Malcolm Rifkind says Nato doesn’t need Scotland

Malcolm Rifkind. Picture: Julie Bull

Malcolm Rifkind. Picture: Julie Bull

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The SNP’s insistence that Nato would need to accept an independent Scotland to prevent a defence gap is “a silly and unconvincing assertion”, according to a former Tory defence secretary.

The Scottish Government says an independent Scotland will be a non-nuclear member of Nato, insisting a “failure to reach an agreement would leave a gap in existing Nato security arrangements in north-west Europe”.

But Sir Malcolm Rifkind said Nato does not appear to need Ireland, Sweden or Finland - who are all outside the international military alliance.

Mr Rifkind, who served as secretary of state for defence and foreign affairs under ex-PM Sir John Major, also said Scotland faces “several years” outside the EU, in a speech to the Farmers Club in Edinburgh.

The SNP said his comments will be met with “anger and frustration” from farmers who have received “the worst common agricultural policy (CAP) deal in Europe” under the present Tory Government.

Mr Rifkind said: “Alex Salmond simply says that Scotland would be admitted to Nato because Nato needs Scotland because of our geographical position.

“This is a silly and unconvincing assertion. Nato does not appear to need Ireland as a member despite its similar geography off the European mainland, nor Sweden, nor Finland, despite their geopolitical importance.”

He added: “He still maintains that Scotland will be entitled to automatic membership of the EU. When the European Union makes it clear that that is contrary to their rules and that an independent Scotland would have to apply for membership, he goes, again, into denial.

“It is probable that Scotland would, eventually, get membership of the EU but we all know that it is nonsense to suggest that that could be agreed in months.