S ource: UK Guardian
It is understood that scrapping the SNP’s longstanding opposition to membership of the US-dominated alliance in protest at its emphasis on nuclear weapons is being considered by the Scottish government in advance of the independence referendum.
Senior sources have said the SNP is seeking to forge close ties with Norway and Denmark, both full members of Nato. It would be in part a strategy to focus on defending the “high north” Atlantic and European Arctic region against Russian expansion and to protect its emerging mineral and energy resources, as well as North Sea oil.
The sources have indicated that applying to join Nato is part of the Scottish government’s thinking, a policy unthinkable for the SNP before its landslide election victory last year allowed it to propose a referendum on independence.
A survey of 7,112 SNP members by Professor James Mitchell at Strathclyde University found that 52.7% believed Nato membership was in Scotland’s strategic interests, compared with only 22% who still believed in quitting the alliance.
The shift in stance on Nato strengthens the growing belief that Alex Salmond‘s government is now preparing for a version of a softer, less dramatic proposal nicknamed “indy lite”, where an independent Scotland would maintain a series of close ties with the rest of the UK. The SNP hopes that would persuade sceptical voters to vote yes in the referendum.
With most voters still happier to stay in the UK, Salmond is proposing Scotland would keep sterling and the Bank of England as its central bank, by forming a currency union with the rest of the UK, alongside retaining the monarchy and keeping the BBC as a Scottish broadcaster.
Sources have confirmed that unofficial talks are already under way with the BBC about how the corporation could readjust to independence. One source pointed out that the BBC’s charter will be renewed in 2016, the year when the Scottish parliament’s next elections will be held, 18 months after the referendum in late 2014.
The party is still committed to forcing the UK to withdraw Trident submarines from the Clyde, but senior figures accept that could take some years to achieve. Military analysts believe an independent Scotland may have to retain Trident as a price for defence co-operation with the UK.
The defence proposals are expected to be spelled out in detail when the Scottish government publishes its “prospectus” for independence in November 2013.
Angus Robertson, the SNP’s defence spokesman, has held talks with senior Norwegian and Danish military figures and visited both countries’ naval bases. He believes the “high north” should be the main focus of Scotland’s future defence strategy but has also confirmed that it would join UN and Nato-led military operations abroad, if sanctioned by the UN.
Asked directly about whether an independent Scotland would remain in Nato, Robertson did not rule it out. He said: “Our colleagues in the Scottish government are looking at the policy options for Scotland; they’re looking at the challenges that one faces; one has to look at the options that are before you and then you move on to producing a prospectus which will inform the debate in Scotland in the runup to the referendum.”
He added: “The SNP has said we’re keen to work with our European colleagues through the common security and defence policy [of the EU] and indeed work within Nato’s Partnership for Peace. We’re quite content to work with Nato.”