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Showing posts with label Scotland's NATO policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland's NATO policy. Show all posts

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Scotland and NATO – a US view. The questions and contradictions that just won’t go away …

This is a right-wing Republican argument - but - who knows when the US will have another right-wing republican president? In less than four years? And who knows exactly what Obama and the Democrats think of Scotland and NATO?

The essence of the argument is all here - it contains all the contradictions inherent within the SNP's hotly-debated policy shift last October. They weren't successfully addressed or answered then - and Angus Robertson did not successfully address them in the debate that immediately followed this. Jim Murphy was of course in his usual backroom Glasgow political brawler mode, and betrayed all the intellectual poverty and hypocrisy at the heart of the Labour position.

Only independence - and an election in 2016 for a truly independent Scottish Parliament - will resolve these matters.

Since the Scottish Labour Party that contests that election will be a very different beast to its present expedient, power, money-grubbing and militaristic incarnation, who knows what the outcome of the 2016 election will be? The same will be true to a lesser degree of the LibDems. The Tories will still be Tories ...

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Unhappy NATO tweeting time–the NATO U-turn and the Perth Conference

There are a dozen more personally rewarding and pleasant things I could have been doing with my day than this. But none more important.

Have a good Conference, delegates! I wish you all well.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP is willing to protect vulnerable species - sharks and pandas - but not protect the vulnerable peoples of the world from NATO and WMDs.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP press release:"SNP MEP Alyn Smith swims with sharks .." SNP must not swim with NATO sharks and be complicit in nuclear warfare and WMDs.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Only time in NATO's history that Article 5 of North Atlantic treaty has been invoked as an attack on all NATO members. It led to Afghanistan

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@AlynSmithMEP Why swim with the NATO sharks, Alyn - no tank safely contains them. Say NO to NATO at Conference!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Perth delegates: tell your leaders you love them and trust them but that they are wrong on NATO. Say NO and move on to the independence YES!

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Better Together will smile and crack a bottle of champagne if SNP Conference says yes to NATO U-Turn. Liam Fox and arms dealers will rejoice

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Perth delegates: at Conference you will hear from committed SNP CND brothers and sisters asking you to say NO to NATO. Trust them and say NO

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP Perth delegates - on arrival you will see committed veterans of the Faslane Peace Camp asking you to say NO to NATO. Don't betray them!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Perth delegates: the NATO U-turn presents a tactical, strategic and moral challenge. Doing the right thing is the right thing to do - say NO

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Most flawed pro-NATO U-turn argument of all - "It's disloyal to SNP to oppose the motion and support the amendment." Be loyal to Scotland!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Flawed NATO arguments:

1:"We need it" We don't!

2:"Influence from within" You can't!

3:"We need it to get a YES" You don't - risks a NO

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Pressures on delegates at Perth to close ranks on NATO U-turn will be formidable. Resist them - NATO is bad for SNP and for Scotland. Say NO

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

An independent Scotland will present a moral example to a troubled world, one however that will be seriously compromised by joining NATO.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

I feel strongly about NATO (you noticed?) - I speak only for myself, from a deep concern for the Scottish people …

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

While the SNP MPs pursue their 'Ladybird Book of Nuclear WMDs', one ordinary Scottish voter tries for detailed argument …

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

NATO – a nuclear alliance: membership may lead to party fission …

5h Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP keep invoking the non-nuclear NATO members as a kind of desperate mantra. Contrast this simplistic approach with > …

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP None of them remotely compare with Scotland's situation as the base for the UK's WMD's crucial to NATO strategy. You know it

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Influence NATO from inside the tent? Enter this tent and be silenced and suffocated by money, influence and pressure. NATO=WMDs=WAR Say NO!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

The SNP playing with NATO membership is like a child playing with a hair-trigger revolver. Don't do it, SNP. Vote NO to NATO at Perth.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@theSNP @AlexSalmondMSP Then abandon the NATO folly, First Minister. You are creating a potential San Andreas fault line in the party.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@Tarzan123 NATO is dangerous, lethal. I turn away from the US military/industrial complex and an rUK that support WMDs and foreign wars.

5 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@AngusMacNeilMP Don't be foxed by NATO, Angus. You're aligned with some very dubious people and organisations. Naivety is not in my nature..

Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

#NATO There's something nasty in the woodshed in the SNP's NATO/nuclear position. There's a distinct aroma of NATO influence in all they say

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

SNP support unilateral nuclear disarmament. Why then are they quoting organisations and think tanks who support multi-lateral disarmament?

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Look hard at organisations who support NATO while arguing for multi-lateral disarmament. There's nice consulting, travel and lectures perks!

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

NATO 'influences' a number of organisations with 'PEACE' in their title. They argue for multi-lateral disarmament while arguing for NATO.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@PeterMurrell @theSNP Why not add a couple of replica Trident warheads for delegates to admire? They go with NATO - or rather, they don't go

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

LIAM FOX says "I support your NATO membership, Alex but warn you to keep Trident on the Clyde for as long as it takes" …

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

#NOtoNATO NATO membership will keep Trident on the Clyde "for as long as it takes" Who says so? Liam Fox, Alex Salmond's new supporter.

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

A wee reminder of what Liam Fox (new supporter of SNP's U-turn on Trident) was and is. He "warns" FM to keep Trident! …

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

#NATO Liam Fox supports Alex Salmond's NATO U-turn but "warns" him to keep Trident. What more does the Party need to know to say NO to NATO?

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Disgraced former Tory defence secretary Liam Fox backs SNP's Nato U-turn but warns Trident must be kept on Clyde “for as long as it takes ..


Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Reid Foundation on security threats:".subject has been treated not as real issue of national significance but in terms of political sloganeering"

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Security threats to Scotland:"has failed to give any consideration whatsoever to security responses other than military ones"Reid Foundation

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Security threats to Scotland:"failed to consider the most pressing security threats Scotland faces" REID FOUNDATION

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

Security threats to Scotland:"been based on no credible assessment of the form of or response to security threats Scotland might face" REIDF

 Peter Curran Peter Curran@moridura

@NConway2 That is unquestionably true. NATO membership will make it infinitely more difficult to do so, and presents major ethical

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The SNP and NATO – the argument in detail

On Sunday, I set out the basic SNP argument for the proposed NATO U-turn, and offered a basic classification of the elements of that argument. When it first came out in July, that statement, taken from the defence paper, was the sum total of the argument, together with Angus Robertson’s interview with Isabel Fraser.

And that would have been it until the SNP’s October conference if the issue had not been kept under a continuous spotlight by the media and by other concerned parties represented principally by the SNP CND group and the NO to NATO Coalition.

However, because of that external focus, allied to internal dissent, we now know much more about the thinking of those who champion the NATO U-turn. It was evident from the start in July that the co-signatories of the defence paper, Angus Robertson and Angus MacNeil were behind it, and it logically followed that the First Minister had to be behind it or it would never have seen the light of day. It could also be safely assumed that senior figures who were on record from much earlier as favouring a change of policy on NATO -such as Michael Russell – were behind it, and that the Cabinet were either behind it or maintaining a public silence if there was dissent within their ranks.

I had entertained what later proved to be a vain hope (see Renfrew Cabinet meeting) that Nicola Sturgeon might be against it, which would have been hugely significant if true. However, the First Minister and Deputy First Minister made it abundantly clear in Renfrew Town Hall that they were solidly behind the NATO motion, and advanced arguments for it. So the delegates to the SNP Conference will be asked to vote on a motion that has heavyweight endorsement at the highest levels of the party.

The MSPs who have come out against the motion are – at the last count - John Wilson, Gordon MacDonald, Jamie Hepburn, John Mason, John Finnie, Bill Kidd, Marco Biagi, Bob Doris, Sandra White, Jean Urquhart and Dave Thompson.  In addition, the SNP CND group and the SNP Youth group are opposed.

The NATO U-turn has been described by some as immoral and hypocritical. I agree on both counts.


We now know a lot more about the thinking behind the proposed policy change than we did in mid-July, thanks to various articles in the newspapers – what Bill Ramsay of SNP CND called “the deafening silence from senior members of the party” - some by SNP proxies such as George Kerevan, and from the latest responses of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister to queries.

So let’s listen to George Kerevan, because it is now apparent after the Renfrew meeting that he reflects the SNP leadership’s position very closely indeed. In his Scotsman piece, Kerevan opens with an attempt to wriggle out of the boorach provoked by the SNP leadership’s inept handling of the pre-conference release of the news of the U-turn – the storm of protest, the inaugural meeting of SNP CND and the “high-profile MSPs” opposed to the NATO proposal – by ingeniously converting the rift to a rite -  “another rite of passage for the SNP as it moves from protest movement to nation-builder.” Aye, rite (sic), George …

He goes on to a low-key acknowledgment on the proposed U-turn -

“This is partly to deflect inevitable negative publicity during the referendum campaign – “Salmond will leave Scotland defenceless.”

If that alone was the SNP’s objective, it has already failed, since such publicity had already been endemic in the media and from unionists, including the NATO criticism, but now has the crucial added element of ridicule, because of the self-evidently contradictory nature of the proposal – resolutely non-nuclear but willing to be part of a nuclear alliance, with the ludicrous idea that NATO membership can be offered to the UK as a bargaining concession to speed the removal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

Kerevan focuses on trying to rebut the SNP CND arguments against NATO membership, indeed his nation-builder stuff is a rather panic-stricken response to the very existence of SNP CND as the “first break in the party’s famous iron discipline for well over a decade”. Of course, his Scotsman article is a reluctant recognition that the party’s hope that they could keep the debate out of the media and the public domain until the party conference is now blown out of the water, and some public response is desperately needed, but ideally not in detail by senior party figures so that the fiction can be maintained. (Angus Robertson, as the main architect of the U-turn, had little choice but to speak.)

Let’s look at his attempted rebuttal arguments -

SNP CND argues that Scotland’s remaining in/joining NATO will make it harder to get rid of Trident. (For the record, I believe that the SNP’s wish to be part of NATO may be to sanitise a long-delayed removal of Trident, i.e. a fudge to square the SNP’s non-nuclear stance with NATO membership.)

Kerevan’s response is that if an independent Scotland was in NATO, it would be harder for rUK to “blackmail Scotland, as a fellow NATO member into accepting what it does not want…” i.e. nuclear weapons on Scottish territory.

This argument does not stand up to even the most superficial scrutiny. ‘Blackmail’ is in fact a criminal technique of negotiation - an attempt to compel a concession against a threat of unilateral implementation of something fundamentally unacceptable. Kerevan uses the term blackmail pejoratively - in a non-criminal context - but without appearing to understand it. If one thinks about it, the concept of nuclear deterrence is blackmail on a grand scale conducted between nations and power blocs.

What exactly does Kerevan think the ‘blackmail’ will consist of?

Refusal to remove Trident from an independent Scotland?

Threatening an independent Scotland with force?

Refusal to assist with the defence of Scotland on matters that affected UK/NATO interests?

Or perhaps he is thinking of the post-referendum/pre-independence negotiations? Does he actually think the UK will be more demanding, more obstructive to a Scotland that rejects NATO and nukes than to a Scotland which is a member but demands removal of nukes as a quid pro quo for its membership?

A Scottish Government negotiating team with a clear YES mandate from the 2014 referendum, standing clearly by its principles of a non-nuclear Scotland and non-membership of a nuclear alliance which is committed to the possession and use of WMDs will have more moral and intellectual credibility  - and bargaining clout - than one fatally compromised by NATO membership.

SNP CND argues that the NATO bureaucracy could be used to delay the removal of Trident from Scotland if Scotland were within NATO.

Kerevan’s response is the tent argument, much beloved by those who wish to suppress dissent by giving the illusion of influence. In essence it is stay within the system and influence change from within. It is the argument Labour has used since the Cold War and the nuclear standoff on nuclear disarmament – it has failed for over half a century. It is the current argument of Labour for remaining within a failing, unjust and unequal UK – it has failed, spectacularly. It is the argument currently used by the SNP to try to mute dissent within the party over NATO – it has failed.

But George Kerevan dutifully trots it out -

“Germany and other key Nato states are already leading a campaign to remove nuclear weapons from European soil – a campaign Scotland can support best by remaining inside the alliance where its vote counts.”

Bill Ramsay’s response was short and to the point in his Newsnicht debate with George Kerevan -

If Scotland stays in NATO and fights its anti-nuclear case, we’ll be doing exactly what Germany has done – failed. (7m 24sec in to Ramsay/Kerevan Newsnicht interview.)

Kerevan has an example of what he sees as such influence at work to offer -

“… at its Chicago summit in May, under heavy German pressure, Nato altered its so-called “deterrence and defence posture”. Instead of a traditional refusal to give a “no-first-strike” guarantee, Nato now promises never to use nuclear weapons against a country that does not possess them, and is a signatory of the UN non-proliferation treaty (that means Iran, by the way). The Chicago summit also adopted – for the first time in any military alliance – a commitment to make nuclear disarmament a constituent part of its strategy.”

I would not go so far as to say that such changes – if they really meant anything – were worthless. What I do say is that they are concessions wrung out of a NATO in a state of confusion over its role post-Cold War, still in search of a credible enemy to justify its continued existence, and anxious to curry favour by tossing a bone to nuclear disarmers.

Remember, NATO is the United States, France and the UK, with the other 24 member countries as impotent spear carriers, with no influence whatsoever on the major decisions. One only has to remember what happened to democracy, to UN resolutions, to truth and justice at the time of the Iraq war – all were either ignored or perverted to the pre-determined wishes of Bush and Blair. And that was in the face of an imagined, invented threat! I don’t trust NATO, especially in a crisis situation, and neither should the SNP nor an independent Scotland.

It is instructive to note that Kerevan, faced by the SNP CND argument that the US will ‘thwart’ the German campaign, has to reach back to General De Gaulle and a 46-year old example to try to rebut that patently true statement.

The kernel – and a pretty rotten kernel it is – of George Kerevan’s argument is this -

“Pretending Nato is solely to blame for nuclear weapons is naïve. Pretending an independent Scotland that repudiated Nato could fend off Russian bullying in the oil-rich North Atlantic is a dangerous gamble. And pretending a majority of Scots will vote for independence plus neutrality is political fantasy.”

Firstly, no one is ‘pretending’ that NATO is solely to blame for nuclear weapons. The United States which invented them and which used them against a non-nuclear state – twice - must take the principal share of the blame. The former USSR for reacting to that by creating its own nuclear arsenal comes second in the blame game. Then the rest followed …

The non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) formally recognises and in a sense, legitimises five states as nuclear weapons states (NWS) - China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States. But  three other state who are not signatories to the non-proliferation treaty - India, Israel and Pakistan - possess nuclear weapons. North Korea, in 2009, claimed that it had developed a nuclear weapon: it is believed to possess a small stockpile of simple nuclear weapons.

What is NATO, then? It is a military alliance created and dominated by the United States, the country that created the nuclear threat and was the first and so far, the only one - to use it against civilian populations. It is the threat that countries outside of it reacted to by creating their own nuclear arsenals. The United States bankrolls and support Israel and its nuclear weaponry, despite the fact that Israel is not a recognised nuclear weapons state under the NPT. De facto, NATO supports Israel, although it is not a member.

Secondly, the idea that an independent Scotland would face “Russian bullying in the oil-rich North Atlantic” is, to put it mildly, an unlikely scenario, but if it did, it would not be bullied by a nuclear threat – a ludicrous proposition. It would defend itself by conventional methods and, as a member of Partnership for Peace, could call upon support from other countries in the North Atlantic region who, NATO members or not, would respond because it would be self-evidently in their own security and strategic interests to do so.

Kerevan’s last, and faintly contemptible suggestion - that a majority of Scots will be asked to vote for independence and political neutrality and will reject it - is nonsense. There is no suggestion whatsoever that an independent Scotland will be neutral in conflict situations involving its neighbours and long-term friends and allies – nor would it in any way shirk its European and international obligations under the UN - and to imply it is to deny the many public policy statement by the SNP and the First Minister to the contrary – all made in the context of the existing non-NATO policy. Kerevan is trying to equate non-membership of NATO with pacifism, which is patently ludicrous.

The Scottish electorate will vote for an fully independent Scotland, in control of its own defence, foreign policy and economy, but fully integrated into the European and international community and full compliant with its responsibilities to these communities.

The fantasies are all Kerevan’s – the paranoid fantasies of NATO and its cold war mentality, locked into the military/industrial complex, desperately in search of an enemy and a role. In October in Perth, we can only hope that the SNP delegates do not allow themselves to be sucked into this paranoid nightmare and that they vote against NATO membership.

Say NO to NATO!

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Scotland and NATO–the arguments

It is always vital in debate – and  in negotiation - to be able to state the position and arguments of the other party as objectively as possible. If the other party’s position and arguments are not clearly understood, it is difficult, if not impossible to combat them effectively.


The defence paper and resolution of mid-July from co-signatories Angus Robertson MP and Angus MacNeil MP contains the key statement.

A long-standing national consensus has existed that Scotland should not host nuclear weapons and a sovereign SNP government will negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane which will be replaced by conventional naval forces. Security cooperation in our region functions primarily through NATO, which is regarded as the keystone defence organisation by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the United Kingdom.

The SNP wishes Scotland to fulfil its responsibilities to neighbours and allies. On independence Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with NATO. An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN sanctioned operations.

In the absence of such an agreement, Scotland will work with NATO as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme like Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. Scotland will be a full member of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union and the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).

Angus Robertson MP Elected Member

Angus MacNeil MP Elected Member

The above statement has the virtue of clarity and will be presented to Conference as a simple statement of claimed facts, statements of intent and negotiating deal-breakers. I use the following abbreviations to classify –

claimed fact CF

statement of intent SoI

negotiating deal-breaker NDB

conditional negotiating proposal CNP


Scotland won’t host nuclear weapons under any circumstance SoI

Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with NATO CF

NATO is the primary defence security coordinating force in the region, the region being defined as Scotland/UK/Scandinavia CF

The SNP wants an independent Scotland to be a good neighbour to Denmark, Norway, Iceland and rUK SoI

A sovereign SNP government will negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane SoI

The nuclear fleet at Faslane will be replaced by conventional naval forces. SoI

The SNP Government will stay in NATO CNP if UK accepts the removal of nuclear weapons from an independent Scotland CNDB1 and NATO continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN sanctioned operations. CNDB2

If agreement can’t be reached, an independent Scotland will join Partnership for Peace SoI


The timeframe over which this will take place, important dates within it, and the possible context at different points in that timeframe are crucial to possible outcomes.

26th August – 18th October 2012 – the period from now until the SNP Party Conference at Perth.

This period is significant because the debate that the SNP wanted to keep in house and on hold until the conference is now in full voice, with a cross-party, cross-interest coalition of opposition, the NO to NATO Coalition set up, the SNP CND group active and vocal, the dissident MSPs openly stating their positions and wide debate and coverage in the media.

Instead of a conference where the First Minister, Alex Salmond and the party’s chief strategist, defence spokesman and party leader at Westminster threw their considerable weight behind the proposal to the delegates, in the normally disciplined, consensual and amicable atmosphere of Conference to a group with only the leadership's paper to consider, they will now face a highly informed group of delegates, many mandated by branch resolutions on NATO membership. What was intended to be one topic among many will now undoubtedly be a principal topic, if not the principal one.

There can be little doubt that at this moment the party leaders in favour of the NATO U-turn are working hard to try to shape attitudes, to persuade, to cajole, to appeal to loyalty, in short, to use all the levers that a dominant leadership can to avoid this resolution being defeated. And as always in such situations, a danger exists that the very techniques of persuasion used, if ill-judged, will be counter-productive. Media scrutiny will be intense, not only in Scotland but beyond. This debates matters in fundamental ways to a wide spectrum of interest groups and individuals.

This was not how it was intended to be in the spring of this year, when the party spokespersons were playing the whole issue down, e.g. from the Scotsman on 16th April 2012 – ‘An official SNP spokesman dismissed as “mere speculation” reports that its leadership was considering proposing a change to the party’s policy on Nato.’

(If one took that statement at face value, the leadership didn’t start considering any change till 17th April at the earliest, but managed to produce a policy paper including one by mid-July!)

The other dates in the timeframe are as follows -

Late 2013 – launch of detailed policy papers on the shape of an independent Scotland by the Scottish Government

In effect, this will embrace the key negotiating objectives for the Scottish Government across a wide range of issues if they win a YES vote in 2014.

Autumn 2014 – the independence referendum

Following a YES vote, negotiations will commence almost immediately on the terms of independence, including the crucial defence issues. If the outcome is NO, or on a two-question referendum, a devo-max outcome, what follows is anybody’s guess …

May 2015 – latest date for UK general election

A change of government at this point early in the negotiations over independence would have major significance for the negotiating agenda: the idea that there would be a seamless continuation is untenable, and a new government could repudiate provisional agreements already reached and introduce new items to a still live negotiating agenda. It is highly unlikely that they would repudiate a fully-completed and signed agreement, however.

May 2016 – Scottish Parliamentary election

At this point, negotiations on the independence of Scotland could be complete (unlikely, in my view), near-complete (a possibility) or have a long way to go, especially on the defence-related issues (highly likely).

The implications of a change in the power balance at Holyrood or even  a change of government are enormous and far-reaching.

Friday, 27 July 2012

A distillation of defence – the nuclear implications of SNP leadership’s NATO U-turn

The Scottish Select Committee - THE REFERENDUM ON SEPARATION FOR SCOTLAND and John Ainslie of CND.

Session 2012-13
Publications on the internet


To be published as HC 139-vii
HOUSE OF COMMONS: Oral evidence taken before



Evidence heard in Public
Questions 1058 – 1209

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee, and copies have been made available by the Vote Office for the use of Members and others.

Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

Oral Evidence taken before Scottish Affairs Committee on Monday 16 July 2012

Members present:

Mr Ian Davidson (Chair) Ian Davidson MP

Jim McGovern Jim McGovern MP

Mr Iain McKenzie Mr Iain McKenzie MP

Simon Reevell Simon Reevell MP

Mr Alan Reid Alan Reid MP

Lindsay Roy Lindsay Roy MP Lindsay Roy MP

Examination of Witness

Witness: John Ainslie, Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

N.B. All red highlighting and bold selections  in this evidence – selection of text taken verbatim from the original - were made by Peter Curran and reflect his views of significance, and are not present in the original transcript. The opinions formed and conclusions drawn are mine and not those of the Committee or John Ainslie. All URL links from evidence are by Peter Curran and are not present in the original transcript.


I’ll try to keep it simple – usually a forlorn hope …


1. The entire UK nuclear deterrent - the Trident weapons system, and the nuclear submarines that carry it, together with nuclear-powered submarines that don’t carry it – is based in Scotland.

2. The permission of the Scottish people was never sought for this, but it is supported by all three major London-based unionist parties –Labour, Tory and LibDems. It is opposed by the SNP, the Greens and by the Scottish socialist parties.

3. The SNP has a non-nuclear policy, and is opposed to nuclear weapons. It was also opposed to an independent Scotland being a member of the NATO alliance because NATO is committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons. The SNP’s extant policy is for an independent Scotland to seek membership of Partnership for Peace (PfP),  a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) program aimed at creating trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union; 22 states are members.

PfP members in the EU include Austria, Finland, Ireland, Malta and Sweden. Other members are Switzerland, Russia, former Eastern bloc countries and former Yugoslavian states


The SNP strategic leadership have now submitted a defence paper for consideration at the October Party Conference in Perth that includes a proposal that an independent Scotland becomes/remains a member of NATO, providing rUK accepts the removal of the Trident weapons system from Scotland. It is not known which members of the ministerial group in the SNP Government oppose this motion, if indeed any do. A few MSPs have publicly opposed it, and some ministers are know to support it. Two MPs, Angus Robertson and Angus MacNeil have put their names to the paper, and it is believed that it is supported by the First Minister (on the basis that it would not have seen the light of day if he didn’t support it).

Those opposed to Scotland’s membership of NATO argue that since NATO is committed to the possession and use of nuclear weapons and is therefore a nuclear alliance, membership, even by countries with a non-nuclear policy, effectively endorses their possession and use.

Comparison of Scotland with Norway – a non-nuclear policy country in NATO (as are another 24) – are flawed, because Scotland’s situation is unique within NATO, and infinitely more complex in its ramifications. (see blogs passim and further analysis in this blog.)

The argument that, since PfP is a NATO organisation, membership of PfP is the same thing as membership of NATO is a nonsensical argument when one considers that Russia, for example, is a member, as are the former Eastern Bloc countries – the countries that NATO was specifically founded to combat during the Cold War.

Membership of PfP in relation to NATO is more akin to membership of the UN, where countries with widely different agendas and strategic objectives liaise. To use a crude and simplistic metaphor, to be in NATO is to be in their gang, and jointly accountable for their nuclear actions, however immoral and inhuman. To be in PfP is to recognise the de facto existence of the gang, and the need to communicate and liaise without endorsing its nuclear policy.


Step ONE: Deactivation of Trident weapons system – remove triggers and keys, remove certain components of missiles, and take submarines off patrol. Timescale: a few days.

Step TWO: Remove all weapons and store at Coulport.   Timescale: approximately eight weeks.

Step THREE: Physically remove weapons from Scotland.   Timescale: two years approximately.

Step FOUR: Dismantle weapons at Burghfield  Timescale: four years approximately.

N.B. A key international principle is disarmament is the principle of irreversibility. (For example, steps one and two are relatively easily reversible in a short timescale unless special actions are taken to ensure irreversibility.)

These are the necessary immediate steps – the full decommissioning and cleanup of the nuclear facilities of the base are complex, as is the question of the continued use of the base by submarines, both the former missile carrying subs and the nuclear-powered non-missile carrying subs.


Most of what I wanted to say – and was able to say, given that I am neither an academic  nor a military expert nor a politicians – I have said in these blogs and, vitally, in my replies to comments (which were predominantly in favour of the SNP’s position on NATO). These blogs were in the last month alone – I have blogged many times at earlier dates on NATO.

Alex Salmond, the SNP and NATO - a Faustian bargain?
The SNP, NATO and the end of a dream of a nuclear-free Scotland
Scotland as NATO’s aircraft carrier–Jim Sillar’s shining vision for independence
Nicola Sturgeon on Trident on Question Time, 7th May 2009
More on Scotland and NATO–the Vienna Convention
Scotland’s NATO membership – a deeply flawed concept and a retreat from principle
Truth and transparency in politics – unrealisable ideals or practical necessities?
Sitting on de fence on defence
A nuclear letter over three years ago …
Despite the above, no member of the SNP Parliamentary Party has contacted me openly on this: a few did privately, asking for confidentiality, which I respected.

My analysis of John Ainslie’s wonderfully informative responses to the Scottish Affairs Committee now enables me to clarify my thinking further on the negotiating implications of Scottish nuclear disarmament and NATO membership.


The Scottish Government’s policy on NATO membership of the Robertson/MacNeil motion is carried, the stated policy of the SNP will be as follow -

“Scotland will inherit its international treaty obligations including those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and will remain a member, subject to agreement on withdrawal of Trident from Scotland.”

“With agreement on the withdrawal of Trident and retaining the important role of the UN, Scotland can continue working with neighbours and allies within NATO.”

“ … An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members only to take part in UN-sanctioned operations. In the absence of such an agreement, Scotland will work with NATO as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme, like Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. …”

Let’s take the first part of that -

As Angus Robertson made clear to Isabel Fraser (1m50sec point in video), negotiation on the removal of Trident will take place with the UK Government after YES vote in 2014 and before independence day – not with NATO. So membership of NATO is contingent on two things – prior agreement with UK negotiators on “the withdrawal of Trident” and subject to a subsequent agreement with NATO “that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members only to take part in UN-sanctioned operations”.

In other words, after agreement with the UK negotiators on the ‘withdrawal’ of Trident, the SNP Government will graciously ‘maintain NATO membership’, subject to – etc.

As a negotiating position, the naivety of this would be astounding of the SNP leadership actually believed it.  A more realistic but uncharitable explanation is that they are depending on the SNP delegates in Perth in October being naive enough to believe it. It has already caused horse laughs from the Wee Lord of Islay, George Robertson and the SNP’s political  enemies, despite the fact that their defence thinking is at least as naive, and compounded by the MOD’s monumental incompetence and corruption, allied to NATO’s deep confusion and uncertainty about their role in the modern world.

In point of fact, any defence-related negotiation on the deterrent will take place with one party on the other side of the table, the UK, and two heavyweights in the backroom, the United States Defence Department and NATO, and no deal will be done that does not have the broad consent of this nuclear trio. The prospect of Philip Hammond, David Cameron and William Hague, three politicians of limited political experience and worse judgement, trying to deal with the hard-eyed men of America and NATO is not one to inspire confidence, especially since a UK general election will take place in May 2015, only six to eight months after the Scottish referendum.

In effect, Scotland’s hopes of getting rid of Trident are inextricably linked to NATO and the United States, and therefore the second part – membership of NATO, etc. must of necessity be a part of the negotiations with the UK. What the SNP objective means in effect is

We will attempt to destroy NATO UK nuclear capacity, remove its Northern European aircraft carrier, Scotland, then tell NATO the conditions on which we will join, then be welcomed with open arms.”

Aye, right … This entirely begs the question of why the hell NATO would want us in membership under these circumstances. To become the 26th member country, with no power or capacity to influence the NATO Big Three’s nuclear policy or the decision to initiate a nuclear strike without political approval? (At the moment NATO effectively has been given a political blank cheque by the USA, France and the UK to launch a nuclear strike instantly on the strategic judgement of its command structure, without reference to any of their three elected decision-making bodies – e.g. the House of Commons -  but with the token endorsement of their heads – the President of the United States, the Prime Minister of France and the Prime Minister of the UK.)

What will actually happen when the SNP negotiating team, flushed with the success of the 2014 YES vote, actually sits down to prepare its opening position on the nuclear issues?

I can’t answer that, since I have no idea how their team will be structured and how it will be advised, nor how they will define their range of negotiating objectives.  So I can only say what could happen, and, tentatively, what should happen from the standpoint of good diplomatic and negotiating practice.

The pre-negotiations analysis is a critical phase in any negotiation. Under certain circumstances, especially if it is done badly, it can become the critical phase.

Over-simplifying, the first steps are to determine negotiating objectives, i.e. the desired outcomes of the negotiation, to prioritise them, to quantify the range of acceptability within the objectives, and to determine which objectives are linked, and how. Clearly defence related matters are interlinked, but defence as a total issue may have critical linkage to other issues, e.g. jobs, environmental matters, investment.

Two key aspects exist in relation to prioritisation of issues – significance and urgency. Issues may be of high significance but low urgency in terms of when the objective or at the other extreme may have high urgency but low significance. As in project planning, sequencing of issues is necessary – achievement of one may be contingent on prior achievement of another.

Let’s try to look at the removal of Trident and NATO membership from a simple perspective. The achievement of the removal of Trident objective, in the SNP defence paper, must be negotiated with the UK before membership of NATO can be negotiated – if one accepts that it must, or even can be negotiated with NATO. Both are presented to the SNP membership as deal breakers, i.e. crucial objectives that must be achieved. A nuclear Scotland is a totally unacceptable outcome in the negotiations with the UK. Membership of NATO is unacceptable if, after negotiating a nuclear-free Scotland with the UK, NATO requires Scotland to host nuclear weapons or participate in non-UN sanctioned operations. But all objective, even crucial objectives, have measurable elements defining how acceptable the agreement is.

If it is essential, say for example, that I buy a car, there is almost certainly a minimum and maximum price that I will pay. If I must have the car by the end of the month, I may take delivery today or on the last day of the month. I therefore have entry and exit points on price and time.

So with the crucial objective of the removal of Trident after independence – in an ideal world, Trident would vanish the day after independence, painlessly and without any cost to the Scottish people. The reality is more complex, and the SNP’s ‘withdrawal of Trident’ will have to be defined on a spectrum of acceptability on a number of measurable criteria, with an ideal position as entry point and a deal-breaker definition on the same measures as an exit point.

Theoretically the entry point is immediately and the exit point is at some point on a loosely-defined or undefined timescale – a case of now or sometime …

In the magical thinking of many SNP supporters, independence is a magic wand that will conjure away all difficulties, as my correspondents are regular witness to, but realpolitik – and life – just ain’t like that.

The dangers of the spectrum between entry and exit point on the removal of Trident are more or less signalled – defined almost – by the stage shown above -

Step ONE: Deactivation of Trident weapons system – remove triggers and keys, remove certain components of missiles, and take submarines off patrol. Timescale: a few days.

Step TWO: Remove all weapons and store at Coulport. Timescale: approximately eight weeks.

Step THREE: Physically remove weapons from Scotland. Timescale: two years approximately.

Step FOUR: Dismantle weapons at Burghfield Timescale: four years approximately.

Bear in mind these are John Ainslie’s and CND’s estimate (supported by some experts) – but the UK side of the negotiation has very different views, as the loaded questions of the Select Committee MPs demonstrated very clearly. (Whether they actually believe their estimates or not is immaterial – they have a vested interest in inflating them, and in inflating costs and exaggerating difficulties.)

Q1059 Chair Ian Davidson: As you will appreciate, there has been some dubiety expressed about the timetable that you have brought forward. It seems astonishingly fast for some people.

Other questions from the chair, Ian Davidson, signal another significant, not-very-hidden agenda, e.g. -

Q1062 Chair: If the first stage is that you switch something off, presumably you can switch it back on again. What I am not clear about from your timetable of 24 months is at what stage is that, as it were, irrecoverable?

Of course, I may be accused of being unduly cynical on this – an alternative explanation is that Ian Davidson is a keen unilateral disarmer, and wants to ensure compliance with the principle of irreversibility.

Let’s take one conceivable scenario – and it is only one of a legion of related ones. Negotiations of the removal of Trident are protracted, holding up other vital negotiations, and risking deadlock. A siren voice comes from the lead negotiator of the UK team -

UK chief negotiator:Clearly what is vital to the Scottish government is to ensure that Trident is put beyond use as quickly as possible. This can relatively quickly and easily achieved by removing triggers and keys, removing certain components of missiles, and taking submarines off patrol and returning them to base.

We are prepared to agree to do this virtually immediately if you will agree to a timescale of a minimum of ten years and a maximum of 20 years before the Faslane base and Coulport facilities are decommissioned.

In that period, the UK and NATO can continue to use the base as normal, continuing patrols of nuclear-powered submarines, providing safe havens for UK and NATO submarines, with all operations continuing as normal except  for the fact that missiles are deactivated.

A joint working party will be established consisting of rUK and NATO representatives together with Scottish Government representatives on how progressive decommissioning may be effected by consensus. Of course, Scotland will be a member of NATO, in accordance with their wishes, and this will facilitate easy communication and liaison.”

Such a proposal might be very seductive at a critical point in a difficult negotiation. In fact, I suspect it is already a seductive one to Angus Robertson and Alex Salmond – whose commitment to a nuclear-free Scotland I do not doubt -  but also to others in the party who harbour a guilty secret – they believe  in the nuclear deterrent – the love that dare not speak its name in the SNP lest careers be harmed.

To a Scottish nationalist audience, in post-referendum euphoria, anxious to see independence day itself arrive, and to a largely apathetic wider electorate, this could be an easy sell.

It would be the road to hell, paved with good intentions – and political ambitions.

Of course, the above scenario could occur without the party changing its policy on NATO membership. I believe, however, that NATO membership makes it much more likely and renders Scotland much more vulnerable to nuclear blandishments, and the likelihood that Trident will be with us for a generation or more – if we have that long.

Here are a few other selected quotes from the Select Committee’s interrogation of John Ainslie -

John Ainslie: It is an interesting question. In terms of disarmament principles - from the international bodies -irreversibility is a basic principle in disarmament. Having said that, how do you really enforce it?

The study looks at verifying that those processes have happened, which clearly helps to make it more difficult to reverse them. That verification is more of a problem at those first stages. How do you know whether they have that spare key or a duplicate key? Those first stages are harder to verify than physically moving warheads. The study has been done on verifying that. On the one hand, the warhead information is classified, which produces a problem in terms of verification, but there have been studies on ways around that. In other words, it is possible to have systems to verify the physical process of moving or dismantling warheads.


Q1064 Lindsay Roy: How robust is the evidence for your assertion that this could be completed within two years?


.Q1065 Lindsay Roy: Have you had any information from the MOD? Have you sought any information from the MOD on whether that is an accurate assertion?


Q1069 Lindsay Roy: Can you tell us whose responsibility it would be to remove and transport the warheads, should Scotland become a separate country?


Q1070 Lindsay Roy: Would it be primarily Scotland’s responsibility or the responsibility of the rest of the UK to remove the warheads and transport them?


Q1071 Lindsay Roy: So that would require the good will and co-operation of the rest of the UK?


Q1073 Mr McKenzie: Do you reckon we still could do that sort of gradual removal of warheads within two years?


Q1075 Mr McKenzie: If it started two years from the time you are saying, it would not be completed in the two years you were saying that it could be.


Q1077 Lindsay Roy: If that were the case, what would be the proportionate cost to the Scottish budget of removing and transferring the warheads and in the decommissioning? Has that been worked out?


Q1083 Chair: Removing the keys and triggers - we touched on this earlier - is something that is done, but is then reversible and can be put back again. I am not clear what the disabling of missiles, which is done in eight days, is. What is it that you do to disable them, since presumably they are already disabled by the removal of the keys and triggers? What different step is this and, again, is it reversible?

John Ainslie: It is.


Q1084 Chair: So up to that phase 3, where your missile is disabled in eight days, all of that is still reversible?


Q1086 Chair: Okay, I see the distinction there between warheads and missiles. Once that is done, the removal of the limited life components from Scotland takes a year. That is phase 6. Within a year, if these things were out of Scotland and not brought back in, that is the stage at which it is irreversible. Is that right?

John Ainslie: There is always this element in disarmament that you could in fact bring them back, but it is more difficult.

Q1087 Chair: A Government of a separate Scotland would presumably not condone them coming back in again, so there is a certain irrevocability about that. Can I just clarify something? If you are removing the keys and the triggers and disabling the missiles, can those bits not simply be moved south of the border at that stage as well? Suppose it took another week to take them down south. They would then be out of Scotland within a fortnight or three weeks and that would, unless they were smuggled back up, irrevocably stop the missiles being usable. Is that correct?

John Ainslie: Yes, possibly. It is a question of how easy it is to monitor it. As I have said, work has been done on verification. I was looking at how you verify it. Quite a bit of work has been done with warheads. Some of these other things are harder to verify. A warhead has a radiological signature. Because it is radioactive, you can check whether it has been moved around and that gives you the mechanism to verify it.


Q1089 Chair: Okay, so it is within that time and they get loaded into the back of a Vauxhall Vectra like mine and driven down to England and, subject to good faith and so on, that would essentially be the whole Trident fleet disabled.

John Ainslie: Yes, that might be a better way of doing it. What I was proposing is that somehow or other it is verified. If you were able to verify them down south, that might be preferable, because they are further away.

Q1090 Chair: I suppose that, with verifying them down south, you would not know whether they had a spare one. That was why I was making the point that, if it is done in good faith, this could be done in less than a fortnight. Is that fair?


Q1091 Chair:  ------  It might take some time to remove the boats and missiles, but under the system or timetable you have suggested of two years to no warheads, in reality, all of it could be disabled within 14 days, which is the point.

John Ainslie: I would say less than that; seven or eight days to disable it.


Q1092 Mr McKenzie: On removing the keys and disarming almost immediately, how could that happen, and is there a sort of overlap? I take it that the rest of the UK would still wish to retain a nuclear deterrent. As such, if you are taking the keys off all the nuclear weapons in that base, the nuclear deterrent that they wish to keep would be nullified. Would keys have to be sent down south, or to Wales or Northern Ireland, and then a submarine go there to maintain it? How would the rest of the UK maintain that nuclear deterrent if they wanted to?


Q1093 Simon Reevell: ----- I presume what you have been describing is a scenario based on a desire on the part of the UK, not including Scotland, to disarm, because none of this is necessary without that desire.

John Ainslie: If the force is based in Scotland, and if we are looking at the scenario of an independent Scotland, which is a separate, sovereign state, the idea of a sovereign state having its whole nuclear weapons capability indefinitely in another sovereign state is probably not sustainable. So at some point-this is my other argument to get on to-if they can’t move it, you are in a position that becomes unsustainable.


The following extended exchange with Simon Reevell leaves me with a deep feeling of unease. He may or may not have been flying kite for the MOD and the UK Government, but there is a central thread and agenda there that leaves me apprehensive, and it was pursued with persistence and vigour.

Q1095 Simon Reevell: Let us assume, for the sake of the argument, that the base, although it remains part of the UK, for whatever reason cannot be accessed, which would be the effect of separation.  ----

John Ainslie: Are you assuming a Guantanamo Bay or Cork model?

Q1096 Simon Reevell: No, let us simply assume that suddenly, for whatever reason, the base is not there any more. That is problematic, but the leap in logic that means you then start to remove the triggers comes from a desire to see disarmament. It is not an automatic consequence of that.

John Ainslie: What I am saying is that an independent Scotland could say to a member of the UK Government, "This is what we would like you to do."

Q1097 Simon Reevell: It cannot. It can say that you cannot bring your submarines here any more. That is the limit of what an independent Scottish Government could do. It could say, "The base is closed to your submarines. Do not bring them here", but what happens as a result of saying that is a completely separate consideration, isn’t it?

John Ainslie: They are based there, and that is the problem.

Q1098 Simon Reevell: The ones that are at sea.

John Ainslie: They cannot actually sail them anywhere else. They do not have safety clearance. Even Kings Bay in America will not have safety clearance to handle British warheads.

Q1099 Simon Reevell: But the point that you are trying to make is that if the bases are not available, the missiles have to be disarmed. The availability of the bases and the decision about the maintenance of the deterrent are separate. One has a bearing on the other, but it does not follow that they have to begin to disarm the missiles the day after the base becomes unavailable, does it?

John Ainslie: If that is the only base that they have.

Q1100 Simon Reevell: They could stay at sea for a period to begin with, for example.

John Ainslie: Not very long. There are practical problems. In theory, you could say, "Well, you can just temporarily move them to Devonport or to America." However, quite a lot of the work that I have done in recent years is on nuclear safety issues and to criticise the defence nuclear safety regulator, but I don’t think that the defence nuclear safety regulator would say, "Oh yes. Just bring them into Devonport and we’ll handle the warheads there," or "Let’s just take them over to Kings Bay in America and temporarily operate from there." There are huge issues with this.

Q1101 Simon Reevell: There are. From an American point of view, they might have to reassess the safety regulations at their base, but they would do that in the context of losing an important nuclear-powered ally. They may or may not, but there are all sorts of other considerations that would come in. Would you accept that the idea that the base ceasing to be available means that we start to take the triggers out of the missiles is an enormous jump of logic?

John Ainslie: Not really, no. The other issue is that there is something less than 225 nuclear warheads, and 120 of those are on submarines. There are about 100 spares, of which a small number – 10 to 20 - are under refurbishment or overhaul at Burghfield. There are a significant number of extra warheads, which are currently sitting in bunkers at Coulport and so are not at sea.

Q1102 Simon Reevell: But that is not the same. They are weapons that are being stored. We are talking about the deterrent capability. Let us assume - God forbid - that one of those weapons being stored leaked and that whole area could not be approached. It would not follow from that that the submarine-based missile deterrent systems at seas would have to be disarmed unilaterally by the UK. That might be one option, but there are all sorts of other options, such as the French option, the American option or the relocation in the UK option.

John Ainslie: These are all possible options, but the other paper that I was doing was about relocation. Obviously, you cannot rule it out entirely, but I do not think that it is very viable.

Q1103 Simon Reevell: The impression that I got from what you were saying is that if there was separation for Scotland, a direct consequence of that would be imposed nuclear disarmament on the UK. I appreciate that that is something that you might like to see, but it is not as strong a link as that, is it?

John Ainslie: It is quite a close link. I do not think that the weakness lies in the area that you are saying. The weakness lies with whether an independent Scotland would actually do this or whether it would negotiate a deal.

Q1104 Simon Reevell: That is a separate matter. If it negotiated a deal, the situation would not arise, but if the situation arises where the bases are no longer available, there are number of options at that stage, one of which is to dismantle the weapons.

John Ainslie: Yes, that is right, but the question is how viable these other options are.

Q1105 Simon Reevell: The viability of the other options depends on a number of things, which you are not aware of and neither are we, because of the very nature of those considerations. For example, there is the accommodation that is available at the American base or the French base - bearing in mind the different size of the submarines - or the rewriting of the rules and regulations for handling elsewhere in the UK. Those are the sorts of factors.


An equally interesting exchange with Iain McKenzie, but with a rather more transparent, but nonetheless significant agenda -

Q1114 Mr McKenzie: You say that two years is a reasonable time scale to have these weapons removed. The rest of the UK is saying that it would be something in the region of 20 years.

Is there an interim arrangement that you would accept with a guarantee that in, say, 20 years’ time they would definitely be off Scottish soil but in the mean time there might be a gradual phasing?

John Ainslie: I think the time scales are measuring two different things. I am measuring practical disarmament. The UK Government could do that, and if they did there would be no nuclear weapons by the time of the referendum. These are practical things that could be done.

Q1115 Mr McKenzie: But the UK Government are saying 20 years; you are saying two years. There is a gulf. Is there anywhere in the middle that you would accept with a guarantee that, in the future, they would be gone?


Q1116 Chair: --------

As you will recognise, originally the SNP were in favour of having a republic without the Queen, but that has now changed. They were originally in favour of the euro, I think, which has now changed. They were also against the Bank of England being involved, which has now changed. It might well be that this, like NATO, is something that changes, too, given the pressures that might be exerted.



Q1184 Mr McKenzie: Do you see a link between Scotland being a member of NATO and allowing nuclear weapons on its territory?

John Ainslie: From our point of view, the CND is opposed to the UK being involved in NATO, so therefore it follows that it would not be very consistent for us to say that we would support an independent Scotland being a member of NATO, primarily because, historically, NATO is a nuclear alliance in terms of where it comes from. Our position would be that NATO is an anachronism.

Q1185 Mr McKenzie: You wouldn’t support membership of NATO by a separate Scotland.

John Ainslie: That’s right.

Q1186 Mr McKenzie: What do you think taking that stance on nuclear would do to international relationships in the first few weeks or months of a separate Scotland?

John Ainslie: It allows different relationships. It is hard to go through it in detail, but some countries might be happier if Scotland was within NATO and others might not. I don’t know all the details and the ins and outs of it.

Q1187 Mr McKenzie: But you wouldn’t see a wholly negative attitude out there towards Scotland.

John Ainslie: If it wasn’t in NATO?

Simon Reevell: If it wasn’t in NATO.

John Ainslie: If it wasn’t in NATO, would lots of other countries be unhappy about that? Not particularly. The complicated one is the United States -

Q1188 Mr McKenzie: Bearing in mind Scotland’s strategic position on the map, would you not think that other countries would be a bit unsupportive of it not being a member of NATO?

John Ainslie: The political geography issue is a sort of cold-war issue. I don’t know the extent to which that is really still valid today. The problem may well be in terms of the United States or the elements within it that would be keen on Scotland being a member of NATO. I think that the European response might be more mixed.

Q1189 Lindsay Roy: If the NATO alliance rests on a principle of nuclear deterrents, why do you think the SNP are now reconsidering an application to join NATO?

John Ainslie: From a Scottish CND perspective, that is not something that we would support. I don’t really know quite where that issue is within the SNP. My understanding is that they might be looking at defence issues, which is fair enough. To what extent are they looking at NATO membership? We would not consider that a move in the right direction.

Q1190 Lindsay Roy: Is it not inconsistent, on the basis of how NATO is predicated on nuclear deterrence, that the SNP should be considering that?

John Ainslie: From our point of view, it would be preferable for all political parties to adopt a position opposed to NATO membership, because NATO is a nuclear alliance.

Lindsay Roy: That is very clear and helpful. Thank you.

Q1191 Chair: Norway, for example, is not a nuclear state, yet it is a member of NATO. Surely Scotland could be in that position. As I understand it, Norway does not allow nuclear weapons on its soil, yet it manages to exist within NATO. Why could Scotland not do that?

John Ainslie: I am not saying that is impossible. Scotland could be in that position, but it is not desirable from our point of view. There are a number of NATO members such as Norway, Germany and Canada that are actively involved in the nuclear disarmament movement and are trying to change NATO policy. My concern is that they have not been able to get very far. Their attempts to change things have been hampered by the feeling that there has to be consensus. NATO’s nuclear policy has not moved very far since the end of the cold war when it could have potentially moved more radically.

If Scotland were a member of NATO, it would not be impossible also to follow a disarmament route, but NATO membership would make that more difficult. Certainly, from our point of view, that is not helpful.


And lastly, what I see as potentially the most dangerous dialogue of all at the Select Committee, one that represents a very real possible UK – backed by NATO – negotiating position – an agreement to make Faslane and Coulport UK territory, allowing an independent Scotland to claim it was a nuclear-free state. Our willingness to join NATO in my view leads us inexorably down such roads.

Q1168 Mr Reid: The angle I am coming from is that if the Scottish had signed a treaty with rUK for Faslane and Coulport to become a sovereign UK territory with nuclear weapons on it, could the Scottish Government plausibly argue that it was a nuclear-free state?

John Ainslie: I don’t think they could argue that it was a nuclear-free state.

Mr Reid: Sorry, I meant nuclear weapons-free state.

John Ainslie: In terms of the NPT, it would be a non-nuclear weapons state, but it is a legal anomaly. The non-proliferation treaty only recognises the five countries that had nuclear weapons at the time the treaty was signed. That is almost there within it, so everyone else is a non-nuclear weapons state, or had their own nuclear weapons at the time it was signed.

Germany and these other countries are regarded from the point of view of the NPT as non-nuclear weapons states, although they are hosting nuclear weapons.

Q1169 Mr Reid: So the point I am trying to make is: could the Scottish Government sign this deal and still regard itself as a non-nuclear weapons state?

John Ainslie: In terms of the NPT?

Mr Reid: Yes.

John Ainslie: That might be the case. That is a legal anomaly in terms of the wording. It isn’t that they are really nuclear weapon-free states.

Q1170 Mr Reid: But legally, yes.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

The SNP, NATO and the end of a dream of a nuclear-free Scotland

I thought this comment and my reply warranted being pulled out on to the blog. The comment, from someone I respect, resident in America, whose commitment to a vote for independence and a nuclear-free Scotland is unquestionable, gives me the opportunity to crystallise my present position.


  • J. R. TomlinSaturday, July 21, 2012

    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.


  • MoriduraSaturday, July 21, 2012

    Undoubtedly it should be debated, Jeanne - 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.

  • Sorry to see you on the wrong side in this Jeanne, but at least you've got loads of company. I will be looking for a realignment on the Scottish Left (there is no such party - yet ...)

  • regards,