SNP party conference: Get nuclear guarantee from Nato, leadership told

Salmond: 'One of the finest debates in our history'. Picture: Jane Barlow
Salmond: 'One of the finest debates in our history'. Picture: Jane Barlow
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THE SNP leadership is to be urged to obtain a written guarantee from Nato pledging that it would accept a nuclear weapon-free Scotland as a member.

A resolution calling on party defence spokesman Angus Robertson to produce such a document from Nato will be tabled at the next meeting of the SNP’s National Council in December.

Yesterday it emerged that the move will be made by Sandra White MSP, one of the key figures to argue against membership of the nuclear alliance at the SNP conference in Perth.

The day after a knife-edge vote saw the SNP leadership narrowly succeed in its bid to overturn the party’s long-standing opposition to Nato, confusion remained over how membership of a nuclear alliance was compatible with the removal of Trident nuclear submarines from Faslane on the Clyde.

In an attempt to pin down the issue, White, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Kelvin, told Scotland on Sunday she would put forward her resolution at the National Council, the governing body of the party.

“I want to get an update on what is happening,” White said. “They [the leadership] have been left with the responsibility of negotiating with Nato to give us, as a party, an absolute guarantee that there will be no nuclear weapons on the Clyde or in Scotland.

“I will put forward a resolution saying that we must get that written guarantee from Nato.”

Despite the narrowness of the margin of Alex Salmond and Robertson’s victory, White said she respected the outcome of the vote which was won by just 29 of nearly 800 votes on Friday.

But others who spoke out against the leadership were convinced that the debate on Nato membership would resurface and were critical of the way the issue was handled by Robertson.

The defence spokesman was booed by delegates despite his assertion that an independent Scotland would not join Nato unless it was agreed that there should be no nuclear weapons north of the Border.

John Wilson, the MSP for Central Scotland, said: “I am certain that will not be the end of the debate from the party.

“The feedback that I have been getting from delegates is that there are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding Nato membership that were not answered in what was presented to us yesterday.

“For example, how do we negotiate the removal of nuclear weapons and what conditions might be agreed if we go into Nato membership? It may be that we retain nuclear weapons in some capacity until such time it is possible to move them to other locations.”

He added: “What this debate showed is that there is a very substantial minority of the party, who still have opposition to Nato and an absolute majority of the party is opposed to nuclear weapons.”

Wilson was one of many SNP members who felt that members had not been properly consulted about reversing opposition to Nato, a policy that had been an SNP article of faith for decades.

“From my perspective, I would have preferred a longer time period for the party membership to fully examine the options,” Wilson said. He was also critical of the path followed by Robertson, who had spent much time travelling to Scandinavia and other European countries to seek advice on Nato membership.

Robertson argued that 
officials and politicians in Scotland’s neighbours had 
underlined the importance of Nato membership for Scottish security.

But Wilson said: “Clearly some of the individuals from the other European countries have been shown to have 
vested interests in promoting the Nato argument, despite ongoing debates about Nato in their countries.”

John Mason, the SNP MSP for Glasgow Shettleston, was angered that the most important change of position considered by the SNP for decades had not gone through the party’s National Assembly, the forum for members to consider and review policy.

“We need a fuller debate to find answers to defence policy,” Mason said. “We have a National Assembly and it used to go through quite a lot of detail. In my view we could have had a better resolution if this had gone through the National Assembly first and then more people might have supported it.”