to see a public debate with the SNP exercising no control or management of this issue - just as any organisation never mind a political party would do and has done throughout history?”

That captures almost exactly what I would like to see, and what the SNP and my critics seem determined not to have – an open debate involving the people of Scotland, as the SNP has been having with the big conversation, the referendum consultation, the same sex marriage consultation, etc. all in the name of open and transparent government.

But in the SNP’s scale of priorities, it matters more to find out what the people think about same sex marriage than whether a party that presents itself as a party of principle and adamantly anti-nuclear should do a volte face on its long-standing opposition to membership of a nuclear alliance, totally committed to the principle of nuclear deterrence and the possession and use of WMDs.

Why is this? Simply because the SNP, with entirely honourable motives, recognised that same sex marriage was a political hot potato, and if they intended to pursue legislation (as to their credit they have committed to do) they had to get a real idea of the view of the people.

But this clear and principled vision deserts them when it comes to something infinitely more important, the membership of a nuclear alliance in which an independent Scotland will be utterly powerless but jointly culpable when nuclear Armageddon is triggered by the big Three.

Instead, they try to stay low key on their true intentions for an extended period, stonewall the media, then slip out an announcement at the tail end of the Parliamentary term, with the firm intention of keeping the whole thing in house and under wraps until Conference in October.

Was there anything signalled in advance of the media statement to SNP branches and party members about the Robertson/MacNeil paper? Was there any suggestion to branches that they should make a point of debating this important question? Were the arguments for and against made available so that members could reached a balanced conclusion?

Any objective observer considering how these events have unfolded would come to the conclusion that the Party leadership and party managers want this paper to come to conference with the minimum of publicity, with the minimum of open debate, to then have a ‘debate’ in which the party leaders will throw their weight decisively behind the proposal - accompanied by ringing reaffirmation of the anti-nuclear policy - then secure a ratification of the U-turn. Cynicism? No, realism

But let’s hear more of the pro-party position and pro-NATO comments – and they are not always the same the same group. Some who are opposed to NATO membership nonetheless defend the Party managers’ approach to the management of the issue and the vote.


“I know you are pissed off that conference will probably endorse a policy with which you disagree but with which I suspect the majority of Scots will agree but you cannot seriously suggest that telling the members not to give succour to the enemy prematurely is undemocratic?”

“… it looks like the matter will be decided at the conference. … But that's the disadvantage of democracy. Sometimes the other side wins. And we do believe in democracy, right?”

“I am fairly rabidly anti-WMD, but I suppose I disagree with you in this. This IS something that should be debated and debated before the referendum campaign. It is the SNP's strength, not its weakness, that it can look at policies and bring them before their conference for open debate.”

“Peter, can you tell me why we can't be in NATO and still get rid of nuclear weapons? …. As far as I am concerned the vote at conference will be support NATO and ban nuclear weapons.”

“Nuclear weapons are of course an abomination but they are not going to go away. How can we as a small nation influence the defence(?) policy of such great powers as the USA, China, etc.? Let's face it, CND has lost the war.

Unfortunately, an independent Scotland will require military treaties. As a start, I believe a pragmatic alliance with NATO, within definitions that we, as far as possible, have determined to represent the view of the Scottish people is a good start. ….. If Scotland were to decide not to join NATO and go it alone, I wonder how long the removal and decommissioning of these foreign powers' weapons would take, if ever."

I've kept more or less silent on the SNP policies that I have disagreed with Peter, just to avoid this kind of thing; the Judean Popular Front meltdown that will be leapt upon by the unionists.”

“I think Salmond was between a rock and a hard place on this one. Can he really afford to have the US actively fighting against Scottish independence? And the US has a long history of interfering in situations like this. Do you think they wouldn't if US interest are at risk? I think there is a substantial possibility that there is good reason for this decision. You get where I'm going with that, I am sure.

I don't like this and I don't like WMD in Scotland but as has been pointed out many times, Norway is in NATO and still remains nuclear-free. I see no reason why Scotland couldn't do the same.”

“I don't care much for NATO either way but sympathise with the SNP's Realpolitik situation. For independence to stand a chance, the SNP has to signal to the International Community, i.e. America that they can be relied upon as an ally. Otherwise independence would not happen due to tacit disapproval.”

“I hate saying this stuff because it sounds paranoid but the history of the CIA and the US government interfering in the internal affairs of foreign nations, including independence campaigns, is public record. … There is a clear history of US government interference to protect US interests. I am not at all sure this may not have influenced the SNP position.

I won't mention Norway after this, Peter, but I am not at all sure you have made your case that Scotland would be totally difference post-independence. …”

“I must say I'm completely at the other end of the spectrum on this. Although I'm a SNP member (a quite recent one in fact) I've always been a little cagey on their defence policy, and to me this is a welcome dose of pragmatism, or realism or whatever one wants to call it. Although I wouldn't want Scotland to be a holder of nuclear weapons - I think we should take our lead from a country like Norway (to use a well worn comparison) I've never been in favour of unilateral disarmament either. Honouring our treaty obligations whilst remaining a member of NATO, at least for the present, poses no difficulties for me.”


In the above, and many other comments, including on YouTube and in private correspondence that I cannot quote, I tease out the following common points -

Don’t rock the independence boat by making your policy disagreement public.

Accept the result of the democratic vote of Conference – don’t resign because a policy you disagree with is passed.

The SNP is adamantly anti-nuclear therefore it can safely be a member of NATO without compromising that principle.

An independent Scotland must be a member of a defensive alliance.

As a member, Scotland can positively influence NATO.

If we don’t join, America and NATO will intimidate us and threaten independence and the anti-nuclear policy.

We can be anti-nuclear and still be against unilateral nuclear disarmament and in favour of the deterrent until multi-lateral disarmament happens.

A majority of the Scottish electorate favour NATO membership, so joining will help a YES vote to independence.

Norway can manage to be anti-nuclear and yet be a NATO member – so can an independent Scotland.

This policy change is a matter for SNP internal party democracy and no one else.


Since I have set out my arguments against an independent Scotland being a NATO member at considerable length - more than most media and online commentators - I really must rest my case unless new evidence or events lead me to add to it. I do reserve to right to revisit it and reiterate it constantly in the lead-up to the Perth October debate and vote. All of the above points I believe I have rebutted by argument, but them I would say that, wouldn’t I?

I have no evidence that I have changed a single opinion by my arguments, but I have evidence that I have offered a useful structuring of the arguments against NATO - and reference point to them - to those who were already against it – Professor Mitchell’s 22% of the SNP by 2007 sample. I hope that number has grown, but it may well have shrunk in the five years since the sample.

However, in my replies to various correspondents recently I made some new responses which I think might be relevant -

“There is a democratic world out there beyond the SNP called the Scottish electorate, or if you like, the people of Scotland, which the SNP Government says they want a dialogue with in the spirit of open government - except when it is a hot potato like this one.

This vital issue is not one to have kept within the confines of the party, and the party has not behaved well over this. So far there has been no debate of any kind on this at my branch, nor has there been any level or forum SNP forum in which I (also an SNP member - for the moment) have been able to debate it so far. However, there is a forum, the NO to NATO Coalition, and I will be saying my piece there.”

The Party brought this on themselves - they were less than honest in their lead up to this, they have tried to avoid discussing it, and have displayed a lack of openness and transparency on the issue in the hope of sliding it through painlessly at conference, which has been self-defeating, as it inevitably was going to be. I cannot accept that issues of this importance should be suppressed in the interests of closing ranks. The responsibility for 'playing into the hands of the unionists' lies squarely with the party managers.

There is something called democratic accountability to the electorate. The SNP governs for all the people of Scotland, not just SNP party members, who are a tiny proportion, and party delegates, who are a tinier proportion.

This is not open government as I understand it, it is rather sordid and manipulative party politics of a type I had hoped the SNP was above, and on a fundamental issue. The fact that most party members don't seem to regard NATO membership as a fundamental issue I find deeply depressing.

In the event of a YES vote in 2014  - if we now get one after this misconceived initiative - negotiations will be either completed or close to completion before the 2016 Holyrood election. What the present devolved SNP Government wants is endorsement of their negotiating position for those negotiations intended to lead to full independence. The idea that any non-SNP government or SNP/Labour Coalition after 2016 can unwind such a key concession is naive.”

“The matter will be decided at the October conference. There is little reason to think that the majority are opposed - all the polls and my own, albeit limited range of respondees would indicate the reverse.

There are those in the Parliamentary Party who are opposed, but some of them have effectively been muted, and are strangely - and perhaps contemptibly - silent.

I believe in democracy. I also believe that I have a perfect right not to belong to a political party that espouses something that I believe to be fundamentally wrong - and dangerous. Being a party member and supporting a party electorally and financially on a least worst option at the ballot box are very different things, however.

Since I believe that citizens must vote, I have throughout my life supported parties that I was not fully in tune with as the least worst option, e.g. the Labour Party.

For five years I have supported the SNP as a best option, a party that fulfilled all my fundamental beliefs. I regret that is no longer true (short of a miraculous revolt against NATO policy in October!)

But I will still vote SNP at by-elections until the referendum outcome is known. Come 2015 general election (UK) and 2016 (Holyrood election), perhaps for a newly independent Scotland - who knows?”

“Undoubtedly it should be debated - and it will be. Whether it can be categorised as open is another matter. It's backed by the party's strategist and defence spokesman, Angus Robertson. It's backed by Alex Salmond, the party's Superman. Dissenting voices are few, and muted (or being muted!) The party leadership simply can't afford to lose this vote, and they won't.

The party is in "Let's avoid dissent on everything until after independence - then everything will be alright" mood. But it won't be. There is a growing blandness in the party's approach and what they risk is not the loss of core activists campaigning and voting for YES (like me, in or out of party), but the increasing body of the uncommitted saying "So if so little will be different after independence, why not stay in the UK?" Without their votes, there will be no independence.

If the party votes to join/stay in NATO, I might see independence in my lifetime, but I will never see a nuclear-free Scotland. Trident decommissioning and removal will be at least 10 years away, perhaps 20 - and that means never – it will disappear into very long, polluted NATO/rUK grass.

I will be looking for a realignment on the Scottish Left (there is no such party - yet ...)”

The SNP is a democratic party, with a branch structure and nomination and voting procedures. I have little doubt that the majority of active members, including apparently most MSPs and ministers, are either in support of their NATO posture, or apathetic. For those who oppose it and are silent, I have only contempt to offer.

I am one voter, one party member and one voice, nothing more. I am against NATO membership, and I can never be a member of a political party that supports membership, however tortuous and self-serving - and maybe self-deluding - the justifications offered.

Come a YES vote to NATO in October and I'm out.”

“Trying to curry favour by offering to stay in NATO if the UK removes Trident is hardly going to work. Offering to stay in NATO then delaying the decommissioning of Trident indefinitely might work, but then the SNP would be as bad as what Scots are trying to rid themselves of.

I have never tried to make a case that Scotland would be totally different after independence. Most Scots want to preserve its traditions, its values, its relationship with the other nations that currently comprise the UK, its unique culture, its tolerance and the proud traditions of its regiments and fighting forces.”

Will the devo max option cause those who would vote indy on single question to bottle it and settle for devo max and those who would reject indy vote devo max.?

It all depends on how the questions and the ballot paper(s) are structured. I've been over this in depth in blogs, but nobody seems to want to do the hard thinking, and much utter nonsense has been talked about the questions, the voting outcomes, etc.

The critical element will be the likely high turnout vs normal election - anywhere from an 80-90% turnout with more than 50% of the total turnout being people who don't usually vote - the silent group that everyone wants to claim as their own.”