The Point
Last updated: 27 June 2022. sky thinking for an open and diverse left

Visit our Facebook page

Follow us on Twitter


Recent Articles

In Praise of Beethoven

Arthur C Clarke - A Very Modern Odyssey

Tackling Private Landlords

Investigating the Value Form

The Eternal Dark Heart of Empire

If You Build Them, They Will Come

Nato - No Ta

The proposal by SNP Defence Spokesman Angus Roberston to change long-standing SNP party policy that an independent Scotland should not be part of NATO caused shock and dismay, not just amongst long-standing SNP members but amongst the wider independence cause, and within the peace and nuclear disarmament movements. SNP MSP's Dave Thompson and John Finnie have been amongst those leading opposition to the proposed change.

NATO and Trident

Dave Thompson writes

In Scotland today I think there is just cause for optimism, because, when I envision Scotland's future I see great potential and great opportunity for us as a nation to choose what is good and right. In just over two years, in the 2014 independence referendum, we will be given the chance to choose who we want to be, what we want to do and where we want to go.

The independence referendum is, however, about more than just standing on our own two feet, and managing our own affairs. It is also about harnessing the potential of our nation and shaping the future, and there are few issues as pressing and urgent as Trident. The Trident nuclear weapons system is unjustifiable, immoral and grossly expensive and we must use this opportunity to get rid of it.

One of the great prizes of Independence, for all nuclear disarmers in the whole of UK, will be the consequence for the UK's Trident programme. In essence, it will be stopped in its tracks. For decades, anti-nuclear has been the heart and soul of the Scottish National Party and the 2011 manifesto made reference to continued opposition to UK plans for new nuclear weapons.

This brings us to the crux of the debate about NATO membership which will, of course, be decided by the first Scottish Government after the Independence elections in 2016. Will Scotland be able to get rid of Trident if it remains a member of NATO?

Current SNP policy is that an independent Scotland should not be a full member of NATO as it is a nuclear alliance with a first strike policy, a position which NATO affirmed in May of this year at the Chicago conference. NATO's position on nuclear weapons has not, therefore, changed since the SNP reviewed its decade's old policy in 2002 and I believe that it will be much more difficult to get rid of Trident if Scotland stays in NATO.

The experience of Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands provides a clear warning to Scotland. Each of them still has American nuclear weapons on its soil despite efforts to get rid of them. In 2010, a concerted effort was made by them to urge NATO to rethink its nuclear policy but this initiative has run into the sand.

Scotland would find itself in exactly the same position if it remained a member of NATO. The good news is that there is an alternative which could pave the way for a nuclear free Britain which might, in turn, be the start of real nuclear disarmament in Europe with a knock on effect in the rest of the world.

This is because Trident has "Nowhere to Go" when Scotland says goodbye to it after independence, a case which is convincingly argued in the CND paper of that name published in February. There is no viable alternative site for Trident in the rest of the UK, the US or France so it will be decommissioned and a huge leap forward will take place on nuclear disarmament.

Scotland has a chance to make a real difference after independence and we should have the confidence to project ourselves as a modern nation, with a vision which is rooted in our concern for humanity. What better way to do that than to insist on the end of Trident nuclear weapons.

We should not let NATO membership cloud that vision, as it undoubtedly will, but should be bold and show leadership to the rest of the world as we embark on the next exciting chapter of Scotland's history.

John Finnie adds

What example does it set to oppose weapons of mass destruction – and then join the WMD club? If you are in NATO, you are in a nuclear alliance with a first-strike policy.

The coalition government in Germany has, since 2009, been calling for the withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Germany. Recently, they have given in to pressure from NATO and have said that the weapons can not only stay for at least 12 years, but can actually be upgraded.

That is a further reason why the SNP should retain their current policy of opposition to membership of NATO.
It is now absolutely imperative that those lobbying for the SNP to change its position on NATO explain exactly how Scotland is going to achieve what mighty Germany found impossible and get nuclear weapons off its soil while being a member of NATO.

Germany is one of the world's most powerful countries so when its parliament voted to remove nuclear weapons you'd think that was that. But NATO is more powerful and has put immense pressure on Germany to back down. Yesterday, NATO won and German democracy lost.

The pro-NATO camp now faces a serious credibility problem. They want the SNP to make a policy u-turn based on the claim we can be in NATO and still get rid of Trident. Can anyone really take that seriously any more? The pro-NATO case is falling apart by the day.

Scotland has to be free to get rid of these horrible weapons for good. The only way to do that is to hand in our notice to NATO.

This article consists of extracts from material originally provided by Dave and John for the Herald, Daily Record and Ban the Bomb, and reproduced with their kind permission

External links:

Bella Caledonia

Bright Green

George Monbiot

Green Left


The Jimmy Reid Foundation

Richard Dawkins

Scottish Left Review

Viridis Lumen