By a Newsnet reporter

Claims that an independent Scotland would be prevented from joining NATO if it insisted on the removal of the Trident nuclear weapons system from the Clyde have been undermined after it emerged a similar situation has arisen before.

The claims follow news that the Scottish government has opened talks with NATO to discuss membership of the international defence organisation for a future independent Scotland, the discussions were held in Brussels last month between senior Scottish civil servants and senior officials at NATO headquarters.

The news, which broke in a Guardian article on Wednesday, has been frantically spun by the anti-independence campaign and its supporters in the mainstream media as a "blow" to the Scottish Government's defence plans for an independent Scotland, however the reality is far more positive for the Scottish case.

According to reports, Holyrood was "warned" that a precondition of NATO membership is that the applicant should not have territorial or military disputes with another state.  It was further reported that this meant NATO would be unwilling to accept the membership of a Scotland which insisted on the removal of nuclear weapons from its territory as this runs counter to NATO's "first strike" nuclear policy, to which all member states must agree.

Speaking to the Scotsman newspaper, the Lib Dem's Willie Rennie argued:

"If the SNP want to ditch Trident they'd need to ditch Nato too.  Leaving Nato would leave Scotland without the cornerstone of defence in Europe, potentially exposing us to considerable threats."

However it has emerged that a clear precedent for a country demanding the removal of a NATO nuclear submarine base from its territory, and then acceding to NATO, has already been established.  Spain's insistence on the closure of a US Polaris submarine base had no negative impact on the country's application to join NATO.

With the death of the dictator Franco in 1975, Spain began negotiations with the USA for the removal of American nuclear submarines from the joint Spanish-US naval base at Rota, near the city of Cádiz.  Following an agreement between the dictator and the US government in 1964, the base had been used to refit and support American nuclear submarines carrying Polaris missiles, and to store the missiles' nuclear warheads. 

A treaty between Spain and the USA agreeing the removal of the submarines and warheads was ratified by the US Senate in 1976.  The removal of the nuclear weapons system was complete by 1979.  Spain joined NATO in 1982, after its transition to democracy.

Although Spain had insisted upon the removal of NATO nuclear submarines and missiles, this did not prevent the country from acceding to NATO or accepting the so-called "nuclear first strike" doctrine.  This is the policy by which the USA maintains it has the right to make first use of nuclear weapons in time of war. 

The policy is a hangover from the Cold War, when the former Communist Bloc surpassed NATO nations in terms of conventional weapons and is quite distinct from a supposed insistence that a NATO member must host nuclear weapons on its soil. There is no such insistence amongst NATO's conditions of membership.

The Scottish Government maintains that an agreement on removing Trident from an independent Scotland will be reached in negotiations between Holyrood and Westminster in the 18 months between a Yes vote in the referendum, and Scotland's formal declaration of independence. 

The Scottish Government also believes that it will be possible to negotiate Scotland's continuing membership of NATO within the same period of time.  The experience of Spain and the removal of American nuclear submarines from Rota suggests that this timetable is not unreasonable, which is also apparently NATO's opinion vis-a-vis Scotland.

In a sign that NATO supports the Scottish Government's position, reporter Severin Carrell, writing in Wednesday's Guardian newspaper, admitted that NATO officials were open to the possibility of allowing Scotland to start fast-track talks on membership.  This would not be the case if senior NATO officials believed there to be serious obstacles in Scotland's path. 
The Scottish Government has already signalled its intention to enter into negotiations with Westminster in the event of a Yes vote in order to reach agreement on issues such as the removal of Trident.  Both parties signed the historic Edinburgh agreement ensuring as smooth a transition as possible to independence in the event of a Yes vote and UK defence minister Philip Hammond has already confirmed that the Westminster government would not seek to block NATO membership of an independent Scotland. 

In an interview broadcast on Newsnight Scotland, the Lib Dem's Willie Rennie maintained that Scotland could not get rid of Trident but then join NATO.  However Mr Rennie was forced to concede that Scotland met most, if not all of the entry criteria, and no member state has signalled any intention to object.

A spokesperson for Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:

"An independent Scotland’s continued membership of Nato will be in the strategic interests of our neighbours and partners, including the rest of the UK.

"We have made clear that that continued membership is contingent on the removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland, and if the people of Scotland vote Yes they will have voted to support a proposition that calls for the removal of Trident at the earliest safe opportunity.

"The UK Government is committed to working constructively with us to make that happen, as they have pledged to respect the result of the referendum and to work constructively, in the interests of the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK, whatever the result."


# Silverytay 2013-08-16 06:31
The one big problem that we have is the fact that the Scottish electorate will never get to know these facts .
All we can do is to continue rebutting these scare stories and send links to the truth through facebook and twitter in the hope that it reaches the wider Scottish public . We only have to prove that they are lying a few times for the public to lose all faith in the media and no campaign and there are signs this is already starting to happen as the Rev,s poll has shown .
# Jamie Black 2013-08-16 06:42
So just to be clear.

The negotiations to remove concluded in 1976. It took a further 3 years for them to be removed. It was then a further 3 years before they joined NATO.

There are some key differences here you are missing. 1) The US and Spain were not one country, so the negotiations were completely different from that here. 2) The Polaris setup was completely different from the permanent setup here in Scotland. If you think Trident and nuclear subs will be gone in 3 years, you must be dreaming.
Finally - you are missing a key piece of the jigsaw - the SNP have no plans to ask the Scottish people if they wish Trident to be removed. Why are they so afraid to ask the Scottish people if the result is apparently so clear cut?
# TheoJones 2013-08-16 14:51
Quoting Jamie Black:
Finally - you are missing a key piece of the jigsaw - the SNP have no plans to ask the Scottish people if they wish Trident to be removed. Why are they so afraid to ask the Scottish people if the result is apparently so clear cut?

Why does this ridiculous canard keep coming from the unionist camp?

The SNP are not afraid to ask the Scottish people about Trident; removing it has been part of our manifesto in the last two elections.

in case you have not been keeping up with current events, we won the last election with an absolute majority, in a system deliberately constructed to avoid that situation.

Our manifesto has been thoroughly endorsed by the Scottish public.

Are you somehow confused about how elections work?
# Jamie Black 2013-08-16 17:05
Ridiculous? If you say so.

Your party, the SNP tell us categorically that a Yes vote is NOT a vote for the SNP.

If this is the case then this 'canard' is wholly relevant. Indy is not a vote on Trident or the EU. The SNP should then ask the Scottish people directly how they wish their country to be shaped and which direction, rather than this total arrogance of 'we won, therefore we will do as we please'.

Rather than be responsible guardian of democracy, your party are abusing it. To take a majority as a blank canvas to do as you please is bad for Scotland. You would expect better from from a party who claims to have Scotland's interests at heart. I think you are probably confused about giving people a direct say on important matters and making decisions for them.

Dismiss this 'canard' at your peril.
# snowthistle 2013-08-16 18:08
There will be an election in 2016
# Jamie Black 2013-08-16 20:51
Good point snowthistle, but broadly irrelevant, since the SNP will have shaped an Independent Scotland to the point that the changes will be virtually irreversible in that 2 year period.

It will effectively be too late to vote them out. This is one key reason I will not vote for independence - it's a vote for SNP policy. They can promise consultations but that's not the same as asking the people of Scotland what they want on some fundamental issues thaat affect us.
# clootie 2013-08-16 06:42
Time to ditch Willie Rennie. What a bumbling fool.

Scotland Tonight - We had a business man for better together putting the arguement forward on the basis of "we just are better together" / "The YES campaign keep changing the story" / "England is our biggest market" / "The bank collapse would have ruined Scotland"
- all scare stories or meaningless rants. He also had to go into overdrive to prove how Scottish he was and mention it every 2 minutes.

Fear / lies / threats and spin. I'm still waiting on the positive case for the union.
# michaelkav 2013-08-17 01:21
"If the SNP want to ditch Trident they'd need to ditch Nato too. Leaving Nato would leave Scotland without the cornerstone of defence in Europe, potentially exposing us to considerable threats."

Who exactly is going to "invade" Scotland that we REALLY need NATO for? For what reason? The only nuclear threat to Scotland is the UK.

Not to mention how do they get here Willie just pass through sovereign nations with armed forces without a by your leave. Who in their right mind would fight Scotsman in our terrain & climate anyway? You're having a laugh Willie. Really you are reaching! This is complete fantasy that we NEED NATO.

We can be in NATO, whatever, but it really is of very little concern to us as a tiny nation all the way on the edge of Europe.
# gus1940 2013-08-16 07:04
I was pleasantly surprised at the hard time Raymond Buchanan gave Willie Rennie.

For The BBC, MSM and BT supporters who gleefully jumped on this 'story' I would say just 4 words 'Look At A Map' and you will see that there is no way that NATO would refuse entry or throw out an Independent Scotland.
# Abulhaq 2013-08-16 07:10
Nato was founded as an American anti-soviet nuclear front. It has morphed into an American anti-russian nuclear club. What exactly is Scotland to gain from membership? vote Yes for a free, neutral and nonaligned Scotland. We have had our fill of nato led foreign adventurism under the current system.
# Mad Jock McMad 2013-08-16 07:37
The Pentagon is currently removing its remaining nuclear weapons from Western Europe because they accept there is no Governmental or popular support for their use and retention in Western Europe. The 'Ploughshare' report estimates they will be gone by 2015.

The only Western European countries with a nuclear capability are France and the UK. A 'Yes' in 2014 will see that become just France. This is the reality.
# Macart 2013-08-16 07:41
Willie Rennie really should have stayed well clear of this one. The Guardian had a car crash BTL day yesterday as their own back articles were sourced by a number of posters.

They released the MOD sovereign territory story as well as Downing Street's public admonition of the MOD and declaration to respect Scotland's territory and the result of the referendum. To then generate three articles based on a threat of non membership of NATO due to possible military/territorial disputes when in full knowledge that all governmental releases to date refute such disputes will exist was just staggering. As for the claim that the SNPs Nicola Sturgeon was displaying a subtle change of stance on policy when only repeating the conference proposal, again left the reader speechless as the Guardian's own live blog covered the debate. The MSM do know of this internet invention thingy don't they?
# Sulzer27 2013-08-16 07:42
Quoting clootie:
Time to ditch Willie Rennie. What a bumbling fool.

Surely a reason to keep him!

What with his drivel and Alexander (the pension stealer) arguing for law breaking on the A9 the Lib-Dems are a major asset for the YES campaign.
# WRH2 2013-08-16 08:44
The less than vociferous denials by Westminster when it comes to loss of Trident makes me think that it is one reason they would not be unhappy to see Scotland vote Yes. The fact that they have denied various scare stories from the MOD and others only adds to this feeling. It would give them a cast iron excuse for losing Trident and all its associated costs. For a change they could blame us and take the heat off themselves.
# Silverytay 2013-08-16 09:07
Jamie Black
I am sure I read somewhere that the m.o.d accepted C.N.D,s 2 year timescale for getting rid of the nukes was realistic .
It is the r.u.k,s problem what they do with them , even the Americans are telling Cameron that the u.k can not afford to replace Trident and the money would be better spent on conventional forces .
# cjmjr 2013-08-16 09:22
I think the Scottish Government have made it quite clear that Trident must go no matter what the circumstances. If keeping Trident is the price of NATO its too high and they would not apply to join. However given Scotland's strategic place in the North Atlantic and the number of safe harbours and her deep water ports NATO would seem to be cutting off their nose to spite their face. Perhaps other nations will make use of these safe harbours and deep water ports, India have just built a huge Aircraft Carrier as I believe have Japan their is of course NATO's old nemesis the good old USSR or its new one China, as they say when one door closes open a window.
# Moridura 2013-08-16 09:29
This is presented by Newsnet Scotland as news, not comment. The author is anonymous - i.e. "a Newsnet reporter"

As an online newspaper trying to bring vitally needed objectivity and balance to the independence debate, surely Newsnet Scotland should reflect the reality of the situation - that despite the narrow 2012 Conference vote, serious divisions of opinion exists in the Party and in the wider YES movement about Scotland's membership of NATO?

I am no longer an SNP member, but I am a member of YES Scotland. I disagree fundamentally with Scotland being a member of a first strike nuclear alliance. This is the issue for me and for many others in YES, not whether NATO will accept an independent Scotland as a member or not. (I believe it will)

I hope it is evident that arguments that we should close ranks round a deeply flawed policy in the interests of solidarity will cut no ice with me.
# Marga B 2013-08-16 09:41
Moridura, what this article does not say is that Spain under a socialist government held a referendum in 1986 to endorse or otherwise its 1982 decision to join NATO, and that a majority voted in favour of staying in.

Nato membership it seems can be questioned and voted on in other countries, why not in Scotland?
# xyz 2013-08-16 09:43
Polling on trident:

The article is about Uber Tory 'Lord' Ashcroft's biased conclusions but ends:

"The Scottish CND commissioned poll asking if people supported the UK government’s renewal of Trident showed 80 per cent of people are opposed – including 87% of people planning to vote Yes in the independence referendum, and 75% of current No voters."
# gandkar 2013-08-16 09:59
Can anyone confirm that the BBC had to apologise the other day because the said it was the SNP that held a meeting with NATO and not Scottish Government officials ? Also was Raymond of Newsnight fame suggesting that all nations who are members of NATO and have no nuclear weapons of their own are hypocritical for living under a nuclear umbrella supplied by the USA, France and the UK ?
# clootie 2013-08-16 14:54

He did suggest that the CND/SNP arguement was that it was OK to be a hypocrit if the other non-nuclear members were living under the nuclear defence shield and being hypocritical themselves.
I don't think he was being rude to the other NATO members - more a case of not being too bright and prone to mistakes when trying to attack independence.
His previous reports have shown that he doesn't mind putting words in other peoples mouths.

I do wonder why the UK is so pre-occupied with war / aggression / force projection.

I think Colin8652 below makes an important point.
# TheoJones 2013-08-16 15:07
Yes, BBC Scotland said that the SNP had held meetings in it's lunchtime news, and corrected this in the drivetime news - confirming that they had made a mistake and that it was Scottish Government civil servants who were present, not the SNP.
# proudscot 2013-08-16 10:13
One thing puzzles me in the CND Poll results: do the 75% of those intending to vote for Scotland to remain in the Union and thus under Westminster control, not realise that this would mean voting FOR the renewal of Trident?

Seems a bit like turkeys voting for the continuation of Xmas - despite the fact that they will then continue to provide the main component of Westminster's Xmas dinners at Scotland's expense!
# colin8652 2013-08-16 10:25
You know, it might not be an intelectual or high brow position, but all this Defence/Nato/Europe, distractions been pretty much nothing to me. I just want to see an independent Scotland able to make its own taxing and spending decisions to better the Scottish economy and the prospects for my children. I know in my heart all that will be sorted out AFTER a positive indepencence vote. Cant see too much of a threat to Scotland from anywhere in the world, It would pretty much turn in to an unwinable Afghanistan in our terrain, (as the romans, danes and English found). Lets just get on with securing that vote and laughing at the side issue scare stories. The average man on the street does not care TOO much about whether we are in nato or not. As for the fiercly no first strike pasifist outlook, thats just as dangerous as the war mongers.
# chicmac 2013-08-16 10:52
Once again they are in danger of painting themselves into a corner. If the rUK is required to join NATO, and I presume at least some kind of treaty re-write and ratification process would be required, then by the criterion stated, they would not qualify vis disputed territories, Falklands, Gibraltar etc.
# Breeks 2013-08-16 11:16
Trident is a very expensive way of putting all 'our' eggs in one basket. I suspect our aircraft carriers without aircraft, troops deployed without body armour, and our lack of maritime patrol capacity over a coastline devoid of ships provides us with evidence our strategic defence might benefit from a redistribution of eggs and baskets.
The UK might have the ultimate trump card with Trident, but a greater volume of less withering capacity would probably be a much happier balance to maintain, be morally and ethically sound, and be much more effective and better value for money in the real world too.
Out gunned in a nuclear holocaust maybe, but up gunned in every lesser category of dispute.
# proudscot 2013-08-16 13:49
Gandkar, yes I can confirm that the BBC Scotland newsreader did apologise for and amend the item about the meeting with NATO officials. She said that it had been pointed out by someone who had phoned in, that the Scottish Government had been represented by a team of civil servants, and not as previously wrongly reported, the SNP. I heard it myself.

Regarding Buchanan, going by his previous for making anti-independence propaganda statements on air, I would tend to believe anything he was reported to have said which denigrated the idea of an independent Scotland. If there were many highlanders like him around in the 1800s, it's no wonder some landlords preferred real sheep to Buchanan's kind of forelock-tugging Unionist two-legged versions.
# andy-cap 2013-08-16 14:31
Dont know why we need to be in NATO anyway, NATO backs the occupation of Afghanistan which led to the deaths of many women and children, scotland managed jsut fine before NATO was formed, I for one dont want or need NATO membership, non EU members get by just fine.
# John SJ 2013-08-16 15:14
The US and UK, principle members of NATO are almost paranoid in their attempts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.

NATO membership is another red herring if (as the pro unionists claim) an independent Scotland starts life as a new country

Is it not the case that an independent Scotland treated as a new country will be free of nuclear weapons as it is not permitted to have them under current anti nuclear weapons proliferation treaties ?

Under these same treaties the UK will be required to remove its nuclear arsenal from Scotland between the Yes vote and date of Scottish independence if it wants to keep a nuclear deterrent.
# Alan 2013-08-16 16:55
NATO has an open-door policy for "all European democracies which share the values of our Alliance, which are willing and able to assume the responsibilitie s and obligations of membership, and whose inclusion can contribute to common security and stability." (1)
NATO also allows for nations to opt out of the nuclear sharing process. (2)


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