SCOTTISH Government officials have held talks with Nato to discuss membership of the alliance in the event of independence, it was confirmed yesterday.
During informal talks last month, officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation said the new country would have to resolve military or territorial disputes with other members before joining.
The SNP has vowed to remove the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent from the Clyde on independence but analysts say that position and Nato membership are incompatible.
Scottish Government officials yesterday confirmed talks were held with Nato in Brussels in July. Nato figures told the delegation an independent Scotland would be required to uphold current Nato articles, which require members to have a stable defence policy and to sign up to its nuclear “first-strike” stance.
Nato’s warning at the talks was backed yesterday by leading pro-independence defence expert Stuart Crawford who said that, during a separate private conference with international experts and diplomats on independence in June, it had been “made clear” the US and other members would ensure that, if the country was anti-nuclear, “the accession period for Scotland might stretch for years”.
He added: “In layman’s terms, should an independent Scotland continue to espouse the anti- nuclear agenda then its accession to Nato would most likely be blocked or delayed.”
Mr Crawford said the consequences would be that Nato members would want reassurance about the future of Trident and also agreement that Scotland would not deny access to nuclear armed ships.
Responding, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterated that Nato membership would be “contingent” on the removal of nuclear weapons.
The SNP changed its policy on Nato last year, agreeing to support membership as long as Trident weapons based at Faslane and Coulport were removed.
The policy change prompted two SNP MSPs to quit the party.
UK ministers last night said they “facilitated” the Brussels talks. Scottish Secretary Michael Moore said: “It’s absolutely clear the Scottish Government can’t apply to join Nato and then disregard the fact that it is a nuclear alliance.”
He added: “The UK government facilitated the Scottish Government’s fact-finding mission and talks with Nato. What the visit to Brussels made very clear is that an independent Scotland would need to take on the obligations of Nato or renegotiate those obligations individually with every single member state. That would be an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. An independent Scotland can’t apply to join the club and then proceed to disregard every obligation of that club.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “A meeting between officials from the Scottish Government and Nato took place at Nato HQ in Brussels early last month.”
A spokesman for Ms Sturgeon added: “An independent Scotland’s membership of Nato will be in the strategic interests of our neighbours and partners, including the rest of the UK.
“We have made clear continued membership is contingent on the removal of nuclear weapons, and if the people of Scotland vote Yes they will have voted for a proposition that calls for the removal of Trident at the earliest safe opportunity.”