Writing blog posts based on the tail end of a radio interview you have caught is fraught with danger. However, I want to take issue with something Scottish Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said.
She had been asked about today’s Guardian story which suggests that the Trident base at Faslane could be designated UK territory in a way similar to the sovereign military bases in Cyprus for a temporary period post independence.
She said that if the UK Government wanted to keep weapons of mass destruction, it could do so, but Scotland would just have voted against Trident, for independence.
On the ballot paper, it will ask “Should Scotland be an independent country?” It won’t say “Should there be nuclear weapons in Scotland?”
I am of the opinion that these weapons of mass destruction are completely immoral and I want them off these islands, and in fact, off the planet, as soon as possible. When I go to cast my vote in favour of staying in the UK, it will not be a vote in favour of nuclear weapons. Nor will it be that everyone who votes for independence will be voting against Trident. They will be voting for Scotland to make up its own mind. It is disingenuous of Ms Sturgeon to suggest otherwise.
Going back to the Guardian article, Sir Nick Harvey and Sir Menzies Campbell take opposing views. Nick is quoted as saying:
If the Scots were to insist on us leaving it would sour the relationship on the broader canvas,” he said. “I think the most practical and likely outcome would be a Cyprus-type arrangement.
No doubt they would extract a financial price for that. But at the point the UK and Scottish government sit across the table looking at each other the UK government will only have a certain amount of money at its disposal. If the Scots demand a high price for satisfaction on the nuclear front there would be that much less money in the UK government’s pocket for all the other items which will be on the agenda.
On the other hand, Sir Menzies said there could be a backlash if that happened – before having a right go at the inherent inconsistency of the SNP’s position in wanting to be part of NATO without a nuclear deterrent.
To seek to impose a financial penalty on an independent Scotland in relation to the decommissioning of Faslane might be seen as undue pressure and could easily play into the hands of the SNP,
The straightforward answer to all of these issues is to ensure that the referendum is won by those who believe that the United Kingdom should be preserved.
But Campbell said that the Scottish government may find that it would face pressure to be accommodating to the UK government if it seeks to join Nato. The former Lib Dem leader said: “As the debate continues over Trident the illogicality of the SNP position becomes yet more apparent. It seems extraordinary to be opposed in principle to nuclear weapons but to wish to join an alliance whose strategic concept provides that deterrence should be by way of conventional and nuclear means. The SNP answer to this point is a bland assumption that an independent Scotland would merely, by applying, be entitled to the dispensation enjoyed by Norway. But Norway was a founding member of the alliance. The fact that a dispensation in relation to nuclear matters has been allowed to Norway cannot be a guarantee that a new applicant would be allowed the same privileges.
While the future of the nuclear deterrent was always going to add an extra dimension to the independence negotiations, I hope we don’t actually find ourselves in the position of having to discuss how we split up the assets of UK PLC.
* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings