Thursday, 25 October 2012

NATO And The EU



After a conference in which the SNP leadership's main aim was to convince the delegates that it was essential for an independent Scotland to join NATO and attained their goal by a very slim margin of consent, Alex Salmond and the rest of the leadership could have been forgiven for congratulating themselves and returning to the humdrum business of running the country.

Before I leave the NATO issue, I have yet to find verification for Angus Robertson's adamant statement in which he insisted 75 % of Scots want Scotland to belong to the organisation.  All I can find is reference to a poll dated July 2012 and commissioned by the SNP, in which 1,008 people in Scotland were asked a question about staying in NATO and 756 seemingly supplied an affirmative answer.  Is this one poll a suitable sample on which to base a complete change of policy from a party which has rightly been proud of being against nuclear weapons?

I struggled to understand why the issue had suddenly received so much prominence, particularly when no friend of mine had ever mentioned membership of NATO and many have voted SNP because of its non-nuclear stance.

On Monday, two list SNP MSPs tendered their resignation from the party in protest over its new NATO policy.   The departures of John Finnie and Jean Urquhart leave the SNP with 65 MSPs and an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament of just one.  Both MSPs will now represent their electorates as independents but will support the Yes campaign for independence.

I don't accept the majority of Scots want to belong to NATO and cannot understand why NATO membership is so essential to winning the independence referendum. It's not about silencing their opponents because NATO was seldom mentioned in political circles until the SNP suggest they may be considering a change of policy back in the summer. It could be about putting some meat on the bones of a weak defence policy but will that be enough to attract floating voters in the next two years?  Or will voters reject a party which now supports a nuclear alliance?

A couple of questions I would like to ask Alex Salmond - "Have you taken any specific legal advice from Scottish Government legal officers about your decision to include, in your new policy, that Scotland's membership was dependent on Trident nuclear weapons being removed from Scotland? Has NATO been informed of this and if so what was the response?"

For the past 24 hours Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon and other senior members of the party have been on a damage limitation round of the television and radio studios, in an effort to stem the flow of accusations about the First Minister being untruthful regarding membership of the EU.  It's my view he was ambiguous in the Andrew Neil interview but does it matter?

The average voter doesn't watch the Politics Show so probably was unaware of the controversy created by the implication that the Scottish Government had received legal advice about EU membership.

For those like me who are anti-EU membership, I always assumed that any government paper, prior to publication, is forensically examined by the best legal minds the Scottish Government can provide.  Being a trustworthy soul, I also assumed that SG legal beagles would have been in touch with their counterparts in the EU to ensure that what is made public meets their legal requirements.  However, that's not so and I've learned a good lesson; no government document is necessarily legally correct.

The First Minister, in the past 24 hours, has cited the Ministerial Code on several occasions, however it provides only guidance and is not a rulebook.  Does the citing of the Ministerial Code make it appear as if the First Minister is hiding behind a mysterious piece of Scottish Parliament documentation?  It would seem so.

How damaged is Alex Salmond from the last few days?  He may be able to ride the storm about his words in the Andrew Neil interview, but the loss of two loyal MSPs on a point of principle may do the party much more harm in the long term.

32 comments:

Dioclese said...

As an Englishman, I support independence for Scotland but can see lots of details that will need to be ironed out before it happens assuming the Scots vote in favour.

One such issue is the division of armed forces and the management of bases in Scotland. Your country, like it or not, occupies a strategic position and I find it difficult to see how you could avoid being part of NATO. However, the real question is "in what capacity?"

Lord Monty said...

Maybe AS got told that being in nato would 'help' him stay in the EU.

AS seemed to be saying last night that the ministerial code prevented him from revealing whether or not he had asked for legal advice about the EU. So the SNP spent money blocking attempts to find out if they had asked for legal advice even though they hadn't.
Mad as a bicycle if that's the case.
'Scotland Tonight' concluded that the SNP spent money blocking a request to see what advice the SNP had been given when the SNP hadn't actually been given any advice and hadn't asked for it but the ministerial code prevented them from revealing that they hadn't asked for it.

'BBC Newsnicht' got lotsd of people on to attack the SNP.

subrosa said...

Exactly Dioclese. The capacity is what matters and being full members wasn't SNP policy. This is a complete change of policy - not even a halfway house.

subrosa said...

It's beginning to show that the SNP bulldoze policy through without considering consequences.

Same has happened with the minimum pricing bill Monty. Now there's a legal challenge to it.

English Pensioner said...

I too support Scottish independence, albeit as a route to English Independence.
But apart from defence, there is the matter of the nation's debts and how will they be divided? Do we divide them pro-rata according to our respective populations or will Salmond (as seen from an English perspective) try to wriggle out of them altogether. And of course the UK government effectively owns the Scottish Banks; what is to be done about these? There are so many questions which can be posed for which there, as yet, are too few answers. Two years isn't very long to sort out all these matters, and if I were a Scot, I'd be wanting answers, not vague hopes, before voting for independence.

Clarinda said...

Perhaps if NATO had received the Nobel Peace Prize - instead of the weirdly considered EU - where Nato, according to many defence and peace writers I have read over the last couple of weeks consider more deserving .... remaining with NATO may seem a little less questionable? I agree that it's 'leadership' and ambition may be suspect but from reading I gather that the Scottish electorate - particularly women - would feel more comfortable voting YES in 2014 with our 'defence' continuing as before but happily wanting to become free of nuclear weapons as the majority of NATO nations are also nuclear weapon free.

After Independence I presume NATO along with the EU etc. are up for debate on our exclusive independent terms. I have to accept that this is political politics afterall and not some worthy wishful thinking dwam we are having to deal with on this so far successful gradualist path to Independence. I am reassured by the close call of the democratic vote at conference that there is still work to be done and change is possible. Throughout the debate I agreed with every contributor! However, the last thing I want is to sabotage progress over issues that can always be altered at a later date?

JRB said...

Oh! what a tangled web we weave.
When first we practice to deceive.
…Sir Walter Scott


On NATO…
I remain baffled as to why the SNP saw fit to change the policy of 30years re NATO.
It has, predictably, antagonised many, and already two MSPs have resigned.
Now we have frenzied activity going on behind the scenes as attempts are made to keep others who are against NATO onboard the SNP boat.

On Advice…
Mr Salmond is a skilled and seasoned wordsmith and speaker. He knew full well how his remarks of earlier would be interpreted. So indeed they were by press, media, politicians and the people alike.
Mr Salmond, till summonsed to the chamber this week, has done and said nothing to clarify this little charade. In fact he has gone to law, at our expense, to preserve the charade.
Only the words of his deputy have brought all this to light.
Now once again we have frenzied activity within the Scottish government as it tries to defuse the situation.

You ask if Mr Salmond is damaged.
Sadly, the answer must be a resounding yes. But not only him, for the ‘Yes’ campaign has suffered severe collateral damage in all this.

More and more it would appear that Mr Salmond’s and the ‘Yes’ campaign’s sole strategy is to have us vote for some abstract romantic concept that is ‘independence’.
A concept built purely on dreams, wishful thinking and conditional ambitions.
A concept devoid of structure, of fact, or any indication as to how it/we will exist in the real world.

The events of the last few days may just have sealed the fate of the independence vote.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

The fundamental issue with both NATO and the EU is, do they have a democratic process or is it merely a case of who ever has the biggest clout wins?

As it is. I'm not sure what each of them stand for as, going by past and present performance, both seem utterly malleable towards the positions they adopt in any crises that confronts them with the solitary exception of more 'powers' being added to their elbows.

Undoubtedly both have a role within the theatres of their operation but neither have the right to exclude or determine the right of a sovereign nation to decide the parameters of its involvement; and, as far as Scotland is concerned that should be decided on the plebiscite of a sovereign people.

I have said this before - the SNP have earned the right to take Scotland towards independence. As yet they have yet to earn the right to govern an independent Scotland. Their decision on NATO and obfuscation on the EU are assertions that, as yet, are neither in their gift or command.

Which leaves the real question waiting for clear and committed answers - just how sovereign will the people of an independent Scotland be in the future of their nation?

Anon said...

The SNP is dead.

- Aangirfan

Joe Public said...

Why is it assumed that it's solely a Scottish decision to join either 'club'?


Neither 'club' may want to admit a new member.

/Englishman's Sarc

cynicalHighlander said...

Salmond: I was right to withhold legal advice on EU and I'll do it again

As to NATO that is up to Scots after Independence which at least gets Trident off these shores for good.

EP worth listening to Positive Money showing how we are being constantly scammed by the banks.

J. R. Tomlin said...

May I put in a different perspective here? (mine always is being an outsider and you're patient in letting me have a say :-) )

I was struck by the SNP actually having a debate at their conference, having opponents to the leadership take the podium to express their position and a real vote that could have and apparently nearly did go against the leadership. The sight of a political party actually practicing democracy is so rare that it left me thinking again about moving back to Scotland.

Will the SNP be hurt by having two MSPs resign, though, is another question. Not if they treat the MSPs with respect as I hope that they will. The MSPs are said not to be crossing the aisle. They are expressing their convictions. How often do you see THAT in a political party -- anywhere in the world? That you see it in the SNP, even if it leads someone to leave over a particular issue, to me speaks well and not ill of them as a political party.

Just my opinion, but... it's something you might want to think about.

footdee said...

I dont think Alex was ambiguous at all ,does anyone think Alex would spend months quite rightly not revealing if he had or had not asked advise and spill the beans to Andrew Neil .
The perceptions of the unionist parties are nothing to do with the SNP ,being wrong is why they angry and come out with this false moral outrage .Look at their history in taking FOI s to court .

As for these two MSP s who resigned for the sake of their conscience ,they should be ashamed .Politics is about what you can get done and in this case Alex has removed an attack of the unionists over defence .Are these two playing at politics perhaps they should have stayed as a pressure group in CND .Its very Scottish not to see the woods for the trees .
I hope they consider that if the referendum fails ,there is not a chance that trident will be got rid of by a British route ,but it will be got rid of with an independent Scotland in or out of nato

subrosa said...

There are lots of such issues that need to be calculated and aired EP and I believe Cameron has a team working on them as I type.

Let's wait and see if something transpires sooner rather than later.

subrosa said...

Do Scotswomen think about NATO when they think about the defence of the country Clarinda? I usually think about HM Forces. NATO is an outside organisation to me.

Someone needs to let us know that issues can be altered at a later date. Nobody has yet stated that.

subrosa said...

Oh I'm sure he knew JRB and I agree the Yes campaign has also been damaged.

The main damage would be trust in whatever Alex Salmond says now and once a politician loses trust, then the game's up.

Hope you're feeling a little better today.

subrosa said...

Excellent points Crinkly and you pose an interesting question too.

subrosa said...

You think it's finished Aangirfan - because of this of because of a now lengthy list of errors?

subrosa said...

Very true Joe, but the EU and NATO aren't known for turning down any country which is not bankrupt.

subrosa said...

The problem is CH that he said he had legal advice. He didn't say he only had general legal advice and not specific legal advice.

His efforts to be smart with words backfired in this case. Sadly giving unionists a very big stick.

However their pathetic performances at PMQs showed just how bereft we are of talented politicians.

subrosa said...

Of course you may Jeanne.

Before the NATO matter was debated at the conference Jeanne the SNP would have taken firm constituency soundings about how their delegates would be voting. I'm sure they were convinced they would win or the debate would have been conveniently postponed.

However, I don't think they realised their win would be so marginal.

subrosa said...

Footdee, on the tape A Salmond distinctly says 'Yes I have taken legal advice...' Pity he didn't just refuse to say yes or no. He was perfectly entitled to do that.

What would be so 'shameful' about Scotland not belonging to NATO? Are the other western countries who don't belong shamed?

Your last paragraph is true of course. Only independence (outwith NATO) would ensure a speedy removal of Trident.

footdee said...

Rosa --your not taking into account the following words they change the whole meaning ,I,ll bet Alex is wishing he did not start off with those words but thats a small sin .

perhaps I put it badly but I never meant to say it was shameful about not being in nato .I meant it was shameful that these two should endanger a yes vote because of a political decision needed to maximise the yes vote

Independence within Nato will also see the back of trident ,if Nato refuse then we dont join .

It may well be that Nato would wish RUK to give up trident as well ,I believe many in the MOD would like that ,but I suspect RUK will want to keep it as long as France has a nuclear weapon ,their so parochial in London

Key bored warrior. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Key bored warrior. said...

You can go back to 2007 when Eamonn Gallagher- former director general of the European Commission stated: “Scotland and the remainder of the UK would be equally entitled, and obliged, to continue the existing full membership of the EU. This was conceded by Emile Noel, one of Europe’s founding fathers and long-serving secretary-general of the European Commission, who said Scottish independence would create two states, which would have “equal status with each other and the other states”.

This is backed up by Article 34 of the Vienna Convention on the Succession of States, which reads: “Any treaty in force at the date of succession of states in respect of the entire territory of the predecessor state continues in force in respect of each successor state so formed.”

Or you COULD listen to Lord Mackenzie-Stuart, former president of the European Court of Justice who stated: “Independence would leave Scotland and something called the rest’ in the same legal boat. If Scotland had to re-apply, so would the rest. I am puzzled at the suggestion that there would be a difference in the status of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom in terms of community law if the Act of Union was dissolved.”



http://tiny.cc/731smw




The NATO question was asked it had to be answered, the SNP are outwitting, and miles ahead of the unionist parties, who can do nothing but name call and tell lies. The two opposition women in Holyrood are setting back the cause of more women in politics by years with their pettiness and visceral hatred, they bring nothing to the table but negative lies, scaremongering, and nastiness.

subrosa said...

Footdee, what I don't see is why the SNP think that by joining NATO they will maximise the yes vote. None of my friends has ever brought up the matter of NATO as even one of the main reasons why they wouldn't vote yes.

Where the idea comes from I don't know. Possibly the central belt. Seems as if the voices from outside that strip are ignored.

subrosa said...

Who asked the NATO question KBW?

There are lots of questions I get asked and NATO has never been one of them.

I agree. The opposition women are a disgrace. FMQ's was appalling and I was ashamed to think that was the standard of unionist parties in Holyrood.

Sobers said...

My guess is that AS has been told in no uncertain terms by the 'Big Boys' (aka Uncle Sam) that independence for Scotland from the UK is all fine and dandy by them, as it changes very little in reality, swapping indirect rule from Brussels (via Westminster) for direct rule from Brussels, but that he better not have any ideas of upsetting global geo-politics by removing Scotland from NATO, chucking out Trident and making Scotland unaligned to any military bloc.

Hence the desperate manoeuvres to change the SNP policy before any vote in 2014, knowing that if he didn't the PTB would make damn sure the vote went against him, if it took place at all.

The Glasvegan said...

At the risk of sounding really stupid, how is it that the SNP now only have 65 seats? I know that they on 69 and that the Presiding Officer had to resign from the party leaving them with 68; and now these two have gone which in my maths leaves 66. Was there another defection that I've missed or is my arithmetic just wrong?

The Glasvegan said...

Oh never mind, google has cleared it up for me!

subrosa said...

That's a fairly good guess Sobers and I wouldn't place a bet on it being wrong.

subrosa said...

Pleased you got it Glasvegan. Google is fine if you put in the right search words. :)

We've yet to hear more about the alleged wife beater. I thought he was taking his case through the courts.

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