Margo MacDonald: There’s no point keeping Trident

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The reason, or so we are to believe, for the SNP reneging on its long-time, respected stand against nuclear weapons is that voters, you and me, just don’t understand the complexity of getting shot of the Trident subs. If the leaders of the Yes campaign really believe that, the Yes campaign is in trouble.

After the terrific debate on nukes at the SNP conference, weasel words of explanation were heard around parliament. “We won’t sign up to Nato unless they take their nukes out of Scotland.” “Oh really,” thinks Commission President Manuel Barrossa. “How naive of them. Do they imagine that there’s no linkage between the Nato officials and policy-makers and their equivalents in the EU’s HQ in Brussels?” The SNP will be told that if they’re ever to join the EU, they’d better find a way of accommodating Nato’s first- strike nukes.

The SNP is trying to play the game by the rules. Their opponents are playing to win. The decency of the Yes side in trying to minimise the disruption of English affairs will be unacknowledged and instead accusations of 
selfishness will be hurled over the Border.

Is the SNP scared of the Scots? It seems it doesn’t dare trust them to take difficult decisions, or not to blink first when the heat is on during division of assets and liabilities on the other side of a successful Yes 
campaign.

Making Scotland a nuke-free zone is not going to be popular with the English government and every trick in the book, written by the men from the ministry who guard their national interests instinctively, will be used to prevent a Yes vote winning. To make things even more difficult for the Scottish Government, bureaucrats in London will call in some favours from their EU counterparts. Heavy duty stuff.

Until very recently, the Scottish Government’s response has been to turn the other cheek. But the claims being made by various defence-minded types regarding the length of time we’d have to play host to the UK’s nuclear submarines are taking our goodness for softness. What do we jeopardise if we hold up to ridicule the English government’s nuclear weapon?

When the hint is dropped that we will be defenceless in a dangerous world and that England wouldn’t be able to help us, we should be able to say, OK, just who is likely to attack Scotland?

If the strategic plan is to fight fire with fire and establish a balance of mutually assured destruction with our potential assailants, we’d better decide which countries fit the bill. Is Iran building nuclear weapons to get even with Scotland? No, her potential target is Israel, and vice-versa.

How about Pakistan, or India? Does either one harbour the intentions of attacking us with their nukes? No, theirs is a game only two can play. Well, surely North Korea can’t be trusted? Surely we’d be advised to spend what we do on Trident in case somebody in the North Korean government knows where Scotland is to be found on the map and picks us for a fight?

But we shouldn’t worry about using our first-strike capacity and setting the world alight. The American President, even of the Mitt Romney variety, would not release the mechanism to start the catastrophe. Not a lot of people know that the Americans decide on whether the UK uses its weapon of last resort. Now is the time for the Yes campaign to tell them.

“Yes,” say the doubting Donalds, “but having the nuke gives the UK a permanent place in the Security Council of the UN. That means Scotland punches above her weight internationally.” If this means we attract inward investment and as such have a stronger economy and lower unemployment than we would otherwise have, fair enough. But we don’t. Countries with no pretentions of greatness nor lust for power, the same size as or smaller than Scotland create the conditions to foster better services and a more creative and dynamic community than does devolved or “provincial” Scotland.

“But they won’t let us stay in the EU, we’d have to apply for membership,” is the piteous cry of the not too well informed Scot. Great idea. We can investigate membership of EFTA. It looks to be a better bet than the EU . . . no Common Fisheries Policy or nonsense from Brussles, but free trade with EU and non-EU countries.

“But if we’re out of the EU, there will be security checks at the border.” Why? Sweden’s in and Norway’s not and they manage without Checkpoint Charlies. And guess what won’t be beyond the wit of the team negotiating the disengagement of the currencies? A temporary period during which the Scots currency will shadow the pound sterling and a gradual 
separation of the two.

Let’s get on with it.