Members of the SNP could be asked to consider dropping a long-standing opposition to membership of NATO at their autumn conference, the party has confirmed.
Defence spokesman, Angus Robertson MP, today announced plans to debate an update in the party’s defence policy that could see the country remain within the NATO alliance post-independence subject to an agreement on the withdrawal of Trident from Scottish shores.
Failure to remove nuclear weapons would see the SNP join the likes of Sweden, Finland and Austria in working with NATO solely as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme, Robertson added.
According to the resolution, which is included in a draft agenda issued to party members ahead of the October conference, an increased budget should be allocated to conventional defence with savings sought from the withdrawal of nuclear weapons on the Clyde to cover the commitment.
A professional defence force of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel, including restored Scottish infantry regiments, should be upheld, while it is envisaged all military bases would remain in operation, said Robertson.
The decision to consider a change in policy on NATO comes after the SNP opted to refrain from a debate and vote on the issue at policymaking national council last month amid suggestions of a growing split within the party.
The resolution, proposed by Robertson and seconded by Westminster colleague, Angus MacNeil MP, reads: “A long-standing national consensus has existed that Scotland should not host nuclear weapons and a sovereign SNP government will negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane which will be replaced by conventional naval forces.
“Security cooperation in our region functions primarily through NATO, which is regarded as the keystone defence organisation by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the United Kingdom. The SNP wishes Scotland to fulfil its responsibilities to neighbours and allies.
“On independence Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with NATO. An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members to only take part in UN sanctioned operations.
“In the absence of such an agreement, Scotland will work with NATO as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme like Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. Scotland will be a full member of the Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) of the European Union and the Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE).”
However, the announcement attracted criticism from members of the opposition, who suggested notions of NATO membership being ‘inherited’, if a split from the rest of the UK is realised, were misguided.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “First of all the SNP were absolutely opposed the prospect of joining Nato, then their plans to discuss it over the summer were booted into the long grass.
“Alex Salmond has failed to give proper answers on this when I have asked him about it in parliament, as has Nicola Sturgeon when I challenged her on television. The first duty of any government is the protection of its people, yet the SNP is all over the place on defence.
“Much like its misguided stance on the EU, the SNP seems to think an independent Scotland would be waved through to join Nato automatically if they reverse their decades-long opposition to the Alliance.
“They are making it up as they go along. How a party so furiously against the concept of nuclear deterrent can take this position is staggering.”