THE general secretary of Nato has warned that an independent Scotland would not be guaranteed a place in the defence organisation and its application could take years.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s comments pointed out that all 28 members of Nato need to unanimously agree a new member’s application and UK ministers have already warned that it could be vetoed if Scotland bans nuclear weapons on its territory, forcing the closure of the Faslane base home of the Trident.
In an interview Mr Rasmussen said: “I am not going to interfere at all with a campaign leading up to the referendum but I can inform you about procedures and facts.”
He added: “In the case that Scotland voted in favour of independence, then Scotland would have to apply for membership of Nato as a new independent state. A decision would have to be taken by unanimity, by consensus as always in Nato.”
He also noted that many aspiring countries had “waited for years” to join.
The intervention is a setback for the SNP leadership who endured a difficult debate at the party conference in 2012 to persuade members to change their anti-Nato position.
However, the Scottish Government pointed out that it had always accepted that it would need to apply for membership and Mr Rasmussen was stating what everybody already knows.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Nato Secretary General has simply outlined the process we are already aware of.
“We have made clear that, following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will notify Nato of our intention to join the alliance and negotiate a transition from membership as part of the UK to independent membership, taking our place as one of the many non-nuclear members.
“Nato’s own stated intention is for membership to be open to all European democracies that meet the membership criteria - and given that Scotland occupies a key strategic location in the North Atlantic, we believe our continued membership will be in the strong interests of the rest of the alliance.”
But Des Browne, former secretary of state for defence and Scotland, said: “A vote to leave the UK is a vote to leave Nato, the most successful defence and security alliance in the world. Separation puts that at risk.
“Alex Salmond has not explained how he intends to remove our nuclear deterrent whilst simultaneously rejoining a nuclear alliance. It simply isn’t credible.”