George Robertson on SNP NATO plans
The SNP have billed their posturing over NATO as a ‘clause 4 moment’. A reference to the the modernisation of the Labour Party Constitution in the 1990's. It is nothing of the sort. It is an attempt to take one position on defence to camouflage a bigger, more important truth: the SNP want to dissolve our most important defence alliance – that of the UK armed forces. NATO is of course an essential Alliance which has been at the heart of UK security for over 60 years.
Today, in an era of global change and uncertainty, the collective might of the Alliance is increasingly important. However, SNP claims to have changed their policy do not deserve credit so much as scrutiny. On the one hand the SNP say they will ‘inherit its Treaty obligations with NATO’ and on the other they maintain wedded to unilateralism. The Nato Strategic Concept states, ‘As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance’.
Both SNP positions cannot be true.
It seems they want to jettison and electorally poisonous policy position hoping no-one will look at the small print. I have expressed my doubts about whether Scotland could eject nuclear weapons one day and expect to be welcomed into a nuclear alliance the next. Even if they did, Scotland would be keeping one alliance it is already a member of and ditching its most important one. This camouflage of credibility is fundamentally undermined by their decision to pursue a Scottish Defence Force. When terrorists attacked Glasgow airport it was UK military intelligence which went to work.
During both World Wars Scots’ security has been guaranteed by the UK alliance. That remains true today in face of international terrorism and organised crime. To claim that this can be replaced by Nato is as fanciful as it is to claim that a new Force can be created on an annual defence budget less than ten percent of that which Scots currently benefit from.
As part of the UK Scotland is part of a military which delivers global reach no small European country can claim. The 4th largest military budget in the world. The second largest contributor to Afghanistan. The most capable European nation. A leading country in operations from Sierra Leone to Kosovo.
The UK provides Scotland not just with protection but influence. It is perverse to on the one hand promote the benefits of international alliances and collective power at the same time as rejecting the very union from which Scotland’s defences most benefit.
The real change in SNP defence policy which would make them credible would be remaining in the UK strategic, defence, economic and political alliance – but they won’t do that. If they want to be taken seriously in defence they need to come clean about the real alternative they offer. They are unable to tell us the size of the Force they would deliver and how it would be funded.
Their plans are dominated by speculation and presumption rather than facts and vision. They are still busking it and making it up as they go along. Until they answer basic question people will wonder why it is in Scottish interests to separate from the Royal Air Force, British Army and Royal Navy. Clause 4 was a sign of modernisation.
The SNP’s defence plans are nothing but confusion.
Lord George Robertson is a former Secretary General of NATO, UK Defence Secretary and Member of Parliament for Hamilton South