THE Scottish government is to propose that the removal of nuclear weapons should be a legal requirement in an independent Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has revealed.
SNP ministers believe that removing nuclear weapons from Scottish territory should be included in an independent Scotland’s interim constitution – a move that would put a constitutional duty on the Scottish Government to negotiate towards taking Trident out of the Clyde.
The draft interim constitution, which will be published for consultation shortly, will set out how an independent Scotland could prepare a written constitution.
The inclusion of a commitment to getting rid of Trident follows suggestions that the nuclear deterrent could be used as a bargaining chip in the Scottish Government’s post-independence negotiations with the rest of the UK.
In a speech at Edinburgh University tomorrow the Deputy First Minister will say: “We believe nuclear weapons have no place in Scotland, and have made clear our intention to negotiate for the removal of Trident within the first parliamentary term of an independent Scotland. Now, following consultation with the people of Scotland, these plans could be bound by constitutional law.”
By hardening its stance on the removal of the nuclear deterrent, housed at the Faslane Naval base, the Scottish Government is attempting to counter suggestions that its anti-nuclear weapon policy might become a casualty of negotiations to break up the UK.
With Westminster attempting to play hard-ball on its refusal to allow an independent Scotland to share the pound, theories have been advanced that the SNP’s anti-nuclear stance could be traded in return for a deal on sterling.
Earlier this year, an unnamed UK government minister, who is said to be lined up to play a key role in post-independence talks, was quoted, saying: “There would be a highly complex set of negotiations after a yes vote, with many moving pieces. The UK wants to keep Trident nuclear weapons at Faslane and the Scottish government wants a currency union – you can see the outlines of a deal.”
In her speech, Sturgeon will say: “Scottish taxpayers have been paying to have one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons in Europe on our doorsteps. It’s high time that comes to an end. The people of Scotland now have the opportunity to remove Trident.”
The Scottish Government’s critics have argued that the SNP’s non-nuclear stance is at odds with its desire for an independent Scotland to be a member of Nato, an alliance based on a nuclear defence umbrella. The SNP have countered saying that other countries without a nuclear deterrent have joined Nato.
A UK government insider said: “They seem to want to have their cake and eat it. This is just another muddying of the waters to try and please everyone.”
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, the former secretary general of Nato, said: “The SNP appear to be putting more and more barriers up against future Nato membership. There are certainly non-nuclear members of Nato but there are no anti-nuclear members.
“Unless a separate Scotland signed up to the pro-nuclear Nato strategic concept they would simply not get Nato membership.”