A Scottish defence policy?

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?







6 responses to “A Scottish defence policy?”

  1. Mike Small avatar

    There will be large scale opposition to Trident both direct action and legislative. Brown will be in the awkward position of defending the indefensible. More on this here: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/mike_small/2007/05/new_labour_new_weapons.html
    The SNP have also made positive moves against rendition through Scottish airports.

  2. Tom Griffin avatar

    I think the SNP’s approach has been very astute (not to mention being eminently justified.)
    One thing that worries me is the potential for more American interventions like the one by Lisa Vickers you mention in this piece:
    The US has a long history of covert political action in support of NATO. I can’t see them ignoring the kind of challenge that the SNP represent.

  3. Steve avatar

    The sooner England is rid of feeble little bitter and twisted irrelevant countries like scotland the better, scotlands destiny is to be a complete little puppet state (‘region’) of Brussels.
    It isn’t Englands.

  4. Tom Griffin avatar

    An independent Scotland might well be closer to Europe, but it’s also worth considering that it might be less beholden to the United States.

  5. Steve avatar

    There is no ‘might’ about it, scotland will be a irrelevant little backwater puppet of Brussels, i dont actually care what they do to be honest, my only concern is England, and yes closer links with the Anglosphere are whats best for England, they are, after all, basically modelled on England in one way or the other, so give me closer ties with these democratic countries any over the reincarnate of the Soviet Union, the EUssr dictatorship, and thats a fact.
    You do realise that 90% of all of our laws are made by unelected unnacountable EUssr “commisioners” and not American ones, dont you?.

  6. Tom Griffin avatar

    US influence may be subtler, but its no less strong for that. It’s also less accountable and non-reciprocal.

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