Nicola Sturgeon says she wants Scotland to be ‘non-nuclear’
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Already the First Minister’s policy surrounding NATO has taken a significant U-turn as the SNP was forced to accept it would need to apply to join the alliance in the event of becoming independent. During a trip to the United States, Ms Sturgeon, speaking at the Brookings Institution in Washington DC, said the war in Ukraine had “strengthened my conviction” that the policy of joining NATO post-independence was the correct choice.
A warning has emerged that an independent Scotland would struggle to join the alliance, in particular if the SNP succeeds in removing the Trident Nuclear Deterrent from its shores.
Speaking to The Sunday Times about the consequences, former submarine commander, Rear-Admiral John Gower said: “Whatever the SNP’s views on NATO membership, a death blow to the UK’s nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine force is unlikely to be forgotten by current NATO members who could well refuse Scottish membership when new members are being considered.
“Many Scottish voters may see the departure of nuclear weapons from an independent Scotland as a cosy feel-good risk-free by-product of independence without being aware of the repercussions for Scotland, the rest of the UK, and the wider NATO alliance.”
Speaking in Washinton on the notion of joining the alliance, Ms Sturgeon said: “NATO membership for an independent Scotland would maintain the alliance’s territorial integrity in a key strategic area, so the idea that NATO would choose to make itself smaller by excluding Scotland makes no sense from a geopolitical perspective.
“The vast majority of NATO members do not have nuclear weapons, and an independent Scotland would be in the same position as those non-nuclear member states.
“Independent countries have the right to seek NATO membership on their own terms, as is currently the case with Sweden, a non-nuclear weapon state.”
However, further questions have arisen as to Scotland’s military capabilities.
First and foremost, defence is not a power devolved to the Scottish government, remaining under the portfolio of Westminster.
Scotland has argued its defence contribution to the UK, £3.3billlion per year, is far higher than being spent back by Westminster north of the border.
An independent Scotland argues its defence capabilities would be “put in place to ensure that Scottish forces will only ever participate in a military activity that is internationally recognised as lawful and in accordance with the principles of the UN charter”.
Plans would include taking over existing naval, army and air force bases in Scotland, as well as inheriting a share of defence equipment in negotiation with the rest of the UK.
The plans would also include a £2.5billion budget to run and maintain an independent military.
In terms of active personnel, Scotland would seek a total of 15,000 regular, and 5,000 reserve personnel in the 10 years following independence.
In comparison, In 2022, there were over 148,000 personnel serving in the British Armed Forces.
Edinburgh would also aim to build up its maritime, aerial and ground forces across the same time scale.
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However, critics have shunned the plan, with some suggesting the SNP has failed miserably in building ferries to service remote Scottish islands, and hence would not be capable of building a Navy or military force.
A statement by the Scottish Government in 2013 envisaged an independent military force.
It read: “Scotland’s defence and security policy will be a key part of wider international policy, protecting Scotland’s interests through a strategic approach to national security, and providing the military capability to defend our national interest.
“We will take our own decisions about involvement in military action while continuing to make a full contribution to our own defence and that of our allies.”
It added: “By independence day, the Scottish Government will have in place a core set of military capabilities from which it will then build.
“That will include a number of military units (air, land and sea-based) under Scottish Government control.”
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