Home U.K Nicola Sturgeon on collision course with independence allies over NATO membership

Nicola Sturgeon on collision course with independence allies over NATO membership

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Indyref2: Sturgeon ‘doesn’t want vote now’ claims expert

Scotland’s First Minister Ms Sturgeon declared that, if there was a majority of nationalist parties elected to the Scottish Parliament last week, she would take that as a mandate for a second independence referendum. However her party, the Scottish National Party (SNP) fell one seat short of a majority after securing 64 MSPs in Holyrood. They had to rely on support from the eight pro-independence Green seats before Ms Sturgeon could declare Indyref2 as the “will of the people”.

Ms Sturgeon’s first battle will undoubtedly be with Downing Street, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far refused to grant Ms Sturgeon the powers to hold such a referendum.

Yet, if a referendum were to go ahead, the First Minister could face another tricky challenge on the Yes campaign — disagreements between the SNP and the Greens over the future of an independent Scotland.

The Yes campaign is currently leading the most recent polls on Scottish independence, but Opinium found 47 percent of voters want to rejoin the EU once outside the UK, and want to maintain close ties to other international alliances.

Foreign Policy authors Lindsey Kennedy and Nathan Paul Southern wrote an article entitled, ‘Scottish Activists Want a Quiet, Safe, Progressive Independence’, and claimed “the new country would scurry to join the EU and NATO”.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation is a military alliance between 30 European and North American nations where members have promised to create a shared defence response in the event of an attack from an external nation.

Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon have a different approach to Nato

Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (Image: Getty)

Last week's Holyrood elections saw the SNP take 64 seats and the Greens take 8

Last week’s Holyrood elections saw the SNP take 64 seats and the Greens take 8 (Image: Express.co.uk)

Stephen Gethins, former special adviser to Ms Sturgeon, said that while the SNP has not always supported NATO membership, it has become committed to the alliance and to EU action in support of Baltic states threatened by Russia in recent years.

Scotland would need to officially apply to join the alliance, but its geographical position gives such a strategic advantage and strengths in maritime defence, it’s unlikely to be turned down.

The UK’s former ambassador to NATO, Marriot Leslie, also told Foreign Policy: “I’m in no doubt at all that Scotland is not aiming to head off in some curious rogue state direction.

“Its central intention is to be a kind of progressive, social democractic European country of the sort that is quite familiar in northern Europe.”

He added that an independent Scotland joining NATO would “be really quite a fast process”, with talks starting in between a ‘Yes’ victory for independence and Scotland’s official departure from the UK.

Foreign Policy explained: “By the time independence came into effect, Scotland’s membership of Partnership for Peace and the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, as well as a NATO Membership Action Plan, could be agreed within months or even weeks.”

It added: “Continued involvement in the EU and NATO should also put to bed one of the more outre suggestions made about Scottish independence: that it will push Scotland closer to Russia or even China.”

READ MORE:  Queen’s ‘very grim’ contingency plan for nuclear attack laid bare

Harvie and the Greens have supported Scottish independence since 2012

Harvie and the Greens have supported Scottish independence since 2012 (Image: Getty)

But, now that the SNP depend on the Greens to get their pro-independence majority over the line, the parties’ different stances on NATO could become a larger problem, as the Greens are strongly opposed to the idea of an independent Scotland joining the alliance.

Co-leader of the Greens, Patrick Harvie, told the BBC in 2012 — just after officially joining the Yes Scotland campaign — that “Greens are not nationalists”.

He added that his party was “steadfast” in its opposition to Scotland remaining in the “NATO nuclear club”, and said the Greens were opposed to “committing billions of pounds on an outdated approach to defence”.

However, both the SNP and the Greens have expressed their wish to end the Clyde-based Trident nuclear weapons system — nuclear disarmament is an SNP priority, just like the Greens.

Close to 50 percent of Scots want to end Trident, a submarine launched missile resting just 40 miles from Glasgow, as well.

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Nato is made up of 30 European and North American countries

Nato is made up of 30 European and North American countries (Image: Getty)

Support for Scottish independence is growing ahead of increased calls for Indyref2

Support for Scottish independence is growing ahead of increased calls for Indyref2 (Image: Express)

But, as Foreign Policy points out, the SNP has not been emphasising its stance on this recently.

The outlet speculated: “The SNP has been quieter on the subject of late, presumably because it recognises the bargaining power that comes with stewarding the UK’s sole nuclear capability.”

But former head of GCHQ Sir David Omand told The Herald that the SNP’s attempts to get rid of Trident while joining NATO were “problematic”.

He said: “I have no answers to any of these problems, all I can point out is that it’s difficult and it’s expensive and I think I and my fellow Scots deserve to have the proposition fairly set out before any talk of a further referendum.

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Harvie campaigning with the SNP to remain in the EU

Harvie campaigning with the SNP to remain in the EU (Image: Getty)

Trident is a deeply unpopular policy in Scotland, but could make Nato membership difficult

Trident is a deeply unpopular policy in Scotland, but could make Nato membership difficult (Image: Getty)

“There’s a risk of falling into magical thinking as you can’t actually say how any of this would be done — you’re just kind of assuming that somehow it will be.”

The Greens, on the other hand, argue that the Trident debate offers up a chance to reject NATO too.

As Mr Harvie claimed: “While the SNP share our view on Trident we must disagree with their position on NATO and defence spending.

“By repurposing our military and adapting to the threats of the 21st Century we could free up funds to create many more new jobs, tackle underemployment, poor wages and low-energy transport and housing.”



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