Michael Moore MP writes… Scotland’s place in the world

scotlands futureIt is the duty of the government of any state to safeguard national security and to protect its people, territory, economy and interests from internal and external threats.

If Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom in September, there is no doubt that there would be major challenges for the national security of both Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The size and scale of our armed forces means the UK is considered a partner of choice by many countries around the world, delivering a geopolitical influence that few states of similar size to ours can match. This high level of strategic, international influence and engagement provides access to billions of pounds worth of military and intelligence capability.

The UK is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and has an extensive and long-standing network of bilateral defence relationships, most prominently with the United States and France, but also with numerous other countries across the world.

Also, when it comes to NATO, the cornerstone of this country’s defence policy, the Scottish government has some explaining to do. Until recently, they still claimed that, in the event of independence, Scotland would inherit the UK’s treaty obligations and rights. But as the very first of the UK government’s analysis papers showed, if the Scottish people were to vote for independence, Scotland would be a new state. It would have to build its own relationships, and apply for membership of international organisations anew.

It is also interesting to note that the SNP has turned its back on decades of opposition to NATO – they now want to join. But Alex Salmond’s anti-nuclear rhetoric does not stack up to the reality of being part of NATO. Under article 10 of the NATO treaty, every member has to accept the alliance’s nuclear first-strike policy. Therefore, an Independent Scotland’s application to NATO would surely by hindered by the SNP’s determination to close down the Trident nuclear submarine base at Faslane on the Clyde.

Currently, our British forces are strategically structured and positioned, not on an arbitrary national level, but on military logic to afford the best possible protection to the UK as a whole. When it comes to the defence of our skies, for example, military radar and radio equipment in the Outer Hebrides and Aberdeenshire enable the Control and Reporting Centre south of the border at RAF Bulmer in Northumberland to control our quick reaction alert Typhoons to deal with incidents and intercept potential aggressors long before they reach the UK.

The whole of the UK, including Scotland, faces a diverse and unpredictable range of threats and risks. I firmly believe that Scotland’s defence is best served by being part of the UK; and that the defence of the UK as a whole benefits from Scotland’s positive contribution as part of it.

* Michael Moore was the Liberal Democrat MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk from 1997-2015 and Secretary of State for Scotland from 2010-2013.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Scotland.


  • Thomas Robinson 17th Apr '14 - 8:40pm

    The latest NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen is a Norwegian.
    He is from a non-nuclear country of identical population size as Scotland. Norway isn’t even an EU country.

    This one comment alone is enough to make a mockery of the unionist nonsense about defence.

  • Thomas Robinson:

    Fair point and one it’s hard to argue with. Also the UK has military base’s in Cyprus, Germany, Holland, Gibraltar, Norway etc. Perhaps they could keep their base’s in a independant Scotland. If Scotland wish to stay in NATO surely that’s a way of them contributing, it would also save the civilian jobs they provide. I think the whole defence issue is yet another scare story from the “No” campaign, which so far has been poor.

  • A Social Liberal 18th Apr '14 - 1:33am


    Unlike malc – I don’t think it is a fair point at all. As an officer in the armed forces of a country in NATO, General Rasmussen has to be in agreement with the military philosophy behind a first strike policy. As General Secretary he would have to countenance a decision to launch nuclear missiles.

    Top tip mate – just because a country doesn’t have nuclear weapons doesn’t mean that they disagree with having them.

  • Salmond wants simultaneously to remain part of a defence organisation and yet at the same time cause major problems for the defence of a member of that organisation by forcing it to move its nuclear presence out of its territory.

    The very idea that NATO would welcome Salmond’s Scotland with open arms under those circumstances is utterly unrealistic.

    How many times does the Yes campaign have to come up against major unsolved problems before people come to start doubting its case?

  • Michael Moore says –
    “–Currently, our British forces are strategically structured and positioned, not on an arbitrary national level, but on military logic……..”

    Ah yes, ” military logic “. Is that like ” military intelligence ” — a contradiction in terms ?

    And at what point since the General Election did the Liberal Democrats in Scotland or anywhere else change our party’s policy on defence to a position where we support the military status quo as being based on logic ?

    Are the Generals responsible for Liberal Democrat policy on defence ? I hope not.

  • RC

    “Salmond wants simultaneously to remain part of a defence organisation and yet at the same time cause major problems for the defence of a member of that organisation by forcing it to move its nuclear presence out of its territory.”

    For many years the Lib Dems were all for getting rid of trident – not sure if they still are – but wanted to stay in NATO. That’s not much different from Salmon’s position.

  • @Malc

    We are not for unilateral nuclear disarmament. That is effectively what Salmond is trying to force on the rest of the UK through his stance. That or forcing us to accept massive additional costs to avoid that scenario.

    To then claim Scotland can join NATO having jeopardised a significant element of the armed forces of one of its members and a major part of NATO’s overall defences is the height of absurd wishful thinking.

  • RC
    Is thatn an argument that Liberal Democrats would have put before 2010 ?
    Unfortunately to coincidence of Coalition and Referendum has resulted in the official line of the party in Cotland being the same as the Unionists .
    From Gladstone all the way to Ming Campbell our leaders and our party opposed the Unionists and for very good Liberal reasons.

    What will happen to our remaining support in Scotland if our party keeps repeating London based, Establishment and NATO arguments to echo the Conservative and Labour people in the “Better Forget it – Scotland is a Colony – Get used to it” campaign ?

  • If Trident is such a wonderful thing, why isn’t some English, Welsh, or Northern Irish port eagerly clamouring to host it?

    The persons making claims about what NATO can or cannot accept do not, in fact, speak for NATO. In fact, keeping Scotland out of NATO (unless the Scots themselves opted out) would make little or no sense, from the organisation’s own point of view, and would be strategically dangerous, especially for England.

    This is just another in a long list of ham-handed threats made in an effort to influence Scottish voters that are transparent in both their clumsiness and their mendacity. Hasn’t anyone opposed to Scottish independence noted that each time one of these threats is made, the Yes vote creeps higher?

  • David-1 18th Apr ’14 – 12:54pm
    If Trident is such a wonderful thing, why isn’t some English, Welsh, or Northern Irish port eagerly clamouring to host it?

    For the same reason that no English, Welsh or Northern Irish constituency is eagerly clamouring to host a new nuclear power station.
    Let’s face it, if either were desirable Trident would be based in a Tory constituency and all new nuclear plants would be built in Surbiton.

  • A Social Liberal 18th Apr '14 - 3:01pm

    John Tilley said

    ” . . . are the Generals in charge of Liberal Democrat policy on defence? I hope not”

    You’ve never heard of Air Marshal Sir Timothy Garden, Baron Garden, KCB, FRAeS, FRUSI, FCGI, then John? Hope away, but if you want a policy on farming go to farmers and if you want a policy on military matters, best to go to a military man.

  • @malc

    The difference is that while Liberal Democrats generally believe that Trident is unnecessary given Britain’s membership of NATO, the SNP’s goal is to declare Scotland a nuclear free country – no atomic technology, be it civil energy or military hardware, within its borders.

    The result for Scotland’s membership of NATO would probably be similar to the result New Zealand ended up with when it went with a similar policy – its membership of the ANZUS defence pact was suspended.

    So, sure, Scotland can do this and the sky won’t fall in if it does. But to point out that NATO probably will insist on being able to transport its hardware through all its members and position its assets within their territory as needed is hardly scaremongering.

  • @John Tilley

    “If Trident is such a wonderful thing, why isn’t some English, Welsh, or Northern Irish port eagerly clamouring to host it?”

    Carwyn Jones: Wales would welcome nuclear submarines


    “What will happen to our remaining support in Scotland if our party keeps repeating London based, Establishment and NATO arguments to echo the Conservative and Labour people in the “Better Forget it – Scotland is a Colony – Get used to it” campaign ?”

    So we’re supposed to refrain from pointing out evident flaws in the Yes campaign’s arguments because it might put someone’s nose out of joint to hear the truth? Scotland wants to remain part of the “establishment” and NATO, yet wants to jettison part of NATO’s defences? How is that supposed to work?

    And no, with the Union, Scotland is not a “colony”. It has its role within the Union and is amply rewarded with things like shipbuilding contracts to compensate for some people’s dislike of hosting nuclear weapons. Its relationship with the rest of the union comprises a whole range of aspects, in the same way as that of London or Wales.

    The problem we Liberal Democrats face is that we don’t want to renew Trident yet we haven’t committed to unilateral nuclear disarmament and we haven’t yet found a way of keeping a nuclear deterrent that saves a lot of money compared with renewal and yet remains credible. But Scotland forcing the removal of Trident from its soil is not a legitimate way of deciding the defence policy of the UK as a whole.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 18th Apr '14 - 5:16pm

    @ Thomas Robinson,

    Anders Fogh Rasmussen is Danish, not Norwegian – he was Prime Minister for eight years and led a liberal party, Venstre, a ‘minor technicality’ which, I’m afraid, rather undermines your riposte.

    @ malc,

    Not a hard point to argue with at all, it seems…

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 18th Apr '14 - 5:22pm

    @ Social Liberal,

    Oh yes, and he isn’t a General, either, he’s the Secretary General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, something very different.

  • A Social Liberal 18th Apr '14 - 6:17pm

    You are right about him being Danish, and that he hasn’t served. For some reason I was mixing him up with Gen. Mood

  • Mark Valladares

    Does it really matter if he’s Danish or Norwegian? The point is still the same, he comes from a small country with no nuclear weapons and is Secretary General of Nato. I’m not really bothered whether Scotland closes it’s base with nuclear weapons or not, it could still be an important Nato country if it chose to be. Even after defence cuts I think there are still several important RAF fighter and signals stations there. I’m all for maintaining the union, but I get rather sick of the “No” campaigners trying to scare the voters into voting no. You can’t have the pound and may be not the euro, you won’t be able to stay in NATO or the EU. Every time these tactics are tried the polls show a rise in the “Yes” vote. Lets get a positive campaign going showing the benefits of working together, get Kennedy and Darling spearheading the campaign. Keep government ministers out of the way, this government is just not liked north of the border.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 18th Apr '14 - 6:44pm

    @ malc,

    Funnily enough, I agree with you. Your support of Thomas Robinson’s argument, one almost devoid of accurate fact, demanded challenge, however, as does your list of UK military bases overseas (Gibraltar is part of the United Kingdom and we don’t have military installations in either the Netherlands or Norway). The nationality of Anders Fogh Rasmussen is important because Thomas implies that membership of the EU isn’t important because he is Norwegian.

    But if Scotland wishes to apply to join NATO, it most certainly can. The terms of admission might not be to a Scottish administration’s liking, and existing members might or might not be keen for whatever reason, but, like currency Union, nothing is impossible if the terms are agreeable to both/all parties.

  • Thomas Robinson 18th Apr '14 - 7:57pm

    Mark Valladares:

    Thank you for correcting me as it allows a strengthening of my point, namely Former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway (not even an EU country) will lead NATO starting on Oct. 1 2014, the alliance announced Friday. He succeeds the Dane Rasmussen.

    I think that rather undermines YOUR riposte does it not 🙂

    Anyone who thinks NATO would prefer Scotland not to be in it is being profoundly illogical. OF COURSE, they would not want such a geographical position as Scotland occupies to be outside NATO. Explain to me why they would-come on then, explain.

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 18th Apr '14 - 8:25pm

    @ Thomas,

    No, I seldom feel undermined by facts accurately used, I just object to inaccuracies purveyed as killer argument. Your original argument was based on a falsehood, I called you on it. You’ve now provided a better argument, and I won’t dispute it, especially given that Norway’s status as a non-EU nation hardly seems germane in a discussion of NATO politics.

    And you make exactly the same mistake as the ‘no’ campaign do, in that you attack someone who doesn’t agree with you wholeheartedly. I don’t know what terms might apply if Scotland decided to join NATO, and I merely make the point that the cost might be more than a Scottish administration might want to bear, depending on its other commitments. Are you seriously suggesting that Scotland would want to join regardless of the terms? I don’t think that you are, but it appears to be your assumption that international institutions will want to offer admission terms that are favourable to Scotland. It may be that they are, but neither you, nor I, know that for certain. So, why not entertain just a smidgen of honest doubt? Or is that to be perceived as a sign of weakness?

  • Mark Valladares

    Sorry I shouldn’t have said military bases, but we do – or may be did until recently, not sure after defence cuts – have members of our armed forces stationed in Norway, Italy(Decimomannu), Holland (Afcent), Belgium (Shape), as well as Gib, Cyprus, Germany where we have our own bases. I know because Iwas in the RAF until 1998 and served or visited several of them. However, we have closed so many in recent years my list may well be out of date.

  • @ Thomas Robinson

    “Anyone who thinks NATO would prefer Scotland not to be in it is being profoundly illogical”.

    Anyone who thinks that Scotland can kick a major member of NATO in the shins and then demand entry to the club is also being profoundly illogical.

  • A Social Liberal 18th Apr ’14 – 3:01pm

    In answer to your question, yes I was aware of Timothy Garden. I was also aware that he died in 2007.

    Are you suggesting that before his death he was personally responsible for the party’s defence policy?

  • RC

    Thank you for the link to the Carwyn Jones quote, which I have to say I had missed at the time. My reaction is that it just shows how far some people in the Labour Party have moved from the views of their voters and supporters. Maybe I am out of touch and everyone in Wales is clamouring for the arrival of Trident Nuclear Submarines.

    I cannot agree with the general drift of the rest of your post. I believe political parties should be democratic and represent the views of their members and voters. Whatever the views of the SNP – it has to be recognised that their policy on Trident is clearly supported by a significant proportion of the voters in Scotland.

  • jedibeeftrix 19th Apr '14 - 11:28am

    “If Trident is such a wonderful thing, why isn’t some English, Welsh, or Northern Irish port eagerly clamouring to host it?”

    David, I take it that you are unaware of AWE?

  • Thomas Robinson 19th Apr '14 - 4:19pm


    I would say you absolutely own the illogical stance.

    Of course England would not be bothered at all if a non-NATO Scotland was invaded just North of their borders-that would teach these pesky Scots a lesson 🙂

  • Mark Valladares Mark Valladares 19th Apr '14 - 4:43pm

    @ Thomas,

    The difference is that, if Scotland were within NATO, the United Kingdom would have an obligation to defend Scotland, were it to be attacked. Outside NATO, it would have an interest in defending Scotland.

    But are you saying that an independent nation would presume upon its neighbour’s support without some sort of existing agreement? Or is this something else that you would rely on preferential treatment to sort out?

  • I don’t really see the difference between a (treaty) obligation and an (extremely strong) interest — the interest may be a lot more powerful than the obligation anyway. England *might* tolerate an independent but allied Scotland — perhaps even a neutral Scotland, on the same terms as Ireland (though I doubt it) — but it would hardly tolerate a Scotland allied or associated with any existing or potential enemy. It is and always has been in England’s interest to keep Scotland tied to it as closely as possible; by Union, if that can be preserved, but by every other treaty of association and alliance, if it cannot. That is why all of these claims that Scotland will be expelled from the EU, or tossed out of NATO, are so frivolous and so incredible, and so obvious in their political motivation. It is absolutely contrary to England’s interest to have an indepenent Scotland looking for other trading partners and other allies; though it would, I doubt not, please (say) the Russians no end.

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