SNP on brink: UK can make it ‘difficult for independent Scotland to join NATO and EU

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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon met with EU Ambassador to the UK João Vale de Almeida at Holyrood on Thursday. The top mandarin’s two-day visit included talks about how Scotland might still contribute to the EU if it becomes independent from the UK. Britain voted to leave the EU and exited the trading bloc last year, despite Scotland voting 62 percent in favour of remaining part of the European project.

Mrs Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) has pledged to hold another referendum on Scottish independence by 2023, as long as the COVID-19 pandemic permits a public vote.

In the hypothetical event Scots do vote to break away from the rest of the UK, Mrs Sturgeon has said she will not hold a referendum on EU membership.

Instead, the Scottish leader has pledged that the SNP – which secured a fourth consecutive term in the Scottish Government at the May election – would immediately launch EU accession talks with Brussels.

However, an academic has poured cold water on the plans in a damning assessment of Mrs Sturgeon’s lifelong goal of independence.

Dr Nick Ritchie, a senior lecturer at the University of York, explained to how the Westminster Government – which is opposed to Scottish independence – could throw a spanner in the works to the SNP’s bids to join not only the EU, but also the NATO security alliance.

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He said: “If an SNP-led independent Scotland did want to join NATO then London could make life quite difficult for an independent Scotland wanting to join NATO, potentially also for joining the EU.”

The expert discussed Scotland’s hopes to join NATO in the context of its stance on the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent.

The SNP has long said that Britain’s Trident warheads, which are currently based on Scotland’s River Clyde, would have to be removed in the event of Scottish independence.

According to Mr Ritchie, the SNP’s anti-Trident position complicates its hopes of joining NATO, which relies on nuclear weapons as a core component of its existence.

He said: “The other issue that consistently comes up is NATO, the SNP reversed its position on NATO in 2012 at its conference.

“It very narrowly got through a proposal to support joining NATO in the event of independence, which caused some of the rank and file in the SNP a lot of problems.

“Because of the contradiction then between wanting to get rid of nuclear weapons in Scotland but wanting to join a defence and security alliance that is fully signed up to nuclear deterrence and nuclear weapons.”

He also suggested that the UK Government could have leverage over the SNP should there be negotiations between Westminster and Edinburgh over Trident’s future in the event of independence.

He said: “The UK has left the EU but has good relationships with other powerful states in Europe, influential states, particularly the French, and also the Germans.

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“But others like Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands and so on, that could and would make life difficult for an independent Scotland wanting to join these key institutions.”

He said the UK still holds sway in the EU, which could affect an independent Scotland’s bid to re-join the bloc.

Mr Ritchie said London’s potential bargaining chip on NATO would depend on a situation where membership of the alliance “was a key priority” for the SNP.

He added that it would also depend on whether the separation of Scotland from the rest of the UK had been “particularly acrimonious, and some of the acrimony had been centred on what to do with Trident”.

The SNP and Scottish Greens last month both ruled out negotiating with Westminster over Trident remaining in Scotland.

Their pledges came in the wake of a report by the Financial Times that said civil servants in Westminster had begun contingency planning for the event that Trident may have to be removed from the Clyde.

The paper cited “several senior officials” party to the planning on where to move Trident from its current locations of Faslane and nearby Coulport.

Ministers were reportedly looking at the viability of transferring Trident to France or the US, or even the creation of a new British Overseas Territory within Scotland.
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