Scottish independence: Three-quarters of Scots back SNP U-turn on Nato membership
THREE-QUARTERS of Scots believe that an independent Scotland should stay in Nato, according to a new poll published as the SNP considers ending its long-standing opposition to the nuclear defence alliance.
The overwhelming popular support for Scotland remaining within the Nato fold after any break-up of the UK will boost Alex Salmond’s bid to persuade SNP activists to set aside their hostility to the organisation, which has a defence strategy based on a nuclear deterrent.
Salmond and his defence spokesman Angus Robertson face opposition from SNP members, many of whom believe that joining a nuclear alliance is incompatible with party policy to remove Trident submarines and missiles from Scottish waters.
The YouGov survey of 1,008 Scottish adults showed that 75 per cent of them believed an independent Scotland should remain in Nato. Only 11 per cent of those surveyed thought Scotland should leave following a “Yes” vote in the expected 2014 referendum.
And despite opposition to Nato being a commonly held view amongst the SNP’s 20,000 members, the poll showed that 70 per cent of SNP voters thought an independent Scotland should be part of the defence treaty.
The percentage supporting Nato increased when those supporting the pro-Union parties were asked. Seventy-eight per cent of Labour voters believed in staying in Nato compared with 89 per cent of Conservatives and 82 per cent of Lib Dems.
The poll also found that 62 per cent of those surveyed thought that the Scottish Government should have the final say over whether nuclear weapons should be based in Scotland. Thirty-one per cent believed the UK Government should have the final say.
The survey was carried out as part of Robertson’s defence review, which was published last week and heralded the party leadership’s attempt to change a policy that has been an SNP article of faith for more than three decades.
The SNP leadership has maintained that a nuclear weapon-free Scotland would be entitled to be a member of Nato, although doubts have been raised by the pro-Union parties.
The SNP points to Norway and Denmark as examples of small countries, who are members of Nato despite not having a nuclear arsenal.
Yesterday Robertson said: “This survey evidence underlines the overwhelming public support for key proposals in the updated SNP defence policy. Not only is there massive support by SNP voters, but by supporters of other parties as well. It is right for us to consider remaining within Nato and focus our efforts on appropriate conventional defence for Scotland.
“At the heart of the proposals to update SNP defence policy is that defence, security and international relations should be decided by the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. We already know that there is overwhelming public support for getting rid of Trident from Scotland. This polls shows that there is strong agreement with the SNP that the final say over nuclear weapons should rest with the Scottish Government.”
Robertson added: “It is good to know that there is wide support for key elements of the proposed update to SNP defence policy and hopefully this will inform debate in the run-up to the SNP annual conference in October.”
The resolution to be presented to conference, which will be supported by Salmond, states that on achieving independence “Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with Nato. An SNP government will maintain Nato membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and Nato continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN-sanctioned operations.”
The change of position has led to accusations that the SNP leadership is prepared to sacrifice principles to broaden its popular appeal.
Last night, Scottish Labour’s constitutional spokeswoman, Patricia Ferguson MSP, said: “If the SNP leadership take polls seriously, they will change their position on separation too as the majority of Scots want to remain in the Union.
“The problem for the SNP is that an independent Scotland is not guaranteed membership of Nato. The best way to ensure continued membership is to remain in the Union.”
The Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, said: “The fact the SNP have commissioned a poll on this shows they are willing to betray their own policies in exchange for votes in a referendum.
“They have been against joining the most successful military alliance in the world for the past three decades. This U-turn is more to do with the referendum than any respect for our servicemen and women.”
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Friday 24 May 2013
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