AN independent Scotland will be a “full and constructive member” of Nato’s nuclear-weapons based alliance, despite its opposition to the missiles, the SNP government said last night.
• Nato confirm that an independent Scotland would need to apply for membership
• SNP changed its Nato membership policy last year despite opposition to nuclear weapons
• Alex Salmond repeated Scotland’s desire to remain a Nato member to US audience yesterday
Officials said the country could still sign up to the alliance on the grounds that it could join other nuclear-free nations in the organisation to try and rid the weapons from the planet.
The comments came after the Atlantic alliance spoke for the first time on the question of Scottish independence, declaring that if it was considered a new state, Scotland would have to apply for membership after a “yes” vote.
First Minister Alex Salmond has said he is “certain” that Nato countries would accept an independent Scotland, no matter its opposition to nuclear weapons and the stationing of Britain’s
arsenal within Scotland.
But pro-UK figures yesterday said Nato’s clarification on membership showed this had “no foundation”.
Labour peer Lord Robertson, the former secretary-general of Nato, said the organisation’s intervention meant that an independent Scotland would have to sign up to its “strategic concept” before entering – which declares that “as long as nuclear weapons exist, Nato will remain a nuclear alliance”. It also declares that “the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance”.
Asked whether the SNP would sign up to that concept yesterday, a Scottish Government spokesman pointed out that the strategic concept also states that the alliance is “resolved to seek a safer world for all and to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons”.
He said that this was “an aim that this government shares”.
He added: “Only three of Nato’s 28 members are actually nuclear-weapons states. The majority are fully committed members of the alliance without hosting nuclear weapons, which is exactly what an independent Scotland would be.”
The Scottish Government also stood by its claim that Scotland would be able to enter Nato from within the UK, by notifying members of its intention to join in the period between a Yes vote and its planned date for independence, in 2016.
The latest row over the SNP’s preparations for independence comes after the party changed its policy to support Nato membership at its conference last year.
However, the SNP said it will only support the policy post-independence so long as it could remove the Trident submarines – currently based at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde – from Scotland.
In a written response on the question of membership, a Nato statement said this week: “It appears widely agreed that, as a matter of law, a Scotland which has declared its independence and thereby established its separate statehood would be viewed as a new state.”
It continued: “If it were to choose to apply for Nato membership, its application would be subject to the normal procedure, as outlined in article ten of the treaty.”
Mr Salmond has argued that Scotland is already a member of Nato “by virtue of our membership of the United Kingdom.”
But Scottish Secretary Michael Moore hit back: “The UK government has repeatedly said that there is nothing automatic about Nato membership – it is a matter for the North Atlantic Council. Nato has today confirmed this is the case.”
Lord Robertson added that as a new member, Scotland would have to agree to the rules of the club. He said: “Now that Nato have made it clear that a separate Scottish state will have to apply for Nato membership there is a huge dilemma for the SNP.
“I supervised the entry of seven new members to Nato in 2002 and every one of them had to accept the strategic concept. If the SNP cannot accept the Nato strategic concept then it will simply not get in.”
Kurt Volker, the former US ambassador to Nato, said there was likely to be “great goodwill” from Nato members towards an independent Scotland’s application for membership of the alliance “except if it is changing the terms of its membership as it would relate to the interests of other members, and that is what we would need to then look at more carefully”.