Opinion

The Scottish Nato Party is at it again

by | 4 Mar 2024

Are any of you really surprised that the SNP leadership has just made a big pro-nuclear U-turn in direct opposition to its own party? But will the membership do anything about it?

In 2012 I was heavily involved in the campaign against the SNP’s proposed U-turn over its long-standing policy of not joining Nato. I wrote briefings for conference for many of those who spoke against the proposal to reverse the Nato position.

On of the things I emphasised in those briefings is that joining Nato isn’t a single policy, it’s giving up all your defence policies and much else besides. Nato is not a club you join to retain freedom, it’s a club you join to receive instructions. You become a junior supplicant in a global project to maintain US dominance over everyone.

To illustrate this point, go and look at how Denmark bowed to pressure to deport Kurdish activists to Turkey as a price for membership and now look at how Sweden and Finland are about to do the same. International beacon of human rights Sweden will be forced to sell out activists to a despotic regime as a price for joining.

That’s what Nato means. In those briefing I suggested speakers warn that this is not the end of the process of joining Nato, it’s the start of the process of the SNP aligning itself almost completely with US foreign policy. A couple of speakers made that point in their speeches; it’s not just what document you sign, it’s who is whispering in your ear from then on.

There were staged gasps of outrage from the Nato party in the conference floor. How dare anyone question their morality, their commitment? This and not an inch further was the only concession the party would make… But they were all lying through their teeth and they knew it,

Today we see the next fruit of this internal coup. I don’t read the Scottish Government’s ‘indy papers’ any more because it’s a total waste of time and they’re generally embarrassing anyway. But the brazenness with which Angus Robertson has unilaterally overthrown his own party in rejecting the SNP signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is surely not something any of you can miss.

Very brief recap; from the outset the SNP has been closely involved with the development of the TPNW. As one of the few nations with nuclear weapons stations on its soil, Scotland taking a moral stance on this issue is powerful. Through the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) the SNP has been a party to the development of the TPNW.

The TPNW is very specific indeed; any signatory nation will not only ban the stationing of nuclear weapons on its territory, it will refuse to cooperate in any way with facilitating a nuclear-armed world, including allowing its territory to be used for any form of transportation of or support infrastructure for nuclear weapons.

 feels not even a little bit bound by the democratic decisions of that party reassured by the real-world experience of ignoring and humiliating that party over and over again with zero consequences faced

Ican was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the TPNW was finally adopted in 2017. It is an official United Nations treaty and 122 nations voted in favour of passing it. The Nato countries abstained as a block (except the Netherlands who voted against). Sweden, one of the originators of the whole process, did its own U-turn upon joining Nato and walked out on TPNW. And not because of Ukraine – this was three years earlier because Nato has been breathing down Sweden’s neck for years and years.

But the SNP did not U-turn. The TPNW was debated and voted on as party policy entirely unanimously with no opposing motion. Every SNP parliamentarian has signed a pledge to honour the TPNW. This is as nail-home core SNP policy as it gets.

That though is to fail to understand the contempt with which the SNP leadership treats the party. It feels not even a little bit bound by the democratic decisions of that party reassured by the real-world experience of ignoring and humiliating that party over and over again with zero consequences faced.

So Angus Robertson has just decided all by himself to overturn the party. Because he wants to, and because imposing a US-dictated Nato policy line on the SNP has proved to be his sole role and purpose in the party. It’s almost like he’s working to a different agenda or something…

So far so ‘Monday morning’ for the modern SNP. But where does this leave us and what does it mean for what comes next in the SNP? Let me start with a prediction; the SNP is no longer an anti-nuclear party any more, it is just working up the courage to break the news to you.

The party is stuffed with people who are inordinately close to the British security services and foreign policy establishment and they’ve been testing how far they could go for ages. If you look closely you’ll find a ‘disarmament as part of multilateral negotiations’ (not party policy) here and a ‘nukes out of Scotland – but with a ten or 20 (or 100 year) transition phase’ there. It’s coming.

SNP membership, you can reign in your god-awful leadership any time you want, if you want to

It has been a dreadful time for the SNP in terms of its members’ self-image. The Growth Commission was clearly to the political right of Starmer and not obviously differentiable from Osborneomics. The Nato shift turned the SNP into another American poodle. The party makes big noises about what it is, morally, to distract you from the fact that it is shedding this stuff fast as it can.

That this is being led by Angus Robertson is galling given that this is a man who can’t run a census. I knew Robertson was heavily overrated but even I underestimated how far out of his depth he’d be in government. He has no interest in the arts (his main brief), no great interest in independence and no interest in internal democracy. He is only interested in Atlanticism.

Now I recognise that there is some pro-nuclear sentiment in the SNP. This breaks down into two camps. The first is the ‘look, this is a brilliant negotiating hand and a possible money-spinner – let’s cash in’ and the other is the ‘it’s a scary world out there and we must cling closely to America’ group.

To the first I ask this; why stop at nukes? If morality plays no part in your thinking when hard cash is at stake, why not go all-in? You could make child sex trafficking legal and set up a centre of international sex tourism in Rothesy. There must be a few bob in that. Or what about facilitating Europe’s heroin trade? That’s lucrative.

To the latter, I ask ‘what is it about this scary world that makes you want to put Donald Trump in charge of nuclear weapons stationed on our soil?’. I’m all for a serious debate about how to really secure Scotland through a strong defence position, but why that requires us to be dragged into foreign wars and to cower to US pressure on the world stage is a question that needs to be asked repeatedly.

To the rest of you I just ask this; what’s too much? I keep asking those clinging on in the SNP to give me a hint what your red lines are. Is there literally nothing that the leadership can’t do to you, is there really no solemn decision you can make that you are not content to see being overturned?

Why bother being in a democratic party at all? Why not just scrap your annual conference?

Here’s the thing though; you are most certainly not powerless. You can reign in your god-awful leadership any time you want, if you want to. Let me kick off a suggestion for you; move a motion of No Confidence in Angus Robertson at your next conference (or National Council) and see the impact that has.

Or just roll over. Because that’s what you look like. You look like weak, pointless humiliation-fodder whose votes are a laughing matter in leadership circles. If you allow this to stand, that isn’t an unfair description.

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