Removing Trident after Scottish independence would not embolden Vladimir Putin, insists SNP minister

Angus Robertson said a separate Scottish state would treat northern European security more seriously than UK

Removing nuclear weapons from an independent Scotland would not embolden Russian president Vladimir Putin, a senior SNP minister has insisted.

Angus Robertson, the external affairs secretary, said a separate Scottish state would treat northern European security more seriously than the UK government. He also said ousting Trident would not be an obstacle to joining Nato, the intergovernmental military alliance backed by nuclear capability.

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Mr Robertson was speaking on Monday at the launch of a new Scottish Government policy paper focused on an independent Scotland’s “place in the world”. The paper says Scotland would pursue negotiations for the “safe and expeditious” removal of nuclear weapons “immediately upon securing a vote for independence”.

Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines, at HM Naval Base ClydeVanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines, at HM Naval Base Clyde
Vanguard-class submarine HMS Vigilant, one of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines, at HM Naval Base Clyde

It would seek accession talks with Nato “at the earliest possible stage” and would commit to defence spending of 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). There have previously been questions over the possibility of an independent Scotland joining Nato while pushing for the removal of nuclear weapons from Faslane.

But the Scottish Government paper says it “does not regard the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil as an obstacle to an independent Scotland’s aims of gaining membership of Nato”.

The paper adds: “Only a minority of Nato members host nuclear weapons. An independent Scotland’s position would therefore be similar to the approach of most Nato member countries, which neither possess nor host nuclear weapons. Finland’s accession to Nato in April 2023 highlighted that hosting nuclear weapons is not a pre-condition for membership.”

Speaking to journalists, Mr Robertson could not give an estimated timescale for removing nuclear weapons, arguing it would be “a matter for discussion and negotiation”.

Elsewhere, the paper says the armed forces of an independent Scotland “would comprise land, sea, and air components overseen by a joint forces headquarters” at Faslane. However, a “defence and security review” would determine its precise “shape and size”.

The paper proposes establishing a Scottish Security and Intelligence Agency, which would undertake intelligence gathering among other functions. Mr Robertson could not provide estimated set-up costs for this new military and security capacity.

He argued the UK government did not take the challenges facing northern Europe seriously enough.

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Asked whether weakening Nato by disrupting or removing Trident would embolden Mr Putin to use tactical nuclear weapons, Mr Robertson said: “I don’t think so. Again, I draw attention to the real-world reality of what’s been happening in recent months.

"And what’s been happening in northern Europe is that smaller and medium-sized northern European nations have been joining Nato, have been underscoring how keen [they are] that they all want to work together, and I think Scotland should be a part of that, rather than subcontracting others – in this case the UK government – to make decisions about our defence and security in a way which doesn’t take the nature of the challenges we face seriously enough.

"It’s we who are saying that we need better northern European security. It’s not the UK government that’s doing that. It’s record is not good.”

Mr Robertson said the UK government “does not have a single conventional naval craft that’s ocean-going based in Scotland”.

He said: “Have a look at how the UK deals with incoming Russian vessels, which happens with great regularity. They have to dispatch vessels from the south coast of England. That’s not dealing with these challenges as seriously as they should be taken.

"If you look at what our northern neighbours such as Norway do in relation to this sort of thing, they take these questions very seriously, and that is why a Scottish Government would do exactly the same.

"We do have to understand what the challenges are. We do need to acknowledge that there are real threats. We do need to acknowledge that there are bad actors. That is why you are required to have the capacity to deal with them. The United Kingdom does not. We will.”

Asked if he acknowledged the difference between countries such as Finland, which do not possess nuclear weapons, and Scotland, which would be seeking to remove them from its territory, he said: “What we are proposing to do is to operate in exactly the same way as all of our neighbouring northern European states. None of them operate nuclear weapons on their soil. All of them have made it absolutely clear that they don’t want to do that, and Nato has welcomed them with open arms.”

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The Scottish Greens, who have a power-sharing relationship with the SNP, do not support joining Nato.

The new paper is the latest in a series of Scottish Government documents, titled Building a New Scotland, which are described as forming a prospectus for an independent Scotland.

Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy said: “The SNP’s latest independence paper is a colossal waste of taxpayers’ money. Hard-pressed Scots who are set to feel the damaging effects of Shona Robison’s disastrous tax-and-axe budget will be appalled to see public money once again being spent pursuing the SNP’s independence obsession.

“These propaganda papers – designed only to further the nationalists plan to break up the United Kingdom – are a scandalous misuse of civil servants’ time and money. Humza Yousaf has made it clear that independence will be front and centre of his party’s general election campaign, which shows how warped his priorities are.

“Rather than focusing on his own partisan interests, he should be focused on Scots’ real priorities, such as easing the NHS backlog, growing our economy and keeping our communities safe.

“In swathes of seats across Scotland, it is only the Scottish Conservatives who can beat the SNP and stop their MPs relentlessly pushing for independence.”



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