Scottish independence: SNP faces backlash over Nato membership

Patrick Harvie and Alex Salmond: Not in harmony over Nato policy shift. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Patrick Harvie and Alex Salmond: Not in harmony over Nato policy shift. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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FRESH divisions have emerged in the pro-independence campaign after high-profile supporters of a Yes vote voiced their opposition to the SNP leadership’s plans to abandon the party’s longstanding opposition to Nato membership.

• Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie and ex-SSP MSP Colin Fox have joined ‘No to Nato in Scotland’ pressure group despite supporting independence

• Other figures seen as key to SNP’s independence campaign, such as MSP Margo McDonald, also voice concerns

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie and former Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) MSP Colin Fox, who both support independence, have joined the newly launched “No to Nato in Scotland” pressure group in response to the move by the SNP to drop its opposition to membership of the military alliance.

The other pro-independence parties expressed concern about the moves by SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson to ask delegates at the party’s annual conference to back the change, in an attempt to soften its position in the run-up to the independence referendum.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, widely seen as one of the key non-SNP figures in the Yes campaign, also warned against outright backing for membership of Nato, which she said was a pro-nuclear alliance.

Meanwhile, Mr Harvie appealed directly to members of the SNP to oppose the policy shift to be backed by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon at the party’s conference in Perth this October.

Mr Harvie, who was due to attend the first meeting of No to Nato last night, said: “An anti-Nato stance is the only honest anti-nuclear stance. Trying to pretend that everything will be the same in an independent Scotland could harm the pro-independence case. I’m not an SNP member, but I would say to anybody in the SNP that an independent Scotland can’t, in good conscience, remain a member of Nato.”

SSP co-leader Mr Fox, who was also due to attend the meeting, said: “Nato is out of date and is part of the Cold War. It’s a war- mongering alliance and Scotland shouldn’t be part of it.

“There’s a real question about who are we actually frightened of to the extent that we want to be in Nato, a body that starts wars. When push comes to shove, the SNP is a capitalist party that appears to want to be part of Nato.”

An SNP spokesman said: “The point is that everyone – of all parties and none – who supports independence believes in the fundamental truth that it is far better for Scotland to have decisions made by the Scottish Parliament, which is 100 per cent elected by the people of Scotland, than it is to have policies imposed by Westminster, where decisions are made by MPs of whom less than 10 per cent are elected in Scotland.

“That is the only way to remove Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland, for example – a cornerstone of SNP defence policy.”