Scottish independence: SNP deeply divided over policy to withdraw from membership of Nato

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SNP plans to quit Nato have split the party, new research has revealed. The divide emerged as fresh concerns arose over the future of thousands of Scottish defence jobs under independence.

The SNP is deeply divided over Alex Salmond’s defence policy, with more than half of grassroots members disagreeing with the First Minister’s plan to withdraw an independent Scotland from Nato.

The first ever comprehensive survey of the SNP’s membership has exposed a series of potentially damaging splits on policies such as defence, education and Mr Salmond’s proposal that the Queen should remain head of state after separation.

The research – led by James Mitchell, professor of politics at Strathclyde University and involving 7,112 paid-up members – uncovered schisms within a party that has made strenuous efforts to appear as one on policy.

The policy that generated the most consensus was the constitution, with 71.1 per cent agreeing that the SNP’s primary goal was independence and “all else should be secondary”, while 69.6 per cent took the view that when someone criticised Scotland it felt like a “personal insult”.

Meanwhile, Labour have warned that there are “significant unanswered questions” about the impact of independence on defence.

Jim Murphy, the Shadow Defence Secretary, said separation could cost “thousands” of jobs in Scotland’s shipyards as a result of lost contract.

He said: “The Clyde is a working river. It has to stay open for business for generations to come, but separation would wipe it out because we’d lose the biggest order book going.”

Mr Murphy was speaking following comments by ex-Royal Navy head Admiral Lord West.

The former First Sea Lord warned: “If Scotland became completely independent, there is no way that what would be left of the UK would build its warships in another country.”