Split widens within SNP ranks as key figures take sides on Nato

Split within SNP has widened as MSPs take sides over Nato policy (Getty)
Split within SNP has widened as MSPs take sides over Nato policy (Getty)
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THE SNP is facing growing disagreement over moves to ditch its long-standing opposition to Nato membership, with another senior figure within the party opposing the proposed policy shift.

Senior MSP Dave Thompson told The Scotsman it would be “undesirable” for an independent Scotland to join the western defence pact, after it emerged that the party’s policy-making national council would vote on whether to abandon the anti-Nato stance.

Mr Thompson, a long-standing member of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which opposes Nato membership, said he would “be on the side” of those in the party opposing a reversal of the opposition to joining the alliance.

However, in signs of a widening split within the party’s ranks at Holyrood, MSP David Torrance said he backed joining Nato, as he insisted that an independent Scotland needed to be “part of a bigger organisation”.

The latest spat came after MSP John Wilson, the SNP deputy head of Holyrood’s economy committee, warned he would oppose reversal of the party’s opposition to Nato membership, which he claimed would be “incompatible” with its anti-nuclear stance.

Party sources revealed that the national council, which is made up of MSPs and representatives of local branches, would vote at a meeting in Perth on 16 June on whether to end the SNP’s 30-year opposition to Nato membership.

Mr Thompson said he would be “pretty sceptical” about any move to abandon the anti-Nato policy, as he warned that the move would be at odds with the SNP’s anti-nuclear position and opposition to the Trident submarine fleet at Faslane.

He said: “I’m very much opposed to nuclear weapons, which I believe are immoral and we shouldn’t have them. Being a member of Nato would mean being a member of a nuclear alliance, and I would be pretty sceptical of this.

“The fact that Nato is an organisation that endorses the use of nuclear weapons and has a first strike policy, I would find it extremely difficult to be involved with them.

“I’m willing to listen to the arguments, but I’d tend to be on the side of those who argue we shouldn’t go there.

“I’d view any prospect of joining Nato as pretty undesirable, because of the first-strike policy.”

However, Mr Torrance claimed that joining Nato would be in the interests of an independent Scotland and insisted the country would be able to influence the alliance over its pro-nuclear stance.

“We need to be part of a bigger organisation, although my view is that we still shouldn’t have nuclear weapons,” he said.

“I am concerned about the first strike policy, but if an independent Scotland was a part of Nato we could influence it on issues like this, in the way that other members, such as Norway and Denmark, do.”