Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Who Do We Trust Least?

When I wrote the last blog, "Who Is Going To Blink First?" I anticipated the issue of NATO becoming much more important as we came closer to the referendum in September. It is going to be more important than it might have been for the simple reason the SNP made it so. I don't expect the party supporters to accept the following argument, but many of them didn't accept it when I predicted the SNP was ready to do a deal on membership of NATO, but it happened nevertheless. Had the SNP stuck to its original policy of remaining outside of NATO, there would have been no question of expectations being raised, that a further deal could be made on retention of nuclear weapons on the Clyde.

It is no secret I have opposed much of the SNP's entire campaign strategy, although I will be among the first to congratulate them if Scots vote Yes. While I still believe that if we get a Yes vote and the SNP's platform is endorsed, we will still not have independence, I will continue to advocate a Yes vote and will vote Yes. This apparent contradiction is because of the question which will be asked in the referendum, "Should Scotland be an independent country?" I still cannot understand why anyone would vote "No" to that question, why they would rather have their country governed by another neighbouring country like rUK or, a Union of neighbouring countries like the EU. If the SNP's platform is endorsed and the vote is Yes, we will still have so many of the existing articles of the UK such as a currency union and Westminster control of the Scottish economy, that not even the most blinkered SNP member will be able to claim it is independence.

 This means that it will be necessary to campaign immediately to reverse those SNP policies which ensure we are not independent, a campaign which is not going to be a matter of a few months or perhaps even a few elections. Those who are seen as responsible for getting the Yes vote, will rightfully claim the spoils of their victory, perhaps for more than one term of office. Unless they have a complete Epiphany moment, little is likely to change on the grounds, "we must give the policies a fair chance" etc etc. Both Nicola Sturgeon and Blair Jenkins are on record as saying they hope the currency union lasts for many years. That is the reason I have been so vocal in my opposition to policies which I believe undermine, restrict or in any way reduce the independence of the Scottish people to have the kind of country they would prefer to have. Many of those who disagree with me have argued that all of the issues I have highlighted at various times, can be addressed as soon as we are "independent", by which they mean "get a "Yes" vote." They will soon find politics does not work like that and we run the risk of being stuck with what we start with for longer than they think.

I firmly believe the SNP has created the situation with which it is now faced, in relation to the currency union and NATO membership, by adopting a policy line on both which lays it open to pressure which could have been avoided. Pressure would have been applied even if the SNP had retained their opposition to NATO membership but the arguments would have been of the usual "isolation" variety. The difference would have been that the party or Scotland would have been in a much stronger position to have Trident removed, if it could be said we did not want to be a member of a defense/political organisation which has a "nuclear first strike" policy, a principled stance which can be defended. To be prepared to take up membership of NATO, while continuing to oppose nuclear weapons, rings as true and principled as Labour's opposition to nuclear weapons, but only when the whole world feels the same way. Scots will wait a long time before the USA and Russia decide to get rid of the nuclear deterrent. To emphasise that Trident will be removed only when it is "safe" is suspiciouly like a warning to Scots that they may have to wait a long time.

Professor Phillips O'Brien, Director of the Centre for War Studies at Glasgow University thinks the SNP's White Paper gives a hint they would be willing to do a deal "which may prove unpopular with grassroots members". That may be wishful thinking on the part of the professor but is in line with the previous "leak" from the unknown minister and it clearly underlines the thought processes of some on the No side and is more than likely a fair indication of the conversations which have been taking place. The No side need the Clyde and the SNP thinks it needs a currency union. The obvious question is whose need is the greater? Alex Salmond has emphasised "we want to be good members of NATO" while reminding us that 24 members of the total 28, do not have nuclear weapons on their soil. How many of them had previously served as the only available base for one of the most potent nuclear weapons on earth? What does being "a good member of NATO" mean?

The closer we get to the referendum date, the greater the pressure will be exerted and, as much else in politics, perception is what counts. How will the polls look much closer to polling day? How will each side react to the pressure. Which leadership do we trust least to do what is right?

1 comment:

  1. I picked up on the Scotsman story this morning in which Dr O'Brien was quoted and I was about to launch into a diatribe on the terribleness of the newspaper when I decided to contact Dr O'Brien by email. I have blogged about the article and his email reply here.

    He states that he is not anti-independence. Certainly I was impressed with his 20 minute BBC interview in September last year. He seemed to deal with the issues straightforwardly and with no obvious bias to either side.

    Now your post is much more about the politics of the situation rather than the detail of what Dr O'Brien did or did not say. I don't doubt that the closer we get to the referendum and the closer the polls become the more intense will become the scrutiny and the pressure to weaken our position. Hopefully, after the vote we will retain the strength but I fear weakness may prevail.