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Good News… albeit with a twist.

October 7, 2012

Today’s exclusive in the Sunday Herald outlines Alex Salmond’s plans to draft a new constitution for an independent Scotland which explicitly bans nuclear weapons from the country. (This follows a similar move by the Greens at their party conference yesterday when they passed an emergency motion that an independent Scotland would not be party to nuclear weapons alliances: http://www.scottishgreens.org.uk/news/show/6727/scottish-greens-back-yes-scotland-but-say-no-to-nato)

Basically, if Scots vote yes in the 2014 referendum, the nation’s founding constitutional document will include a clause declaring weapons of mass destruction illegal on Scottish soil.

Now, before we all fall over ourselves in relief and gratitude, the move has been made to abate concerns over the party policy proposal that an independent Scotland under the SNP would have full Nato membership. Opposition to this proposal, which will be debated at the party conference in Perth on October 21, has been mounting in recent weeks with party activists and the SNP CND maintaining the pro-Nato shift will have ramifications for the SNP’s ability to remove Trident (in addition to a litany of other humanitarian arguments).

The constitutional ban on nuclear weapons has been announced in time to placate the concerns of those opposing the Nato resolution and save leadership embarassment of defeat in the vote at the party conference. (The chalk action we took at the Scottish parliament on Thursday was partly to propose that this Nato debate, given that it will entail an independent Scotland being in Nato, should not be treated solely as an internal matter for the SNP but a matter for multi-lateral and public debate on the future of Scotland.)

Whether or not the SNP leadership’s gamble that the powers that be within Nato will accept a new state with an explicitly anti-nuclear stance remains to be seen. Trident is afterall under Nato’s remit and removal from Scotland could result in the UK’s disarmament, which will not be popular by any stretch of the imagination. When New Zealand made itself a constitutionally nuclear free zone in 1984, the US reacted by unceremoniously suspending it’s ANZUS obligations, branding NZ “a friend, but not an ally”.

Setting a constitutional framework for the illegality of Trident is a welcome step, and for that the SNP should be applauded, but it does nothing to address the issue of Nato membership. Even in the unlikelihood that Nato takes a permissive view of an independent Scotland with an anti-nuclear constitution and facilitates the removal of Trident, the hypocrasy and absurdity of upholding international law domestically and ignoring it internationally will remain. As will the necessary ignorance to a litany of other humanitarian and military issues that Nato membership demands. Tens of thousands of innocent civilians have now been killed in the war in Afghanistan led by Nato. Nato continues to increase it’s use of drones, which have been responsible for the deaths of countless civilians and are, essentially, completely unnaccountable and abhorrent warfare. Scotland plays host to various Nato military exercises and two Nato satellite facilities that are essential for foreign war operations. Joint Warrior, the biggest Nato naval exercise in Europe, is currently being hosted by the west coast of Scotland. The exercise includes coastal bombing practises at Cape Wrath on the northwest coast which acts as the only place on the planet where US military are permitted to test 1000lb live bombs.

Hypocrasy of the nuclear issue aside, an independent Scotland will gain nothing from Nato membership other than repeated moral conscessions and military demands. On the nuclear weapons issue it seems patently obvious that Scotland cannot gain anything towards nuclear disarmament by joining a nuclear alliance, especially when that disarmament entails it’s enforcement (to some degree) on the UK, another Nato ally.

Regardless, supporting Nato membership whilst deeming nuclear weapons constitutionally illegal is like saying you won’t carry a knife, but you will hang about with a gang of other people carrying knives.

See the Sunday Herald article here: http://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/referendum-news/scottish-constitution-would-ban-nuclear-weapons.19078977

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