w/c 3rd October 2022
I note that Scotland’s other party of independence, the Alba party, founded by Alex Salmond and a few acolytes and yet to find electoral success (although it boasts two MPs who jumped ship from the SNP), is to debate its defence policy this autumn, presumably at its conference on October 15th. This will be of interest to those interested in Scottish politics as it appears there are some departures from, and disagreement with, the current defence policy of the SNP, such as it is.
Defence policy has long been the Achilles Heel of the Scottish independence movement as a whole, but at least we are now having a debate once more. Reportedly the policy will be primarily based on naval forces and coastal defence, presumably via both seagoing and air assets, and there will be less emphasis on land forces.
Stand out aspects are a pledge to restore the traditional Scottish infantry regiments in place of the amorphous and largely unloved battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland, plus a pledge not to join NATO and the desire to remove the Trident nuclear submarines from Faslane on the Clyde, including “all weapons of mass destruction and all associated nuclear materials negotiated to be safely removed by day one of Scotland becoming an independent nation.”
This latter pledge is pie-in-the-sky stuff. It basically calls for the unilateral nuclear disarmament by the UK and will not be considered acceptable either in Westminster or Washington. The USA has previously warned of draconian sanctions should an independent Scotland demand the removal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent from Scottish waters. Far better, I would argue, to use it as a bargaining chip to secure other concessions in any independence negotiations.
As for not seeking to join NATO, well, with many other nations clamouring to join the Alliance in the light of renewed Russian aggression in Europe, saying that Scotland would not join is hardly politically credible. The SNP changed its policy to be in favour of NATO membership some time ago and rightly so. Alba might want to think this one again.
To be honest, Alex Salmond’s party can say what it likes in its defence policy because it’s highly likely that it will ever be in power to implement it. But at least they have an embryo defence plan, naïve though it may be, and that’s a step in the right direction. We’ll see what the SNP comes up with when it publishes its defence paper, assumed to be in the next few months.