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Showing posts with label Trident and Scotland. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Trident and Scotland. Show all posts

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.”

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The lead-up to the NATO debacle ...

When I launched my little lonely boat under the name Anti-NATO, it was a comparatively calm sea. Since then it has become a turbulent one. I had been uneasy for some time about just how firm the SNP’s anti-NATO stance was. Professor William Walker, in an article in the Scotsman early in January of this year, fanned my little flame of doubt into something more alarming by this statement -

Desiring to appear reasonable, the SNP might adopt a stance that would allow the present Trident system to operate out of Scotland during its remaining lifetime but refuse to house its replacement. It would commit Scotland to a phase-out rather than sudden closure. This would provide England with ample time, the argument might go, to develop other sites and systems and would give fair notice to Nato member states. But such a stance would not change the fundamentals. Without alternative sites, phasing out the current system would entail phasing out the UK’s deterrent. As the first boat is expected to retire in the late 2020s, it also implies that Trident would remain in Scotland for decades rather than years to come. This would be a hard sell, especially within the SNP.

(The highlighting and emphasis is mine.)

Then we had another Professor on the scene, James Mitchell of Strathclyde University who, with his co-authors, published the first full results of a survey originally conducted in 2007/2008 of 7,112 SNP members which revealed that 52.7% believed Nato membership was in Scotland's strategic interests, compared with only 22% who still believed in an independent Scotland the alliance, with the remainder being more or less apathetic.

Various sectors of the media then began to speculate, putting flesh on rumours that the SNP strategic leaders were actively considering a U-turn on NATO membership. and perhaps worse, while continuing to issue robust statements of a totally anti-nuclear, anti-Trident policy to reassure the faithful, who are not given to thinking very deeply on such matters. And of course, the Mitchell finding emboldened the pro-NATO group.

I began to tweet cautiously, hoping to tease out a clear-cut statement, only to be the object of a barrage of tweets from SNP supporters and bloggers indignantly claiming that no such thing was contemplated, it was all being got up by the villainous unionist media, led by the arch-villain, BBC Scotland. It was suggested bluntly that I was giving aid and comfort to an unsubstantiated rumour. This metamorphosed gradually into a “Well, yes, some misguided party member might just submit a resolution to Conference, and there will be a token debate, and it will be voted down”.

At no point in this phoney war period did the SNP communications department or any senior figure make a clear-cut statement of intent, but the language very tentatively began to firm up. There probably would be a resolution – originator unspecified – and it would be debated, the new theme being “Well, after all, we are a democratic party, and we periodically review policy” etcetera, etcetera.

One blogger/tweeter still pursued the “It’s all a unionist lie, being promulgated by the wicked media” with me, in such aggressive style that I reluctantly had to block them on Twitter. But something was clearly at work, since quite a number of correspondents (blog comment, Twitter, YouTube comments) now felt emboldened enough to defend a “possible NATO policy change”, moving gradually from “it might not be a bad thing, really” to enthusiastic statements of support, confirming Professor Mitchell’s survey findings.

The tone and style of comments directed at me changed to “This is entirely a matter for the Party’s internal democracy, not for the general public, and you are harming the cause of independence and nuclear disarmament by your position.” I had rather brought this on myself by making it clear that if the Party approved a policy change on NATO, I would resign.

But then the nuclear NATO cat jumped out of the bag. all aglow, with the release of the defence paper by its co-signatories, Angus Robertson MP and Angus MacNeil MP, and at last the party was prepared to speak openly about its position. Even after this, some of my correspondents were trying to maintain the risible position that there was no evidence that the First Minister endorsed the recommendation, despite the spectacularly obvious point that it would never have seen the light of day without his prior approval and support.

Parliament went on its summer vacation shortly afterwards. The timing is of course entirely coincidental. My long series of blogs on NATO more or less track these events, as do my YouTube videos. Meanwhile, the Scottish Affairs Select Committee inquiry into the minutiae of independence – uncontroversially titled The Referendum on Separation for Scotland went merrily on with its McCarthyite attempts to get sundry witnesses, expert and otherwise, to say what an expensive, job-destroying, incompetent disaster it would all be, threatening not only national security and world order, but also the jobs and pension of Scottish soldiers.

Despite the absence of any SNP representative on this Labour-dominated committee (the SNP official reasons being the alleged insult to Eilidh Whiteford and the use of the word Separation in the title: real reason probably that they would have had nothing of substance to say at that point) the Committee were unsuccessful in many instances in getting the M.O.D. representatives and other experts to respond appropriately to their negative and increasingly desperate prompts, feeds and leading questions.

I’ll try to cover the comment themes tomorrow sometime.


In a recent blog I wrote on how NATO would launch a nuclear strike, and on what authority -

(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.)

Once again, I am indebted to my invaluable Danish contact for correcting me on this, as follows -

In the case of France, it is not the prime minister who has power over the military, it is the President of the Republic who is commander-in-chief in a literal sense, in particular in regard to nuclear weapons; it is only the President who can order a nuclear strike, specifically because only he/she has the launch codes for them.

When France elected a new president in May, you might have seen the hand-over ceremony reported on. While that had a lot of ritual and formality to it, there was one rather practical bit. When Hollande talked with Sarkozy in private, that was when he was given the launch codes for France's nuclear weapons.

Of course, NATO and Hollande won’t launch a nuclear war without the permission of Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson - not to mention Angus MacNeil - when we’re happily members of this nuclear alliance, and have a promise that Trident will be gone some time in the next 20 years or so.. After all, the SNP is anti-nuclear – and there’s the Auld Alliance and a’ that …

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.