SNP split over post-independence US base plan

Alex Salmond's position on US bases faces scrutiny from within his own party. Picture: TSPL
Alex Salmond's position on US bases faces scrutiny from within his own party. Picture: TSPL
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ALEX Salmond is facing opposition within the SNP to his suggestion that United States bases could remain on Scottish soil after independence.

The First Minister told a US audience that non-nuclear bases in an independent Scotland “would be possible” under the terms of the Nato defence pact.

However, SNP MSP John Wilson warned Scotland would be at risk of being dragged into conflicts at the “behest” of the Americans if bases were allowed.

He queried what they would be used for and claimed Scotland could become involved in wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan if it agreed to allow a US military presence.

The row comes just months after Mr Salmond faced a major rebellion within the SNP as the party narrowly voted to scrap its longstanding opposition to Nato membership – a move that saw two MSPs quit the party.

Many Nationalists view membership of the alliance as being at odds with the SNP’s plans to get rid of the Trident nuclear missiles based at Faslane.

Mr Wilson, who was a leading opponent of the party’s Nato policy change, said Scotland could be forced to host nuclear weapons and that nuclear weapons could be transported to and from any American bases sited in Scotland.

He said: “They could be used as launch bases for attacks on Syria and other countries that the USA considers to be hotspots. I’d be concerned that the bases could end up like a Scottish Greenham Common [the RAF base in Berkshire that was home to US cruise missiles in the 1980s].

“The bases could also still potentially be used to host nuclear weapons, which would fly in the face of the SNP’s attempt to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons.

“The difficulty with Nato membership is that Nato forces can be pulled into conflicts at the behest of the US government, similar to the situation to Iraq.”

However, SNP MSP David Torrance, who supported the Nato policy shift, backed the First Minister’s claim an independent Scotland could host US bases.

He said: “If it was non-nuclear, I’d be quite happy with that, but we’d need a guarantee that ships would not carry missiles to it.

“An SNP government would be able to ensure there were strict rules in place that meant nuclear weapons were definitely not to be hosted in an independent Scotland.”

On a visit to New York for Tartan Day, Mr Salmond defended his party’s switch in policy to back an independent Scotland remaining in Nato. “The choice in policy terms is to be a non-nuclear member of that organisation,” he said, before indicating that an independent Scotland could host US Nato bases.

“So then, if we are talking about a non-nuclear base, then of course that would be something that would be possible in terms of the [Nato] treaty.”

Nato has said that if it was considered a new state, Scotland would have to apply for membership after a Yes vote in the 2014 referendum. It issued a statement saying a Scotland that had “thereby established its separate statehood would be viewed as a new state”.