Today (Friday 2nd March) The Grauniad printed an op ed piece from Jim Murphy MP entitled “Scotland Cannot Afford to Leave NATO” in which Jim, in his usual declarative style, seeks to disparage the SNP’s position, this time on defence and foreign alliances. As the Grauniad already had 78 comments after only 2 hours and refused to let me register to add to them, I am forced to respond here. If Jim or anyone of his acquaintance reads this, I would be happy receive responses to the points made:
- Both (UK & Scottish governments) have defence plans that will limit our ability to achieve our ambitions on the world stage. On the contrary, the SNP would place Scotland in a far less aggressive and overstretched position that would allow it to be more of a force for peace and less of a failing post-empire power like the UK that has yet to find a purpose for itself or for its nuclear arsenal.
- There is only one mainstream party wanting to leave NATO: the SNP. And, as long as membership requires deployment of nuclear weapons on our soil, that will remain so. But we are fully commited to working with NATO in non-nuclear actions which has included EVERY NATO ACTION TO DATE.
- How will Scotland get its way in the world if we leave the UK? Same way the Irish and every other small country does—by finding common cause with friends and ganging up on the big boys. As it is, the UK habitually sells Scotland short (nukes on the Clyde; decimation of our fishing; highest petrol price when we make the stuff, etc etc)
- How does it help the world’s poorest people? By spending £2bn on conventional defence instead of our £3.5bn as part of the UK’s idiotic ‘global’ posturing, we could double our share of the present £11.5bn UK foreign aid budget at a stroke.
- How do we strengthen Scotland’s businesses by separating from the third largest economy in Europe? We already out-manufactiure and out-export our sluggish English friends per head. By NOT dealing through (selfish) London, we gain direct access. By joining the Nordic Union we’d be in close contact with six of the world’s richest economies.
- How can we be a force for good by getting out of the UK, the fourth biggest military budget on the planet? Because the UK has a daft, unbalanced military budget 2/3rds of which is unusable. Eschewing carriers, global deployment ordnance, heavy tanks and (especially) nuclear subs (none of which have been used in the conflicts cited) we get a flexible armed forces, geared for Scottish defence and usable as part of an Allied force for 1/3rd the per capita price.
- We are currently one of only five countries out of 198 in the world with a permanent seat on the UN security council. Good luck: you can keep it. We may support the UN but it’s one of the world’s least effective and influential organisations when it comes to doing real good.
- Separation is a powerful idea, but a 19th-century idea, entirely unsuited to the complexities of influence in the 21st century. Oh, really? So the 150-or-so countries gaining their independence in the last century are thrawn and/or willfully misguided?
- If Scotland leaves Britain the Clyde and Rosyth would be in a foreign country to the Royal Navy, which has never built a warship in a foreign yard. So, er, what’s this MoD contract for ships that’s just gone to South Korea? When asked about that very decision, the MoD stated they place orders on quality, delivery & price.
- In today’s complex world we need strong defences at home and overseas. Time to wake up and smell the coffee. Your big £40 bn budget was no protection against 7/7. America’s $700 bn (!) budget and 15 carrier task forces were no protection against 9/11. Get your head out of the gunboat era.
- Additional thought: If the UK is such a good deal and Eire is now such a basket case, why are they not clamouring to come back into the fold?
- Final thought: If being in the UK’s so great for our defence business, how come Belfast’s Short Brothers got so little before being bought up in 1989 by the Canadian multinational Bombardier? Eat my shorts, indeed.
I happened to catch Radio 4’s “File on 4” last month when they were doing a programme on “Biosecurity” [the transcript is here and the relevant section is on page 6 beginning at the first complete paragraph on that page]
Among the topics they covered was the anthrax outbreak in Glasgow at the end of 2009. One thing that got my attention was that there was no anthrax vaccine available in the UK and that the the Health Protection Agency had to ask in the USA to get any. Now anthrax is one of the most obvious of bioweapons that might be used by “rogue states” and terrorists. As most people in Scotland know, it was tested on Gruinard during WWII.
The UK has, as you mention, a 40 billion pound defence budget. But no anthrax vaccines and nobody trained to use them even if there were. And yet we’re asked to believe that terrorism and weapons of mass destruction are in the forefront of the great minds in Whitehall. There’s something wrong with that picture.