I have been thinking for a while that the SNP needed to seize the initiative to get their not-quite-floundering-but-not-quite-fizzing independence referendum campaign off the ground. Thoughts that I personally have had included announcing that an independent Scotland would disband all private schools and/or would renationalise the railways. Something that would put clear blue water between an independent Scotland’s future and that of the United Kingdom’s.
Well, the SNP has made their move, though it’s not anything that I had seen coming…
The Scottish National Party (SNP) has confirmed that delegates attending its Annual Conference in October 2012 will debate an updated defence policy presented by Westminster SNP Leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson. The resolution proposed by the Moray MP and seconded by Angus MacNeil MP follows a detailed review process which has included input from throughout the SNP, involved external experts and has been informed by discussions in neighbouring countries.
Amongst the key elements of the policy proposals are:
That the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government should determine defence, security and foreign policy.
An SNP government should allocate an increased budget to conventional defence in Scotland compared to the UK but will make substantial savings by ending support for nuclear weapons which will be withdrawn from Scotland.
A professional defence force of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel, including restored Scottish infantry regiments will increase the current conventional footprint in Scotland. All military bases will remain in operation with Faslane becoming a major conventional naval base and home to Joint Forces Headquarters. Lossiemouth and Leuchars will both operate air force capabilities.
Scotland will inherit its international treaty obligations including those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and will remain a member, subject to agreement on withdrawal of Trident from Scotland.
Gentlemen, start your engines. If this isn’t upping the ante in the stakes for independence then I don’t know what is and it will guarantee that the momentum and the impetus swings back into the SNP’s favour. Debating whether the fossil fuel levy and control over air guns should come to Scotland was all well and good but this is big game hunting that Angus Robertson and Angus MacNeil are going for at (and in the run up to) the SNP’s Autumn Conference (Perth, Oct 18th-21st). The Scottish public, I reckon, will be sympathetic to the arguments being made as it would allow greater control over the location of Trident, greater control over the forces under threat within Scotland, greater scope to make savings that are foregone at Westminster and provide the opportunity to swell the powers at Holyrood and test the Scottish Parliament one level further.
The official confirmation that the SNP will seek to remain a part of Nato under independence is no less significant despite how expected it has come to be these past months. The opposition will try to poke fun at this u-turn and suggest generously that SNP members should be outraged, but it was always a sensible step towards the civic (as opposed to radical) nationalism that Alex Salmond has pushed for in his long tenure as leader.
The specific wording of the resolution being proposed can be read on the Moray SNP website.