NATO or No to NATO

October 5, 2012

NATO is exercising the hearts and minds of the SNP and will soon be front and centre of the party’s debate.  It is almost certain to be a very high profile issue at conference and one which will stir the leadership to apply their powers of persuasion

Angus Robertson proposes that the SNP long standing opposition to NATO membership be reversed and, as yet there appear to be no dissenting voices being loudly aired amongst the party’s elected representatives in Edinburgh or London. There are however many dissenters amongst the rank and file.

The subject raises a couple of questions and requires clarification of a few issues.

At present the fact that it is being debated should be of more interest to party members than to the general public.  The proposal is not as clear cut as the simplified position that is being presented. Angus Robertson has been careful to include the caveat that an insistence to housing Nukes in Scotlandwould be a deal breaker that would have a newly independent Nation walking away to a peripheral position of cooperating as a non member

It is unfortunate if the argument becomes conflated with the independence debate at this point amongst the voters. It is simply a party position not the position of Scotland the Nation State.

Given the promise of a comprehensive white paper in 2013 a credible defence policy is needed to offer as an opening position and this was probably the driver for opening this particular can of worms right now.

Regardless of the why open it now question, the fact that it has been opened at all means that we are at last giving it some thought. Many would say not only that Scotland are better off without NATO, but that the world in general would lose nothing should they disband. The ongoing build of the US$1Bn new headquarters is a fair indicator that they intend to trundle on for while yet. Incidentally, of that $1Bn the UK is paying $150M which amounts to approximately 12.5%.That may seem a large proportion but it is in line with the formula allocating the cost burden of the entire operations (split into 3 budgets) shared by the 28 members. Currently the USA pays about 21%, Germany 16%, France 12% and UK 12% leaving the remaining 39% split amongst the other 23 member states. The formula is based on Gross National Income.

This cost breakdown is a little misleading as the majority of contributions are actually in operating costs of exercises and operations – an area where again the UK are a major contributor, getting heavily involved in the vast majority of operations at a financial and human cost.

Just how relevant is NATO in its current form, or indeed in any form at all?  Developed post WWII it became one side of the cold war, and many would say exacerbated the discord between the Soviet Bloc and the West and continues today to polarise the Globe into members and non members, not all of whom share entirely common interests.

A major function of NATO is to serve as a vehicle for US participation in many areas of the globe, including Europe and European spheres of influence worldwide.

Given that the organisation pools defence capabilities, it also pools decision making and therefore serves as another layer of eroded sovereignty. This make sit less than clear why it is a road that the SNP wish to start travelling along at this juncture in history. Thankfully they have stopped short of suggesting that Trident remain but the negotiations to remove the white elephant will be made all the more difficult by NATO membership.

Some participation in multi national organisations is desirable in the modern world, but that participation is well served by the UN and EU. As a newly revived nation state Scotland will have the opportunity to put its house in order and taking a step back from an imperial past would be one major step in the right direction. Rather than being fixed in the post war era,Scotland’s appearance in the international limelight should be as a beacon of social justice and priorities can be made very clear by parting ways with NATO.

Scotland needs defence-  but that is exactly what she needs- defence against threats on a small scale not an international invasion.  Threats of that magnitude require the involvement of the international community, which is currently best served via the UN and EU. Although NATO lost its original purpose of European defence, presumably against the Russians, it continues to be used as a tool to ensure that Russia does not rise too far up the world league tables. The proposed inclusion of Ukraine and Georgia places a geographic pincers in the area.

There are many factors that make NATO membership a poor and unnecessary choice for Scotland’s future.


  • Times are hard- money spent on NATO could be far better spent on social welfare of the Scottish people.
  • Scotland needs defence at a level that is proportionate to the threat.  NATO is overkill.
  • Membership of the alliance even as a minor member diminishes sovereignty and makes us a tool of foreign policy for other countries.
  • Membership has the potential for Scottish soldiers being lost in wars of little or no consequence to Scotland.
  • Membership will lead to pressure being exerted to retain Trident in Scottish waters.
  • Nukes or no nukes in Scotland-as a member we are part of an nuclear alliance thereby approving of nuclear weapons; just not in our back yard.

Associated reading

Telegraph article on new HQ


NATO Website





One Response to NATO or No to NATO

  1. BillDunblane
    October 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    The ONLY way we should ever even consider joining NATO, is not reliance on them removing Trident (or whatever replaces it) as a pre-condition, but on refusing point blank to any negotiations about joining them UNTIL every last nuclear weapon has been removed from our soil and seas.

    That won’t happen, and Scotland will never be nuclear free otherwise.

    This was a very ill-conceived motion in the first place, and I see from today’s press that even discussion at conference will be very limited, compounding the error.

    The vast majority of party members and activists I have spoken to on this issue are (often very) strongly against the motion.


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