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How the SNP learned to stop worrying about NATO, without loving the bomb

Posted on October 20, 2012 by

Well, we’re still a bit out of breath. The SNP conference debate on NATO membership was an incredible, grab-you-by-the-throat piece of political theatre, with the outcome in doubt all the way to the end. Social media was all but unanimous in its praise of the debate, with even some Labour MPs clearly a bit wistful for the Kinnock-era days when their own gatherings used to have this sort of proper democratic ding-dong instead of just stage-managed rallies.

The leadership carried the day in the end, with Angus Robertson’s motion for a wide-ranging “update” of the party’s old defence policy passed more or less unaltered. We had absolutely no position before the debate so watched it with a completely open mind, and purely on the strength of arguments the right side won.

The “no to NATO” side came out with a procession of incredibly impassioned speeches (several seemed close to tears), but offered little other than emotion. The pro-NATO camp, on the other hand, didn’t make a very persuasive case for change, and seemed to be losing the crowd until a superb, tub-thumping address from Kenny MacAskill driving home the point that you don’t change anything with protest marches.

The mood in the hall still appeared to this observer to hang in the balance, with a very strong contribution from Alyn Smith MEP backing MacAskill up but more heartfelt pleas from opponents drawing great acclaim from the audience. The real killer blow, though, came in a closing speech from Angus Robertson, the proposer of the motion.

Reminding the conference that he’d been in charge of the SNP’s two historic Holyrood victories, he led them onto the sucker punch – that even in the 2011 landslide they’d only secured 44% of the vote, and 44% wasn’t enough to win a referendum. It was a devastating point, and while some boos rang around the hall when he delivered the line they were in truth the sound of a painful and anguished party coming to terms with the fact that he was inescapably, crushingly right.

The votes, when they came, were all agonisingly close, requiring three cliffhanger card counts that took 10-15 minutes each. The first was carried by a margin of just 29, though the gap grew with each subsequent division until the key vote on the main proposal was won by almost 100 in an electorate of around 700.

But what of the actual policy? What does it all mean? Here are the bullet points, so to speak, that leap out at us.

1. Increased defence spending in an SNP-governed independent Scotland

The most dismaying aspect from this site’s perspective is the commitment that an independent SNP government will spend £2.5bn a year on defence – an extra £500m compared to previous policy. The very same day that we pointed out how much money independence could save on defence spending for better use elsewhere, the SNP made us look a bit chumpy by saying it’d actually keep spending much of that money on the military.

The £2.5bn figure is still around £800m a year less than is spent “on Scotland’s behalf” by the UK on defence now, so it would still leave a big chunk of extra cash in the Scottish Government budget post-independence, but it seems excessive to us when Scotland is compared to similar small nations.

On the other hand, we can see that setting up a Scottish Defence Force from scratch could involve a higher outlay in the initial years, and we can only hope that the sum would be reduced later. Plus, if we have to build ourselves some warships, that’s at least good news for a lot of jobs in Rosyth. But we’d still rather have seen the amendment challenging the increased budget succeed.

2. NATO membership is still conditional on removal of Trident.

This is absolutely key. The weakest argument deployed by several anti-NATO speakers was that there was no guarantee NATO would allow Scotland to be a member if it insisted on getting rid of the nuclear subs. But the motion was absolutely unequivocal – if NATO won’t allow Scotland to be nuclear-free, we don’t join. Indeed, in many ways that’d be the ideal outcome.

(The second-weakest argument, incidentally, was that staying in NATO would prevent Scotland from leading the entire globe to multilateral disarmament. With the best will in the world, the notion that what Scotland does could ever have even the tiniest impact on the nuclear policies of the USA, Russia or China is delusional tree-hugging insanity of the absurdest order.)

3. The Scottish public wants to stay in NATO.

The oft-quoted stat from opinion polling is that 75% of Scots are opposed to leaving NATO, with just 11% in favour. That’s an awful lot of people to be in conflict with if you want to win a majority vote in a referendum. Numerous speakers essentially put forward the argument that it’s better to be powerless and hang onto your principles than compromise in order to win. We don’t agree.

Scotland simply can’t afford to stay in the Union under the crushing neo-right consensus of the Tories and Labour for even one more Parliamentary term. The consequences for social justice would be catastrophic, and frankly that’s far more important to us than the ultimately fairly trivial issue of whether we stay in NATO or not. There isn’t going to be a nuclear war, so NATO’s position on a first-strike policy won’t ever actually make any difference to anyone’s life. Tory and Labour plans to eviscerate the welfare state will.

4. If you’re underneath a bomb, you don’t much care what kind it is.

This is something that’s puzzled us for decades, frankly. We really don’t get the hysterical opposition to nuclear weapons as opposed to other kinds of weapons. Go and ask the people of Tokyo or Dresden if they’re relieved that they got attacked with nice cuddly “conventional” weapons instead of nukes.

Wings Over Scotland is opposed to nuclear weapons because they’re pointless, expensive and dangerous even when not being fired at anyone. They didn’t stop Argentina invading the Falklands or Iraq invading Kuwait, because in both cases the aggressor knew they could never be used. They haven’t stopped any of the scores of wars that have beset the world since 1945, nor any terrorist atrocities. They’re self-evidently NOT a deterrent, and if they’re not a deterrent then they’re no good for anything.

(There was a case to be argued for them during the Cold War, but the Cold War was over 20 years ago and it’s not coming back.)

But nuclear weapons are no more “evil” than other forms of weapon. There’s no “hypocrisy” in being in NATO just because it has nuclear missiles in its armoury, if you’re prepared to have a military at all (or be in any other kind of military alliance). Indeed, the hypocrisy is in apparently believing that it’s okay to kill someone with high explosives just as long as they’re not atomic ones.

The notion raised by several delegates, then, that it’s somehow immoral to take advantage of NATO’s “nuclear umbrella” while not being prepared to have our own nukes is nonsensical. All bombs are designed to kill people. And is it “immoral” to call on the police or fire brigade if you’re not prepared to do their jobs yourself? Of course not.

So that’s our view on all that. Some of you will very probably disagree strongly with it, and that’s fine because we only just arrived at it ourselves. We’re acutely aware of the danger of sacrificing principles for electoral pragmatism, because we’ve seen it destroy the Labour Party over the last 15 years, but as we hope we’ve shown above, NATO membership just isn’t that big a principle.

The bottom line is that 75% is an awfully large tide to swim against. Changing NATO policy is highly unlikely to lose us the referendum, and a lot more likely to help us win it. Get a Yes safely in the bag in 2014 and we can have the debate for the 2016 election. If some people abandon the SNP over NATO and vote in a few more Green MSPs instead, that’s just peachy by us. A few more Green MSPs is no bad thing.

But let’s, if you’ll forgive the tactless metaphor, win the war before we start squabbling over how to divvy up the booty. To vote No over the SNP’s policy on NATO wouldn’t just be cutting your nose off to spite your face, it’d be hacking off a couple of major limbs and poking at least one of your eyes out too. (Not least because if there’s a No vote, we’ll still be in NATO and we’ll still have nukes. Lose-lose.)

And if there’s only one thing that we know for certain about the coming years, it’s that you don’t want to be disabled under the Union.

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106 to “How the SNP learned to stop worrying about NATO, without loving the bomb”

  1. Awesome, wish it had been televised. Good luck all tomorrow

  2. Donald says:

    Great article, I to say I pretty much agree with what you said, besides even if Scotland is in NATO post independence there is always the option to elect a government to an independent Scottish Parliament who could withdraw us from them.

  3. Macart says:

    Much like yourself Rev, watched the proceedings with a fairly open mind. What a cracker of a debate, the stand out of the conference season. I agree, the side with the more compelling argument won. More importantly (and if polls are to be believed here) the electorate got the result they wanted. This takes nothing away from the excellent passionate debate offered by those in opposition to the proposal, they did great credit to their argument.

  4. Arbroath 1320 says:

    I think the NATO decision was the correct one to make. The thing is, in my view, being a member of NATO is not just about “what’s in it for us” but also for our near neighbours, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium etc.
     
    I did read somewhere recently that a NATO without Scotland as a member would leave the defence of NATO with a huge “black hole” in the defence structure of NATO. I think for this reason most of the non nuclear members of NATO would prefer to have Scotland as one of the Northern members.
     
    When you look at the make up of NATO there are only three countries who actually hold nukes in their armoury, France, U.S.A. and Britain. These countries are, in my view, spending billions on weapons that are utterly and totally useless. No one is ever going to fire off any of these nukes. Talk of joining NATO to sit under its nuclear umbrella is utter garbage. As I said these weapons will never be used.
    Who are they going to be fired at?
    The Cold war is dead and buried. Never again are we going to be entering a situation of countries facing off against each other with nukes in their respective arsenals. This leaves the question about who is left to be targeted by nukes, the Taliban, al qaeda? Last time I checked there was no country called Talliban or al qaeda so the question really has to asked of Westminster, who are you targeting with your nukes?
     
    Nukes are probably the biggest most expensive white elephant any country can have in its armoury. I think it is ridiculous that we have a government in Westminster that is determined to hold onto its white elephant no matter what the cost. In reality if the cost of getting a seat at the “top table” that the unionists are so keen on reminding us about then all I can say is thank but no thanks I’m quite happy to sit with the rest of the 190 odd countries at the U.N. At the end of the day the “top table” is just a nuked up version of the old boys club.

  5. Semus says:

    According to the english bloggers in the Guardian and the Telegraph Scotland(sorry the Scots) looks like the prime target for any nuclear weapons. That is quite a head of hatred they have been nursing for 300 years+

  6. Arbroath 1320 says:

    Sorry for going O/T so early but thought you would be interested in the accuracy of the Bitter camp’s arithmetic.
     
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=165194176938002&set=a.147197615404325.3864.135402323250521&type=1&theater
     
    If there are only 81% total in their count for women and 91% in their count for men you have to ask what has happened to the “missing 19% and missing 9% ?
    Don’t tell me that the bitter camp are shipping off the missing percentages to planet Zog for re indoctrination procedures to be carried out?

  7. redcliffe62 says:

    Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country within NATO and the EU, and with the Queen as head of state?
    That would remove the scaremongering on these issues in one go. 

  8. pmcrek says:

    “This is something that’s puzzled us for decades, frankly. We really don’t get the hysterical opposition to nuclear weapons as opposed to other kinds of weapons. Go and ask the people of Tokyo or Dresden if they’re relieved that they got attacked with nice cuddly “conventional” weapons instead of nukes.”

    This is a bit like saying guns dont kill people, people do. Fact is, nukes make it unfathomably easier than anything else can and thats before we even consider the cost and the domestic dangers involved, given the recent safety reports from Faslane and all the crap the MoD has dumped around Scotland and the UK at large some things are defintely best left to scientific advancement alone.

    On the larger question, while I dont agree with the decision tonight on NATO I can understand why it was made as you point out in the article, the only thing that makes it go down easier is the SNPs continued opposition to Trident.

  9. meljomur says:

    Great and balanced article about an extremely divisive issue within the party.

    But the fact that it is conditional of getting rid of Trident and that 75% of Scots are in favour of NATO, means as a leading party it was the right decision in the end.

     

  10. G H Graham says:

    On balance, remaining within the umbrella of NATO was the right outcome for this period in the SNP’s ascendency to practitioners of Independence.

    That many voted in conflict with their morals, doesn’t mean that their morals have been abandoned; only postponed.

    Winning the short game would have been at the cost of losing the long game.

    Salmond gambled & won, just. But his strategy of removing one emotional barrier after another (currency, Crown etc) has so far been played to perfection.

    Unionists’ heads must have sunk yesterday despite their claims that membership of NATO would not be automatic post Independence. That and similar arguments about membership of other international clubs such as the EU now have to be won, based on facts. That can only be done, once the white papers have been produced offering a more formal plan for Scotland, so that reasoned discussions with said organisations can take place. Measured, mature, sensible. No need to panic. Take your time. Stand your ground. Win the war by winning small battles,not wholesale attrition; too much collateral damage. Keep your ace card until you really need it.

    Even bitter opponents to the SNP must have felt some admiration for the emotional, gut wrenching debate which was a superb theatrical production of democracy in action. In comparison, the British conferences were anodyne, monotonous monologues, attended by audiences weary of the doom & gloom of a failed, bankrupt British state; rotten, corrupt, greedy, self serving. Listlessness, bitterness, hopelessness.

    So just when you felt the tide was beginning to turn ( all that jingoistic summer rubbish from London will soon be a faded memory), we find a party on top of its game.

    Steady as she goes & stay the course!

    Roll on 2014.

  11. Grendel says:

    Continued membership of NATO will certainly ease the worries of many, and put paid to the notion that any future Scottish defence force will be an amateur Dad’s Army affair. It means our soldiers will be able to retain links with former colleagues, train with and yes, even deploy with soldiers from England, the US, Germany and so forth. I enjoyed my training with fellow NATO soldiers, and am glad that this option will be available to future Scottish soldiers. 

    Anyone who says we will be forced to keep nuclear weapons on Scottish soil needs their head examined. We ARE forced to keep them under the union though, and I wonder which areas in England will find this white elephant foisted upon them? Wales no doubt. 

  12. Effie Deans says:

     
    There’s little doubt that the SNP in changing its opposition to Nato is doing so simply in order to win the referendum. The vast majority of SNP members remain, including no doubt Mr Salmond and perhaps even Mr Robertson, still in their hearts opposed to Nato. As you rightly say, if only the SNP can win in 2014, they could change their policy on Nato membership as soon as 2016. Given that negotiations would take some time, it doubtful that it would even be necessary to join. The 75% of Scots who support Nato, need only to realise therefore that SNP support is at best insincere in its attitude to Nato, for them to know which way to vote in the referendum.   

  13. scottish_skier says:

    ” As you rightly say, if only the SNP can win in 2014, they could change their policy on Nato membership as soon as 2016″

    Exactly. So if the electorate have ‘Remain in NATO’ as top of their priorities list (e.g. ahead of the economy, NHS, Education, welfare) in and independent Scotland and are not sure about the SNP’s commitment to this, they can vote for another party. You are aware that elections offer this possibility?

    This type of thing often crops up in no camp arguments and is what greatly worries me about unionist parties; they don’t seem to even have the most basic understanding of how democracy works. Highlights strongly why we should not vote for them.

  14. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “As you rightly say, if only the SNP can win in 2014, they could change their policy on Nato membership as soon as 2016. Given that negotiations would take some time, it doubtful that it would even be necessary to join. The 75% of Scots who support Nato, need only to realise therefore that SNP support is at best insincere in its attitude to Nato, for them to know which way to vote in the referendum.”

    Ooh, nice try. But once again, you’ve unaccountably mixed up “voting in the 2014 referendum” with “voting in the 2016 election”. If the SNP win a Yes vote, then change their NATO policy back in 2015, and people want to be in NATO, they’re perfectly free to vote Labour or Lib Dem or Conservative the following year.

    The referendum will not decide Scotland’s NATO policy. The election will. The two have no bearing on each other save that the referendum gives us the power to make the choice.

  15. Swello says:

    I too watched the debate with a (mostly) open mind yesterday as I had no strong opinion on NATO (getting rid of Trident is the main one for me) and I tend to agree that the side who put the most substantial argument won in the end, despite a lot of the most interesting and truly heartfelt speeches coming from the other side in my opinion.

    I’m not an SNP member or anything like it but I have to say that the debate was a credit to them and a reminder of what a real one actually looks like as they are an endangered species now. I haven’t read the press today but it would be wrong to try and spin this as a “split” or crisis as what it showed was the real breadth of opinion within the SNP and it shows them in a very good light indeed.

    After sitting through a number of grim TV debates on independence that aren’t worthy of the name (Question time, The Big Debate, etc), yesterday left me wondering if that format of debate would work as an alternative. Instead of the Shite Panel Show format, why not follow the format of yesterday and have people on the Yes and No sides debate a particular facet on independence with no banal audience interruptions. That way, a far broader range of people could be involved, especially from outside of party politics.

  16. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Fact is, nukes make it unfathomably easier than anything else can”

    Sorry, but this is a daft argument. Since 1945 the world has endured countless wars, taking millions of lives. The percentage of those casualties caused by nuclear weapons has been precisely 0.00%.

    It is, in fact, incredibly difficult to kill anyone with a nuclear weapon, because if you fire one it’s almost certain that the entire planet, including you, will be obliterated as a result. That’s quite a powerful disincentive.

  17. Luigi says:

    What a fantastic debate yesterday. I have a feeling that the usual idiotic comments we hear, that the SNP are an anti-democratic one-man band, and that everyone blindly follows the dear leader are over, or at least greatly reduced. Some of the opposing speeches were honest and excellent. However, Kenny MacAskill’s brilliant speech was the real game-changer. He has certainly gone up a few rungs in my estimation. Membership of NATO was alwasy going to be a tough, emotionally-charged debate, but it had to be sorted. Failure to do so would have left the yes campaign in a vulnerable position. In order to secure the trust and support of devo max supporters and undecideds, these things have to be tidied up. A huge supply dump of ammunition was denied to the unionists yesterday. Well done, SNP.

  18. tartanfever says:

    ‘But nuclear weapons are no more “evil” than other forms of weapon’ – said the president nervously to his watching generals and chief of staff as he prepared himself to push the button.

    True, a gun kills just the same as an nuclear bomb, just not as efficiently. 

  19. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Again: ask the people of Dresden, whose roads melted under their feet and who suffocated to death outdoors as fire sucked all the oxygen from the air, if it’s somehow better to be targeted by “inefficient”, “conventional” weapons than nasty old nukes.

  20. Derick says:

    Spot on. Shared

  21. Strange there’s no “SNP Accused of Ditching Principles for Votes” headlines in the online press.  Standards are slipping.

  22. muttley79 says:

    This is a strange one for me.  I consider myself to be fairly left-wing and am probably against NATO.  I obviously want to get rid of Trident, that is the most important thing.  I see NATO as an American-dominated organization, that has got itself dangerously involved in Afghanistan.  The guerrilla fighters are extremely resistant and combat hardened, as they showed against the Soviets.  In addition, I personally share the view, put forward in Rev Stu’s article, that the SNP’s proposed defense budget is too high.  If we get a Yes vote the financial situation is likely to remain very difficult for us and the world as a whole.  
     
    On the other hand, there is no doubt that a degree of pragmatism is required, particularly if you want to secure major objectives.  In this case it is Scottish independence.  I think the SNP leadership are aware that the party traditionally has been seen as weak on defense policy.  Moreover, I believe that the SNP has being equally pragmatic in the past, supporting devolution in 1979 and 1997, even when a significant element of the party were unsure or even hostile.  One other point I think is worth highlighting here, it is very noticeable and evident, that this issue is a very emotional one for many.  You just need to read Robin McAlpine’s latest article to get the scale of this in the NATO debate.  Unfortunately, though emotion does not make for a good analysis of an argument. 

  23. An Duine Gruamach says:

    Luigi – I wouldn’t be too optimistic.  The press are more than capable of holding completely inconsistent positions if it means they get to attack the SNP – so this will certainly be portrayed as a major split, a deep division, “the opening of old woulnds” etc.

    Besides, this frankly sets a terrifying precedent – open debate a party conference!?  Whatever next? 

  24. ronald alexander mcdonald says:

    From a tactical position, it would surely provide  devo max supporters with comfort. Bearing in mind if any Nato country is attacked, then it’s the same as attacking any other Nato country. Therefore, we will have the protection of USA and others. A very uncomfortable position for the Unionists.

    The quid pro quo is the amount we will have to spend on defence. However, we would save £800m, as you pointed out.     

  25. balgayboy says:

    The present SG is light years ahead of the nonsense talking pro-unionist parties. They have out manoeuvred them in every aspect of the reasons why the people of Scotland should continue with the status quo. Only the uk establishment propaganda machine of the MSM and our (paid for by us) old friends in the bbc are the last hurdle to overcome to have a overwhelming YES vote. Time and Events are on our side. 

  26. YesYesYes says:

    As someone who doesn’t have high expectations of the SNP, I’m neither surprised nor disappointed with this outcome. It was a must-win issue for the leadership, which is why the SNP leadership concentrated this debate at conference. As one speaker said, the first they heard about this suggested policy shift was when they read about it in the press.
     
    It was also disingenuous of Kenny MacAskill to cite the examples of Poland and other former Soviet satellites as partial justification for this shift in policy. The reason that these former Soviet satellites signed up to NATO is that, as newly independent nation-states, they wanted to reduce their vulnerability to the potential of Russian aggression in the future. There’s no analogy with Scotland here, and it’s also patently absurd to imply that Polish people in Scotland might be minded to vote No in the referendum if Scotland isn’t publicly seen to stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Poland under the NATO umbrella.
     
    Clearly, the SNP leadership needed this issue to be settled now in its favour in order to lend more credence to the defence policy that will be outlined in next year’s white paper, they couldn’t afford to leave this issue unresolved very far into next year and that’s also why the remit was defeated.
     
    It may be true that nuclear weapons haven’t killed anyone since 1945 but have we forgotten that the ‘official’ reason that Britain entered Iraq was to remove Saddam’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’? Let’s also not forget that, whoever wins the US presidential election, there will probably be a NATO-led war before long, against Iran, for the same reason. Obama will do it because, today, he’s weaker on foreign policy than he’s ever been and needs to demonstrate US strength and leadership. Romney would do it because he’s naive and mad. Either way, this will be a NATO (i.e. US)-led war but we will be just as culpable as the Americans. Like Iraq, it will be a war that will be conducted in our name, whatever our protestations.
     
    One thing that was encouraging yesterday was the closeness of the vote. That was a surprise, at least to me. It does provide some hope for the post-2014 period that there are a significant number of people in the SNP who, after 2014, are not going to let this issue go, whatever the attractions of expediency are to the party leadership now.     

  27. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “It may be true that nuclear weapons haven’t killed anyone since 1945 but have we forgotten that the ‘official’ reason that Britain entered Iraq was to remove Saddam’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’?”

    None of which were nuclear. He certainly wanted to develop nukes, but was nowhere within reach of doing so.

    Despite the evident desire for it in much of the US, I can’t see a war against Iran in the visible future. The US can’t afford it, the UN wouldn’t back it, and without UN backing an independent Scotland with an SNP government would have nothing to do with it.

  28. Castle Rock says:

    Sorry Rev but you’ve taken this out of context “…Kenny MacAskill driving home the point that you don’t change anything with protest marches”
     
    What Kenny MacAskill said was that he’s tired of marching which is a completely different thing.
     
    I think we’re all tired of marching but until such time that we regain our independence and get our dignity back then I’m sure we’ll all still march, argue, debate, door knock, leaflet, donate money, attend conferences, staff stalls, write letters, sell and buy bloody raffle tickets, etc, etc, etc.
     
    Protest marches have gotten us to where we are now, we will all continue to do it (no matter how tired we are) until we reach our goal.
     
    Apart from that little niggle, good article.
     
    Btw, I think the conference made the right decision and it will make it easier for us to achieve our goal.
     

  29. YesYesYes says:

    Yes, we know that now. My (implied) point was that, at the time, Blair exploited the ambiguity of the position to take Britain in. At no point before the war, did Blair say, ‘We know for certain that Iraq does not have nuclear weapons but we’re going in anyway’. On the contrary, he exploited people’s fears and doubts on the issue and this ambiguity was the pretext for the British entering the war. The same thing is happening all over again with Iran.  

  30. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “My (implied) point was that, at the time, Blair exploited the ambiguity of the position to take Britain in. At no point before the war, did Blair say, ‘We know for certain that Iraq does not have nuclear weapons but we’re going in anyway’. On the contrary, he exploited people’s fears and doubts on the issue and this ambiguity was the pretext for the British entering the war.”

    That’s certainly all true, but I don’t remember any suggestion being made that Iraq posed a nuclear threat. The WMD claims were made on the basis of missiles and chemical weapons.

  31. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Sorry Rev but you’ve taken this out of context “…Kenny MacAskill driving home the point that you don’t change anything with protest marches” What Kenny MacAskill said was that he’s tired of marching which is a completely different thing.”

    I’m not sure I agree. He listed marching for CND, marching against Iraq etc – all causes in which protesting failed. His entire point was that you only effect change by being in power, and that that was why we had to change policy: to win the referendum and have the power to get nukes out of Scotland.

  32. David Smith says:

    There’s certainly a lot of grand-standing and posturing going on though. I witnessed a couple of Tornados pulling ‘toss-bombing’ type manoevres just off Berwick on Monday. May or may not be related, but I’ve not seen them do that before.

    That aside, yesterday’s vote was a marvellous display of a democratic process consigned to history in Westminster politics. Whilst I’m sceptical of many current aspects of NATO (there’s no denying it needs reform), I’m happy to sit with it until the people of an independent Scotland are given a direct say on the issue.
    Like many others here, Trident is the biggie for me and I think NATO should well prove a useful insurance policy in containing any problems in the south should Britain, as I fear it could, turn overtly fascist.   

  33. James T says:

    Rev,

    ‘It is, in fact, incredibly difficult to kill anyone with a nuclear weapon, because if you fire one it’s almost certain that the entire planet, including you, will be obliterated as a result. That’s quite a powerful disincentive.’

    Not too sure about that one. I remember Condoleeza Rice warning Iran that if it ever built the bomb, and then used it, or passed on secrets of how to make it, to say, terrorists groups, then Iran would not exist the next day. Thie hint being, the US would only nuke Iran; no one else (and Israel would be told to do and say absolutely nothing). Russia would growl but would know that this was Irans fault. On their heads be it they would say….

    If the US nuked Tehran, after say, it had dropped a dirty bomb on Israel, I don’t think Russia or China would do anything. For as long as nothing is chucked their way, I think they would be happy (or rather highly concerned) to sit on side lines and watch (very intently) as what comes next. One nuke won’t end the world. And the Big Boys will not throw them at each other. They are just too wise.

    Same with Pakistan and India; if they threw them at each other; could I see Britain launching missiles; the answer is no. Chances are, the big boys would watch and wait and see if they could benefit (somehow) from the carnage. But I don’t see China, Russia, the US or Britain joining in.

  34. YesYesYes says:

    @Rev Stuart Campbell,
     
    True. There was never an explicit claim but, as I said, it was the ambiguity of the position that the British and the Americans exploited. The UN inspection team, led by Hans Blix, were even sceptical about the claims that the British and the Americans were making about the other weapons of mass destruction allegedly held by Iraq, which is why the US were spending as much time monitoring Hans Blix at the UN as they were Saddam.

  35. pmcrek says:

    -“Sorry, but this is a daft argument. Since 1945 the world has endured countless wars, taking millions of lives. The percentage of those casualties caused by nuclear weapons has been precisely 0.00%.”

    Two a-bombs have been used aggresively in war compared to countless numbers of conventional weapons, would you like to compare the kill ratios per tonnage?

    Two 4 tonne A-bombs would have accomplished the same nightmare devestation in Dresden as the two day extensive bombing campaign involving some 1,500 aircraft that dropped 3,900 tons of bombs and incendiary devices on the city.

    -“It is, in fact, incredibly difficult to kill anyone with a nuclear weapon, because if you fire one it’s almost certain that the entire planet, including you, will be obliterated as a result. That’s quite a powerful disincentive.”

    Whether this is a certainty or not, your argument omits the fact that there were plenty of people during the cold war and even now willing to have a go at proving you right.

  36. David Smith says:

    Interesting point James T, but I imagine that using such a weapon against Iran would grant the US a  PR disaster in the eyes of the world  that would eclipse Iraq and make the president responsible an even bigger pariah than Dubya could ever have dreamed of being.

  37. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Two a-bombs have been used aggresively in war compared to countless numbers of conventional weapons, would you like to compare the kill ratios per tonnage?”

    No, because I don’t imagine the people on the ground at either Hiroshima or Dresden gave a shit. A bomb is a bomb. If you’re underneath it, how convenient or cost-effective it was for the guy dropping it on you is a very long way down your list of interests.

    “Whether this is a certainty or not, your argument omits the fact that there were plenty of people during the cold war and even now willing to have a go at proving you right.”

    And yet none of them succeeded. What does that suggest to you? That it’s easy, or that it’s difficult?

  38. pmcrek says:

    -“No, because I don’t imagine the people on the ground at either Hiroshima or Dresden gave a shit. A bomb is a bomb. If you’re underneath it, how convenient or cost-effective it was for the guy dropping it on you is a very long way down your list of interests.”

    It matters to the people paying for and dropping the bombs however. Two 4 tonne bombs versus 2 days worth of raiding and incendiaries.

    -“And yet none of them succeeded. What does that suggest to you? That it’s easy, or that it’s difficult?”

    Nuclear weapons have been around for a mere 60 odd years, its a bit too early to jump to that conclusion considering we’ve came close to annihilation at least once in that time. Further, we’ve never as a species even came close to annihilating ourselves in all the long years we’ve been around prior to that…

  39. Arbroath 1320 says:

    I think that yesterday’s NATO debate shows, yet again, that the SNP is head and shoulders above the unionist parties. I can not remember a time when any other unionist parties took such a contentious issue to their conference and held such an open debate in front of the cameras. Most decisions that the unionist parties make are made behind closed doors by the M.P.’s no one else. Here we had the M.P.’s, M.S.P.’s, councillors and others making an informed decision on a policy matter that, according to the MSM etc, splits the party. Nothing is further from the truth in my view.
     
    The SNP is a party of many colours, and as such there are always going to be members who do not agree with every policy decision that is made. This does not mean that there are splits or rifts within the party. What it does mean is that the party debates the issues, accepts the result of the debate and moves on, something the unionist parties do not appear capable f doing. Unlike the unionist parties the SNP is, in my view, a grown up party. They are not afraid to tackle to difficult questions head on. They will debate the issues and move on together as one party not as a multi faceted party that so often happens with the unionist parties.
     
    Rant over.
    Normal service will now be resumed. 😀

  40. Castle Rock says:

    Rev: “His entire point was that you only effect change by being in power”
     
    To a degree yes but to be in a position of power you still need to go through certain stages such as protests, marches, etc.  Those protests and marches should continue until you reach your goal. 
     
    Just because a protest or a march has ‘failed’ it may have succeeded in different things such as bringing awareness, informing, educating, etc. 
     
    We’re actually agreeing on the same point just coming at it from different angles.

  41. tartanfever says:

    Again: ask the people of Dresden, whose roads melted under their feet and who suffocated to death outdoors as fire sucked all the oxygen from the air, if it’s somehow better to be targeted by “inefficient”, “conventional” weapons than nasty old nukes.

    I hear what your saying rev, but the next question would be to ask the people of Dresden whether they would rather that 25,000 people were killed or 50,000, the difference between the two death tolls of Dresden and Hiroshima.

    (The death toll I quote at Hiroshima is believed to be the from the blast itself, within a few years that total had risen to between 100k-200k. The Dresden total I use is from the 4 year investigation from the Dresden council report to supply an accurate figure to the death toll, which the Nazi party in 1945 claimed to be 100k. The Dresden report actually put the total at between 18k and 25k)

    I simply don’t understand the logic of quantifying the building of more dreadful weapons on the premise that it’s ok because death is death and it doesn’t matter how many you kill or how you kill them. Nuclear weapons are a far more efficient and deadly use of force than any conventional weapon – it’s that simple.

  42. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Nuclear weapons are a far more efficient and deadly use of force than any conventional weapon – it’s that simple.”

    Except it isn’t, of course, because the death toll of conventional weapons since 1945 is millions, and the death toll of nuclear weapons in the same period is zero.

    “I hear what your saying rev, but the next question would be to ask the people of Dresden whether they would rather that 25,000 people were killed or 50,000, the difference between the two death tolls of Dresden and Hiroshima.”

    Which is why I also linked to Tokyo, where a single US raid on one day in March 1945 killed 100,000 with conventional bombs.

  43. Juteman says:

    Not trying to spoil the debate, but most of the guys at my work wouldn’t know the difference between a NATO and a LIDL. Especially the younger guys.
    Just saying.

  44. Alasdair Frew-Bell says:

    @juteman
    So true. Just who was polled to get this 75% result. If the majority of Scots are confused about what in real terms constitutes independence how can they possibly deal with the even more politically complex issue of Nato membership. Think this majority is rather fanciful.By the way the monarchy is less popular in Scotland than in England and Wales. Maybe we ought to hear more on that, 

  45. Tearlach says:

    Rev/Castle Rock – in this case you are both right (ish). The two bombs dropped on Japan in August 45 were seen at that time as a logical extension of the Hamburg/Dresden/Tokyo firestorm raid, designed to destroy whole cities, and therefore simply an extension of the strategic air war. It was only after they were used, that the quite different implications of total nuclear war were realised and then incorporated in military think of the 50’s to 80’s.

    It is also quite safe to say that modern nuclear weapons play no part in the defense of Scotland, or the UK (as we are just a satellite of the US in that regard). There is no need for us to have them, to host them or to bloody pay for the things.

    But – and this argument made me quite unpopular with CND friends back in the 80″s – at a personal level I could not condemn the use of the two bombs over Japan in 1945, as their use made my existence a fair bit more likely. You see my Dad was the Fleet Air Arm in the Pacific fleet in 1945, and his ship, and his dive bomber squadron, was part of the fleet that would have covered the initial invasion of Japan in November. Indeed the day the bomb was dropped they were at sea, heading to Formosa (Taiwan) to start offensive operations. The surrender meant that they ended up “liberating” Hong Kong instead. After the RN and US fleet losses in the Okinawa campaign, their was no illusion that invading Japan would have been very bloody indeed, with losses on both sides that would have dwarfed anything that was seen in the raids of Japan, both Atomic and conventional.

    We can argue all we want as to whether Japan would have thrown in the towel anyway, and whether they were used as a threat and demo to the Soviets, and etc etc.    But they were used, and my Dad’s ship and dive bomber’s, in whose Radio Operator’s seat he used to sit, mostly just scared) did not have to invade Japan.

    So – having had a Dad who came home whole, and an Uncle who bombed Hamburg, Berlin and Dresden, and who suffered mental illness all the rest of his life as a result – its very difficult to be judgemental about WW2 terror raids, and Atomic bombing after nearly 70 years. But its also pretty clear that Nuclear weapons have no place in any modern Scotland, and in that my Father happily agrees.

    I just now need to convince him to vote yes in 2014. Should not be that hard 🙂  

  46. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “But – and this argument made me quite unpopular with CND friends back in the 80?s – at a personal level I could not condemn the use of the two bombs over Japan in 1945”

    I can’t either. There isn’t an iota of rational dispute that they saved hundreds of thousands of lives, both American and Japanese. That’s one of the reasons I have no time for the idea that nuclear weapons are inherently more evil than any other kind of bomb.

  47. Tearlach says:

    There isn’t an iota of rational dispute that they saved hundreds of thousands of lives, both American and Japanese”

    In my case – also Scottish. Indeed two from immediate family. My Dad, and an Uncle, my mother’s Brother, both with the RN in the British Pacific. Both came home, and both still going strong almost 70 years later.

    But you must agree that Nuclear weapons are just that wee bit more “efficient” when it comes to mass murder. Does that make them more “evil”? I suppose not, and I think we both agree that there is absolutely no need for an independant Scotland to be involved in any form of military action that is illegal, and therefore “evil”.   

  48. Juteman says:

    Decent speech by AS.
     In my opinion, the ONLY thing that will convince the undecided is how it will affect their income. Most folk i know don’t care about anything else. Win the argument that they will be better off, and you win the referendum.

  49. Turnip_Ghost says:

    Sorry to go off topic! Can anyone shine any light on this? Is there a counter argument? Have I been getting it wrong when quoting this?

    https://fbcdn-sphotos-c-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-ash3/58324_366452773438370_763447262_n.jpg
     

  50. Andrew says:

    Turnip_Ghost
    It means the rest of the UK contribute 90.4% taxes and receive 90.7% of spending. That’s £553 billion in taxes and £686 billion in spending.
    Also, the £63 billion includes money spent ‘on Scotland’s behalf’ like Trident, illegal wars, Westminster, the M25, London’s sewers, etc, etc, etc.

  51. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “But you must agree that Nuclear weapons are just that wee bit more “efficient” when it comes to mass murder.”

    In physics terms, sure. But there are two metrics by which you can measure the “efficiency” of weapons. Since they’re designed to kill, you can measure how many deaths you get per pound spent. Or, since they’re theoretically designed to prevent war by deterrence, you can measure how many wars you’ve been involved in since you bought them. On either count, nuclear weapons are very inefficient indeed, because we’ve spent billions on them and never killed a single enemy, and we’ve been involved in wars constantly since arming ourselves with them.

  52. Dual_Intention says:

     We’re acutely aware of the danger of sacrificing principles for electoral pragmatism, because we’ve seen it destroy the Labour Party over the last 15 years, but as we hope we’ve shown above, NATO membership just isn’t that big a principle.

    Right enough. The principle of not wanting to be part of a military alliance which retains the right to use nukes as a  first strike option is relatively piffling. 

     

    And strong passionately held pacifist beliefs by virtually half of the delegates and probably more of the party membership should be sold out in the pursuit of power.

    It’s just that when you so openly sell out one principle, it becomes easier to sell out others; power’s what it’s all about after all.

    In terms of the wider public, John Finnie’s warning: “it’s more of the same UK.” is the real danger of this about turn.

    I want independence to offer something different. This is a step in the direction of more of the same.     
     

              

  53. scottish_skier says:

    I want independence to offer something different. This is a step in the direction of more of the same.”

    Then vote for independence, but not the SNP in 2016 if NATO is a major no-no for you. The 2016 ballot paper will offer quite a section of options and, due to the PR-type system, ensures good representation based on vote share. Sorry, but I thought this was obvious.

    Clearly, voting ‘No’ ensures you keep the nukes and NATO. 

  54. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    @Turnip Ghost

    From GERS we know that in 2010-11 the Scottish budget Costs £63.807 Billion including all debt repayment and other costs.
    The total Tax revenues raised in Scotland over the same period was £53.128 Billion which left Scotland with an estimated net fiscal balance deficit of £10.7 billion (or 7.4 per cent of GDP) when an illustrative geographical share of North Sea revenue is included (just like if we were independent).

    In 2010-11, the equivalent UK position including 100 per cent of North Sea revenue, referred to in the UK Public Sector Accounts as ‘net borrowing’, was a deficit of £136.1 billion (or 9.2 per cent of GDP). This means that Scotland pays for itself better than the UK as a whole and as such our finances would be sounder as an independent nation.
    But the Union is the gift that keeps on giving (aren’t we lucky!). Scotland was allocated a share of that UK wide deficit which was added to the nation’s debt balance. The debt added to Scotland’s account was £11.432 Billion from a per capita split of the UK deficit.

    Based on Scotland’s own finances we should have only received an increase in debt levels of £10.7 Billion, or in other words £732 Million that was not run up by, or spent on Scotland, has been added to our share of the debt 

    This is an invisible subsidy by Scotland to the rest of the UK that allows them to say we don’t raise enough taxes to cover our costs, yet happily forgetting to mention that neither does the UK as a whole and that by being tied to the UK, Scotland has been running up (and paying for) far greater debt than we should have had if we were independent.
    It’s a bit like going out to lunch with your friend and getting a £9 main course, while your friend gets a starter and main for £11. When the bill comes your friend goes £10 each, thereby charging YOU £1 for the meal THEY ate. Now you may not mind once or twice, but if this has been going on for 30 years and all the time your friend calls you a scrounger living off their money that should be lucky to go to lunch with them (afterall they take you to all the nice places… the UN Security Council canteen, NATO’s sandwich shop, etc…) then something has to change.
    In summary, Scotland has 8.4 per cent of the UK population, we contribute 9.6 per cent of the taxes and in return we get 9.3 per cent of spending. Or to put it another way, we are more financially sound than the rest of the UK. 

  55. Iain says:

     
    scottish_skier says:
    ‘Clearly, voting ‘No’ ensures you keep the nukes and NATO.’
     
    Something that should be hammered home again and again.
    Nae hope versus a wee smidgeon of hope.

  56. Juteman says:

    “And strong passionately held pacifist beliefs by virtually half of the delegates and probably more of the party membership should be sold out in the pursuit of power.”
     
     Sorry, but the delegates and party membership are already Yes voters.
    AS is trying to go for the main prize that we all want. Scotlands position with Nato will be decided in the first GE in an independent Scotland.

  57. Arbroath 1320 says:

    Turnip Ghost perhaps this might help.
     
    http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=380284938716186&set=a.136650206412995.35100.136640179747331&type=1&theater
     
    I watched A.S. give his speech this afternoon and thought it was quite good. Nice to see the odd dig at the Tories early on as well. 😀
     
    As usual Curtice has his fingers on the pulse of the nation, if I heard him correctly. Apparently, we Scots are split 50/50 over the renewal of Trident. Now hat is a new one on me.

  58. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Right enough. The principle of not wanting to be part of a military alliance which retains the right to use nukes as a  first strike option is relatively piffling.”

    “First strike” is a meaningless concept. All it means is “If we’re going to lose a war, we reserve the right to use whatever means are necessary to try to avert defeat”, which is what ANY army or alliance would do when the chips were down. As I’ve said before, the artificial distinction between using nuclear bombs and “normal” ones is a childish indulgence. Both are designed with the sole purpose of blowing up and killing people.

    “And strong passionately held pacifist beliefs by virtually half of the delegates and probably more of the party membership should be sold out in the pursuit of power.”

    Well, a bit less than half the delegates, because there was a vote and they lost. And the whole point of delegates is to speak for the members. That’s why they’re called delegates – local parties have delegated responsibility to them to express their opinion on their behalf.

    The logic of your argument is that if we win the referendum 52-48, the Unionists can refuse to accept it because 48% is “nearly half”. I’m sure you can see how silly that sounds. It was close, but it was entirely democratic and the pro-NATO side won. Time to move on.

  59. Juteman says:

    O/T, but i guess the Bitter Together mob must have been down in London today?
    The booing at Ed not Red sounded pretty familiar.

  60. YesYesYes says:

    @Arbroath 1320,
     
    I agree, though I personally prefer listening to Salmond when he has a bit more fire in his belly than was evident today. Having said that, this was a very measured speech and much more engaging than either Miliband’s or Cameron’s – OK, that’s not saying very much, but there it is.
     
    There were a couple of good jokes, I particularly liked the “incompetent Lord Snooties” line. There were a few new announcements, the investment by ‘3’ and the rolling out of the Family Nurse Partnership pilots.
     
    There were also a couple of memorable lines:
     
    “Have no doubt, what was gained with devolution can only now be guaranteed with independence”.
     
    “Just think of it. Labour, the party which brought the country to its financial knees, unites with the Tories, the party of omnishambles, to tell Scotland that we are uniquely incapable as a nation”.
     
    I also liked the ‘dividing lines’ tone of the speech. This is what I’d like to hear much more of, both from the SNP and the Yes campaign. When it comes down to it, it’s really Scottish Labour voters, or a significant minority of them, that we need to win over. A few months ago, the Fabians did a Scottish poll that showed that some 20% of Scottish Labour voters support independence. I’d guess that most of the remaining 80% of Scottish Labour voters form the vast majority of those who’re telling pollsters that they’d like more powers, though they’re not (yet) convinced of the arguments for independence.
     
    From this perspective, Salmond’s speech, and tone, today makes a lot more sense and he still managed to keep the party faithful happy. Not a bad day’s work.

  61. Juteman says:

    I think this was his quote of the day. It’s a winner.

    “Instead of telling people in Scotland what they can do. They tell us what we can’t do.”

    I promise to buy some gear if you stick that on a long sleeved top and a mug, Stu. 😉

  62. muttley79 says:

    I watched Salmond’s speech this afternoon.  Is it just me or did anybody else think it was a little flat?  One thing that stood out for me was something John Curtice said.  Curtice said that the No parties, Labour, Conservatives, and Lib Dems, would basically have to offer something concrete to the Scottish electorate, and it would have to be agreed or a binding promise.  He has said this before, however, this time he said it with what appeared to be a sense of purpose and urgency.  Curtice was going on about how the No campaign were still doing well in the polls, but I got the sense that he knows that offering nothing to the voters will see a Yes victory.  Given what Scottish_Skier has been saying about the polls I thought that was significant. 

    On the point that people can’t see what difference independence would bring, you just have to look at the extensive list of reserved powers to see the value in getting a Yes win.  This includes removing Trident, welfare, Energy, Tax powers, including all income tax, corporation tax, VAT etc, defense, Crown estates, Banking regulation, currency, chance to set up a Central Bank in the future, establishing our own Constitution and probably loads more.  Honestly, just because the SNP will probably set out a conservative vision of independence, does not mean you have to vote for them in elections after independence.  What matters is getting the powers so that we can build a better nation.

  63. scottish_skier says:

    @muttley79

    John Curtice may apparently not be a big fan of independence (Labour?), but he’s still an intelligent man. He knows fine well what polls are saying to those with a trained eye. He also understands what is going to happen; i.e. a largely concrete immediate post-independence plan – agreed with all external parties (rUK, EU, NATO, UN) – will be presented to the electorate well ahead of referendum day. The lack of the same from the no camp for what powers etc Scotland gets if it stays in the union (none) is very apparent to him.

  64. muttley79 says:

    @s_s
     
    Yes, don’t know who Curtice supports, but he did look concerned.  The unionist politicians have as well over at least the last few months.  It has got to be what their polling is telling them.  They will never mention this because it will blow the whole, “we are so far ahead of them” thing out of the water.  Funnily enough, I think it was David Torrance, might have been someone else, said that he was told by the SNP that their own private polling showed that the gap was less than was made out by others.

  65. Macart says:

    Probably more anti than pro nato myself, but yesterdays debate was won by the better, more pragmatic argument on the day. Will the SNP remain pro nato having gotten rid of the nukes eventually? Who can say? Unlike some I’ve seen on other threads today I’m not throwing the baby out wi the bath water. I still absolutely believe that the SNP are anti-trident, I still also absolutely believe they would not send the troops of an independent Scotland to participate in illegal wars. Personally I’m kind of hopeful that Washington does throw a hissy fit and puts the kibosh on nato membership, but if wishes were fishes………….

    What matters is that democracy was seen to be done. Like it or not, the popular opinion amongst the electorate is for a defence free of trident, but tied to a strong common defence pact such as nato. The SNP are not a party of protest, but a party of government and whilst ignoring the electoate’s wishes could and would be seen as an entirely principled stance by many, the majority of the public may see the issue somewhat differently had the vote gone otherwise.

    No deal breaker for me, I’m still voting yes. 

  66. scottish_skier says:

    @muttley.

    Yes, there are many polls which we will never see. If e.g. the Yes campaign pay for one, all the info is theirs and we will never see it. Only if results are published does the pollster who carried it out need to divulge all the tabulated data in detail under BPC rules.

    Also, the questions being asked will be ‘Would you consider voting Yes in 2014?’, ‘What would be most important in securing your vote?’ etc.

    I’d love to see the results of such surveys.

    As for Prof Curtice, he has likely sat in rooms with old ladies saying ‘I’d love Scotland to be independent, but it’s a bit uncertain, so, right now, I’d probably vote No. However, if I knew more about…’ Which obviously does not show up in major pollster results in a meaningful way. However, he understands love for Westminster rule is not strong in Scotland and current basic Y/N polls are a very poor predictor for what will happen, certainly at this stage.

  67. Andrew says:

    I think and hope we will hear a lot more about the “independence dividend” over the next couple of years.

  68. muttley79 says:

    s_s
     
    You seem to know a lot about polls, is there anyway they are biased?  I know they got last year’s Holyrood election horribly wrong.  Also, do they disclose what question they have asked on independence or do they keep it secret?  It looks like the referendum question will either be the original one Salmond first said in the Scottish parliament, or something very similar, with maybe a slight change.  Therefore, it is not as if the polling companies don’t now have an idea of what the question at least might be.

  69. Angus McLellan says:

    That “SDF set-up costs would mean higher defence budgets in early years” thing is, IMHO, doubtful. Sure, whether the model is Denmark (Angus Robertson) or less (Stuart Crawford & Richard Marsh’s report), there would be capital costs. After all, a divvy-up of UK assets cannot provide all of the big-ticket items that Crawford & Marsh envisage, never mind anything on the scale of Denmark.
    But of the £40 billion or so UK spending on defence Scotland would automatically inherit nothing very much. You’d have to do things – negotiate with rUK, sign orders, recruit people – to put whatever sort of SDF it is that you imagine in place. Until you do, nothing happens. But let’s hope parliament agrees with your imagineering when it comes to set the budget, otherwise you could have signed up for a lot of stuff that will not be useful.
    Much safer to assume that the SDF would have to be created from scratch rather than magically springing into existence. Recruiting and organising new armed forces would take quite a long time. That’s particularly true in the branches of the military who wear blue as any transferees are unlikely to be trained in exactly the sorts of things an SDF would want them to be doing. And those branches of the military are precisely the ones where capital costs are highest. For example, there’s little point in having second-hand RN frigates or RAF Typhoons ready to go on I-Day if it will take years to train people.
    So even if the model chosen is the Danish one, with by far the greatest capital procurement costs there’s no reason to suppose that start-up costs would be a problem. Well, not unless you think that you’d have to buy everything at once, but I think we just covered why that isn’t a great idea.
    There are very few things in the defence line that you’d call must-haves. You can figure out what they are by looking at the one country in Europe which has no army. Iceland has a coast guard with ships, patrol aircraft and helicopters. It has paramilitary police who do special forces-style mad stuff and bomb squad work. Those are the things you’d want to be able to do at an early date, on I-Day if at all possible.
    If Yes is the answer, there’s nothing to stop Kenny MacAskill telling the police to get to work on creating Scotland’s equivalent of GSG9 or GIGN (Europe’s better known police-based special forces) right away, without waiting until I-Day to start. And MacAskill and Richard Lochhead’s departments could start looking into stop-gap contracts to provide helicopters for search and rescue and some extra ships and aircraft for patrol work. There are plenty of companies who are in the business of providing these kinds of services. Some of them already work for Marine Scotland, the MCA and DEFRA, as well as foreign governments. 
    Even creating an intelligence service, something that exercised Crawford & Marsh and press reporting of their study, could be kicked off pre-Indy. Just because it’s spy-stuff doesn’t mean there isn’t a heap of information on costs and staffing for intelligence services out there. New Zealand’s intelligence services (NZSIS, the equivalent of MI5/MI6, and GCSB, the equivalent of GCHQ) employ around 500 people and have a declared budget of £60 million. (For comparison, a population share of the UK intelligence budget is £200 million.)
    So, yes, defence is important, but because its important it shouldn’t be rushed. Don’t just do something, stand there (and think about it first). If the sorts of things I suggested were covered then defence and the SDF could wait its turn in the queue.

  70. scottish_skier says:

    @muttley

    Certain yougov polls for Scotland are problematic due to their weighting methods, notably Y/N, Westminster VI intention and also WVI subsets in UK polls. Take great care with these!

    In terms of the 2011 election, the polls did not get it wrong. Labour got a sudden lead out of nowhere based on the return of the Tories. What the polls did not show, was that the lead was ridiculously soft, hence it collapsed as rapidly as it ‘anomalously’ appeared ahead of the 2010 UKGE.

    If we take Y/N polls; the Yes was out in front last Christmas comfortably. That does not go away (in terms of people wanting independence), but can appear to if you just take the basic three options (Y/N/U) as indicating love independence, love Westminster and not sure. That is a very basic mistake to make if you do that.

    Also, in terms of standard poll to poll variance, if we e.g. take Westminster intention, one poll can give Labour 3 points ahead and another a few days later 12 points. Variance for polls is big. For Y/N over the past year it’s up to +/-14%. It is due to the complexities of polling notably the different way questions are asked plus methodologies.

    I would doubt that pollsters would fudge results – it is in their business interests to be accurate. However, while they may have lots of clever statistical ways to weight data, it does not mean they understand what it is telling them, especially if they are asking a very simplistic set of questions which do not reflect reality (e.g. they always ask what you would vote tomorrow, rather than two years from now based on a specific sequence of events), the poll is on Scotland and they are operating out of London….

  71. Jeannie says:

    I think one of the main ways to persuade people to vote Yes is to demonstrate that it will result in an increase in jobs.  I was saying to my son the other day that he should now be thinking about what a Yes vote would mean for him in terms of increased job opportunities, not least within the Civil Service, and to start thinking about it now and take whatever courses he needs to take to make himself eligible.  He has 3-4 years advanced warning.  How many other young people are thinking about this and starting to make preparations now?
    Leaving areas such as defence and foreign affairs under Westminster control is simply denying job opportunities to our own kids, so devo-max options make no sense to me, even if it were possible to get it through the Westminster Parliament.
    We’ll need new jobs in so many areas – tax, welfare, defence, foreign affairs, regulatory bodies, justice and international law, tourism, agriculture, fisheries…..the list goes on and on.  I wonder if our colleges and universities are offering the appropriate courses for our students yet.
    Why would anybody think it was a good idea to turn down the chance of all these extra jobs at a time when one of the main things people say they are worried about is unemployment.  It’s no accident that the Labour Party continually harp on about this at every opportunity……they know it’s of major concern.
    If we prepare now and there’s still a No vote, we won’t have lost anything by trying to prepare for it, but I think if you’re going to persuade people on anything, it won’t be NATO, it’ll be jobs.

  72. Jeannie says:

    Having said that, I don’t think the SNP leadership had much option at this point in time but to advocate staying in Nato  Although I do think jobs are the main issue, in the event of a close vote, Nato membership could swing it for some people, so if the main goal is a Yes vote, and their background research indicates that for some people it will be something that could move some undecideds into the No camp, then he’d be crazy to advocate ruling Nato out.  But I would hope that’s not the only reason for staying in Nato.  So long as we get rid of Trident, I can live (I hope) with Nato membership, though in an ideal world, I’d probably prefer not to be a member.
    And if I’m rambling, it’s because of all the cold medicine I’m taking.

  73. muttley79 says:

    @s_s
     
    Cheers for that.  It is a lot more complicated than I realised.  In a way I think it is good that the polls are the way they are.  It means that the Yes campaign know the scale of the task and the effort needed to win the referendum.  In Scotland I always think people are more worried about admitting support for either the SNP, or independence, because it is not the ‘Establishment’ position, or maybe due to other pressures.  The polls could find this very difficult to pick up.  Blair Jenkins only admitted his support for independence earlier this year (not that there is anything wrong with that), probably due to his profession.  I suspect there is a number of individuals in this position.

  74. scottish_skier says:

    @muttley

    Heard of the ‘Shy Tory Factor’?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shy_Tory_Factor

    I’d imagine a ‘Shy Independence Factor’ also exists. After all, not so long ago you could be fired for supporting Scottish independence. Even today, people are nervous about saying they support independence in public lest someone calls them ‘anti-English’ or the like. However, they will vote yes. Watch TV interviews of members of the public and you’ll see it. Putting those who are confident to say yes aside, for many it is the expression on the face, slight nervousness, then ‘Well, aye, ah don’t know, but maybe we should possibly give it a go’. This person is a definite yes, not a maybe at all. Then there are the ones that genuinely say ‘It’s a nice idea, but..’. You’ll get a yes from them too because put them in the polling booth and they’ll think ‘What the hell, one more Y won’t affect things and what’s the worst that can happen’. 

  75. Jeannie says:

    @muttley79
    Isn’t it mind-boggling that in Scotland you cover up your support for independence in case you’re thought of as mentally deranged, deluded or of racist tendencies simply for thinking it might be a good idea to take a good look at how we do things and seeing if we can create something better and fairer for our family, friends and fellow citizens? what does this say about our cultural values?
      But in this country, many people fear the disapproval of their peers far more than they fear anything else, so they just never speak up.
    So, it falls to those of us who couldn’t give a damn what other people think of us to say it loud and proud – “I’m voting Yes!”
     

  76. muttley79 says:

    @s_s
     
    Yes, good points.  In addition, it is really not so long ago that Labour dominated Scotland, really up to the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.  I wonder if some people know, or at least, pretty sure, they are going to vote Yes, but are being careful about not making their intentions public. This is because if there is a No vote, they fear some ‘revenge’ in the future from a fired up Labour?  A kind of a settling of scores.  The way people, such as Davidson, Lamont etc are acting at the moment maybe means voters, particularly public figures, are erring on the side of caution.

  77. Bill C says:

    Alex Salmond’s speech today was meant to reach ordinary people. It by-passed the glitzy soundbites used by Cameron, Clegg and Milliband and instead spelled out how constitutional change, that very dry concept for most folk, could change their lives for the better and therin lies the key to winning independence.
    Most people I speak to, fail to connect independence with improving their lot and society as a whole. They are used to the Labour mantra that the Tories are bad and Labour is good. They fail to realise that Labour for many years now have been playing to two audiences. One here in Scotland and the other in Middle England. Two audiences with two very different social and ideological receptors.
    Today Alex Salmond started work on demolishing the myth that Labour defend ordinary people. For me two words summed up his entire speech “human decency”. That is what Alex and as he acknowledged today, many others, have spent their entire lives fighting for. “Human decency” can and will only be delivered by an independent Scotland.
    Today Alex Salmond explained to the people of Scotland why independence is vital in the fight for a socially just and inclusive Scotland. Today Alex Salmond explained in detail why independence is relevant to ordinary Scots. I look forward to more of the same in the coming months.  
    Re. John Curtice I read somewhere recently that he is an ex candidate for the Lib Dems. SS is right an intelligent guy who I think is reading between  the lines and doesn’t like what he sees!

  78. Angus McLellan says:

    @Skier: You may be right about “shy independence”. If you’d have asked people twenty years ago you’d have got a lot more flat denials that independence could possibly work. Those reflexive No voters are much less common, so much so that I was actually a little surprised to see someone saying that last Friday during a BBC vox pop sample.
    The fuss over the relative surplus issue tells us that no matter the spin they put out, the Better Together crowd aren’t all that confident. They know that losing the referendum means the end of the Union and, whatever the polls say today, they know that referendums have been lost starting from a similar position.
    The AV referendum, which turned from a question about electoral reform in general into a vote on AV in particular, shows that. If the referendum can be portrayed as independence vs a host of other possibilities – jam tomorrow, Douglas Home rule, federalism – Better Together can win. If, on the other hand, a substantial number of soft or undecided voters come to see it as Independence vs the status quo, they’ll more than likely lose. So, yes, convincing people of the benefits of independence is important, but it’s just as important to discredit the idea that there are other options. Alan Trench hit the nail on the head here: the gulf between ‘independence’ and ‘greater self-government’ for Scotland within the Union is greater than many think.

  79. Marcia says:

    Something for SS to get his teeth into tomorrow. Saw this comment on NNS

    from twitter,

    Pat Kane?@thoughtland

    A birdie tells me, @YesScotland -ers: Some happy-making poll data in Sunday papers tomorrow. The mo’ may be movin’.
      

  80. Dual_Intention says:

    “First strike” is a meaningless concept.

    Hmm! Don’t quite take your meaning of “meaningless”. The concept of MAD and limited theatres of nuclear war within Europe were seriously discussed in the past.  And if you think that type of mentality isn’t prevalent within NATO/America now, you’re kidding yourself on. 

    As I’ve said before, the artificial distinction between using nuclear bombs and “normal” ones is a childish indulgence.
       

    This crosses the line in terms of sanity. Are you saying that all of the impassioned, intelligent and sincere delegates who wanted to remain anti-NATO and anti-Nuclear were being childishly indulgent? You insult both their intelligence and their integrity. I take it you’re being satirical in a Dr Strangelove manner?
       

    It was close, but it was entirely democratic and the pro-NATO side won. Time to move on.

    Absolutely. And, as seems to be the consensus, it was to the party’s credit that they held this vote in the full glare of a watching Scotland.

    In some ways though, I think it would have been better if the motion had been carried more convincingly by the party. The result reflects a deep division over a long standing deeply held principle. I just hope the inevitable fallout of discontent doesn’t start manifesting itself in other ways which damage the referendum’s chances.
       

    It should never be forgotten that, effectively, the United States has usurped NATO, and NATO has usurped the UN system. This vote and your piece means that you, the SNP and the majority of your commenters are happy to go along with that implicit thralldom to the United States. I just hope it doesn’t prove to be an ‘unpardonable folly’ by Alex in the quest for independence.

  81. scottish_skier says:

    “I just hope the inevitable fallout of discontent doesn’t start manifesting itself in other ways which damage the referendum’s chances.”  

    Nope. Chill out. Nothing to be worried about. Why on earth would there be. 

  82. Scott Douglas says:

    Realpolitik took over……………..as it should.
     
    We need to win this referendum and if compromising on membership of a war mongers club gets us there I’ll take it.

  83. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “This crosses the line in terms of sanity. Are you saying that all of the impassioned, intelligent and sincere delegates who wanted to remain anti-NATO and anti-Nuclear were being childishly indulgent?”

    No. The two things are, absolutely explicitly, not linked. I totally respect people being anti-NATO, and I’m anti-nuclear myself. The SNP’s new policy is completely clear that NATO membership is conditional on getting rid of Trident. But pretending that nuclear weapons are magically somehow morally different to other weapons, yes, that absolutely IS childish and indulgent and unbefitting for grown intelligent adults. All bombs are designed for the same purpose. Pretending otherwise is embarrassing.

  84. Arbroath 1320 says:

    Any one who missed Alex salmond’s speech can view it here.
     
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Hg7rCECcgVY

  85. Marcia says:

    from Twitter:

    Gerry Hassan?@GerryHassan
    Sensational #SundayTimes poll on #indyref shows how fear of Tory Govt can produce a Yes majority. Could be game changer! #SNP12
      from Political Betting:

    A MAJORITY of Scots would vote for independence if they believed the Conservatives were going to win the next British election, according to a ground-breaking new poll.

    It suggests that antipathy towards David Cameron’s party in Scotland, where it has only one MP, could prove a decisive factor as Scots decide whether to remain in the union with England.

    The Panelbase poll of nearly 1,000 Scots for The Sunday Times and Real Radio Scotland found that support for independence stands at 37%, while 45% are opposed and 17% are undecided.

    But when asked how they would vote in the 2014 referendum if they believed the following year’s UK general election would lead to a Tory-led government or another Tory-Lib Dem coalition, support for independence surges. The poll found that 52% would be likely to vote Yes under that scenario while 40% said they would be likely to vote No and 8% are unsure.

  86. Morag says:

    Hmmm.  Bitter Together are going to go batshit crazy when YES actually takes an unequivocal lead without the ifs and buts.
     
    If this does nothing else, it shows what Scottish Skier has been banging on about for weeks.  How soft the so-called no vote is.  The number of persuadables is absolutely fine.

  87. Morag says:

    I was nowhere near Conference, couldn’t even watch on TV, because I’d inadvertently double-booked.  I was at a choral workshop on Renaissance polyphonic music in Greyfriars.  I wore my “All our base….” sweatshirt, because the organisers had helpfully emailed everyone saying that the church might be a bit chilly for a four-hour sing.
     
    Right at the start the chorus master, who had just got off a train from Durham, walked over and asked me what the sweatshirt was all about.  (He said, “shouldn’t it be “all our bases?”).  I said, no there’s only one base.  What it’s saying is that when we win independence we can get rid of Trident from Faslane.  He grinned and said, well. you’re well on your way.
     
    The first (and so far only) person to ask me about that bloody slogan turns out to be a total stranger from the south of England who was only here for one day at the northern end of a whistle-stop tour.  Does that mean everyone else already gets it, or Scots are too reticent to ask (like that’s likely!) or what?

  88. douglas clark says:

    I am, perhaps for the first time ever, not entirely reconciled to the Rev Stu’s opinion. Nuclear weapons as not the same as conventional weapons. They were the stuff of nightmares for me in the early sixties when the prospect of MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction – and ‘Nuclear Winter’ were likely to make this world uninhabitable for anything much above the cockroach level. They are a huge extension of the idea of taking the war to the civillians, and, nowadays any sizeable population centre would be completely obliterated. They would be the lucky ones. The rest of us would be poisoned at a genetic level by the amounts of radioactivity released. Assuming that the fireballs would not blanket the Earth in dust and smoke and freeze us all to death first.
     
    I agree with pmcreck @ !:54pm when he or she said:
    Nuclear weapons have been around for a mere 60 odd years, its a bit too early to jump to that conclusion considering we’ve came close to annihilation at least once in that time.
    I recall the Cuban missile crisis. I had a temporary job at the time and people were genuinely concerned that it would go ‘hot’. ‘See you on Monday’ had a bit more meaning that Friday.
     
     

  89. Angus McLellan says:

    @Marcia: The fact that something as ephemeral as the prospect of five more years of Tory govt would make people change their minds on the indyref to such an extent shows how soft the vote is. And how much work remains to be done to convince people. But if five years of Dave is enough to get that sort of swing, just think what some solid arguments and a bit of confidence will do.
    I have a little project on the go myself. Nothing defence-related (although I have one of those too). I’ve started looking at the companies quoted on the S&P Global 100 list and I’m trying to figure out which of them might be expected – looking at other small European countries, specifically Denmark, Ireland and Slovakia to start with – to open a national office in Scotland if they don’t have one today, and what that might mean in terms of jobs. Then I’ll look at embassies and the like.
    It’s all well and good to say things can improve with Yes, but it’s better to make the argument come alive if possible. Saying “well there would be growth” is vague. Saying “Look at Bratislava; companies X and Y and Z would likely be opening offices in Scotland if we were independent” or “Look at Dublin; there would likely be about X embassies in Edinburgh, which means about Y jobs and £Z in money” is a bit more real.
    If people do manage to imagine an independent Scotland which is just that little bit better than the one the can see from out their windows today, even if it’s just for a minute, that could make it a little bit easier for them to vote for it when then time comes.

  90. scottish_skier says:

    @Marcia.

    Their underlying ‘current figures’ of 37Y/45N look more in line with running recent averages.

    The surge at the prospect of the Tories is something I’ve said before at various times; Scotland will not remain in the union under a Tory Government.

    Good to see polls asking useful questions. 

    Now, can Dave get his boundary changes through? If they had been in place right now, we’d have a Tory majority…

  91. scottish_skier says:

    Here is the Sunday Times poll article:

    http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/uk_news/scotland/article1153569.ece 

    The fact that Scotland will not remain in the UK under a Tory or Tory-led UK government means independence is inevitable. Dave knows it but still wants to win in 2015…

  92. tartanfever says:

    SS – what’s going on with these polls ? I haven’t being paying much attention, I thought over the last couple of weeks we had dropped to 28% or thereabouts ?  Even as we stand they had a ‘Yes’ support @ 37%.
    Did we have ‘dodgy’ wording on one of those polls last week ? 

  93. scottish_skier says:

    @tartanfever

    The last couple of polls have been at the lower edge of variance; which is +/-14% over the past year or so. It is a complex picture due to many factors (question asked, weighting methods, people thinking about devo max, concerns over currency, EU etc). There probably has been a bit of a drop since the Y was ahead of the N last Christmas in the post SNP win euphoria. However, polls are asking what people would vote for tomorrow, not in two years time. At the moment, independence looks uncertain. However, when defence, currency, EU etc are all confirmed ahead of the vote with respective external parties, it will not look scary anymore. Then add in the prospect of a Tory win….

    The no vote is very soft; core is only ~ 1/3.

    Negotiations with the EU, rUK etc will continue up until the white paper spells it all out. In the meantime, we should see the boundary changes shape up to be passed. If they were in place right now, we’d have a Tory majority and the referendum result would be guaranteed Y.

    Scotland will not remain in the union under the Tories or a Tory-led government. This means independence is inevitable. And Dave wants to win in 2015. 

    If we don’t quite pull it off in 2014, then we’ve got 2015 and 2016, ad infinitum…. I imagine both governments would rather it was sorted in 2014 however.

  94. Appleby says:

    Stu, I think I saw the disc-shooting robot that you based your icon on (or it got it from the same source you did). Was surprising when I saw it and immediately thought of this place.

  95. TYRAN says:

    Bonkers Together won’t mention that Times poll. Rather odd as they love all that stuff, getting someone to make little graphs and charts to use on Twitter and the like.

  96. scottish_skier says:

    @Tyran

    No, I don’t imagine they will. After all, they are faced with the impossible task of convincing the electorate that it’s really all ok, honestly, for Scotland to be ruled by the Tories. 

    I love the idea of the no campaign red rosettes turning up at doors with Tories in tow.  

  97. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Appleby: my avatar is in fact a Space Invader. (Specifically the monster from the side of the arcade cabinet.)

  98. Appleby says:

    Cheers, Stu. So that Robot packaging must have nobbled the design from the cabinet then! Naughty, as it had no “Space Invaders” (or Taito, etc.) logos or such to indicate any connection or branding. The pose and outline was identical. Now that I’ve seen the cabinet images online I can recognise maybe a couple of other shapes and design elements it has pinched too.

  99. Alan says:

    Most opinion polls are rigged. And the nukes don’t work. Happy to provide any more information as is required.
     

  100. Lewis MacKenzie says:

    Disagree with those who voted to stay in NATO (an institution which has technically outlived its mandate), but I can’t really disagree with the decision itself, given that it was made democratically. And it’s hard to argue with that 75% figure (although I don’t doubt part of that percentage has to do with the framing of the question).

    Surprised at this, though:

    This is something that’s puzzled us for decades, frankly. We really don’t get the hysterical opposition to nuclear weapons as opposed to other kinds of weapons. 

    I think it’s maybe something to do with their potential to annihilate just about everyone on the planet and leave the earth a barren, irradiated wasteland for whoever is left. Not sure though. Of course nuclear war doesn’t seem like a very likely prospect at the moment, that’s true. But I envy the confidence of those who think that nuclear weapons will never again be used – never is an awfully bloody long time, after all. The problem I have with the argument that because the likely consequences of nuclear war are so abominable that no sane leader would ever enter into one are twofold: 1. Not all leaders are necessarily all that sane, and we have no idea what kind of leaders the future might have in store for us; and 2. because the likely consequences of nuclear war are so abominable that the improbability of nuclear war is irrelevant. Incidentally, believing that doesn’t mean I think it’s “OK” to kill people with conventional weapons instead.

  101. Gregor says:

    Angus Robertson’s point that you describe as “crushingly right” was in fact, exceptionally disingenuous. 

    The SNP might have only won 44% of the vote. Great. If the SNP can convince 44% of the electorate to vote “Yes” in 2014, I’ll be happy.

    It’s a disgraceful slur on our partners in Yes Scotland. That 44% with the Green’s 6% and the Socialist’s couple of percent, and the non-aligned percentages and the pro-indy Labour voters and the like, will win the day. Not the SNP alone. Spectacular arrogance from a spectacularly arrogant man.  

  102. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    The Greens got 4.4% on the list vote (and 0% on the constituency vote), not 6%. And the two Socialist parties got nowhere near 2%.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_Parliament_general_election,_2011

    Even the combined vote of those four parties doesn’t reach 50%.

  103. Gregor says:

    I was going with current polling rather than the last election results, but even if you take the 2011 election results, are you really going to say that every person who voted for say, Malcolm Chisholm, is going to vote No? Don’t think so. Plus there’s Margo’s personal vote that extends well without the Lothians I’d say. The SNP don’t need to win over 50% of the vote by watering down their policies – that’ll lose as many voters as win folk over. It’s brilliant that they’re letting Yes Scotland get on with things; they shouldn’t be throwing that away by undermining them in such ways. 



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