The latest edition of the Scottish Left Review carries a very significant article on how the SNP government could affect Britain’s foreign policy:
Opinion polls show time and again that people living in Scotland and Wales
are more strongly opposed than the English to nuclear weapons and the kind of ‘punching above our weight’ illusions that infuse Westminster and Foreign Office thinking about
security and international relations. The May 3rd election most clearly
signalled Scottish frustration with two impositions from London: Tony Blair’s ill-conceived war on Iraq and Westminster’s vote to prolong the deployment of Trident nuclear weapons in Scotland for the next 50 years. (A Scottish agenda for peace)
Gordon Brown may be inching towards the exit from Iraq, but in other respects he has stuck closely to the traditional agenda. The most significant examples are his decision to build two new aircraft carriers, and to allow the Americans to use the Menwith Hill monitoring station in Yorkshire for the planned missile defence system.
openDemocracy’s Paul Rogers sums up the consequences of this approach:
The aircraft-carrier and Trident-replacement decisions ensure that
Britain will be capable of expeditionary warfare but not very much
more; the Menwith Hill decision ensure a further extension of the
security and intelligence
alliance with the United States. It is highly questionable whether this
combination will be sufficient to address Britain’s real security
needs, which are being increasingly influenced (even reshaped) by
global environmental, social and economic problems. (Gordon Brown’s white elephants)
No doubt Brown is hoping that the shipbuilding work in Rosyth and Govan will shore up support for the traditional agenda in Scotland. However, the fact remains that the Scottish Executive is in a unique position to challenge those priorities. By doing so, the SNP would be pushing the envelope of the devolution settlement on an issue where it has a great deal of popular support, albeit at the price of antagonising the US and its NATO clients. Opposition to Trident, for example, is precisely the kind of issue that could yet pave the way for independence.
British foreign policy is reserved to Westminster, yet the Scottish executive is finding ways to make its presence felt. Who would bet against Alex Salmond doing the same on defence?