Should we relax our Trident plans for #indyref2?
There was an article this week in The Herald by Phillips O’Brien who is a Professor of Strategic Studies at the University of St Andrews. It made me think of our Trident plan from the last indyref. In it he points out how the weakness of the current UK defence force is an opportunity for the Scottish Government.
Do not think for a moment that Britain’s Allies in North America and Europe are not aware of the growing weakness of Britain’s defence posture and the impact of Brexit? They have remarked on it widely and, were Scotland to have another independence vote, they would not intervene nearly so much as before to try to convince Scots to maintain the status quo. If the SNP and the Yes campaign develop their policies in a centrist, cooperative way, they could turn what was the biggest handicap in the last campaign into a possible plus. They could run on confirming Scotland’s commitment to European institutions and Nato.
It would mean that, far from using defence issues to try to scare Scotland into voting to stay in the Union, America and the EU would, at worst, stay out of the fray and, at best, might look benignly on what would be a reconfirmation of European unity.
The EU referendum result and the continued decline of the UK as a great power has made the Yes Scotland position stronger on this and many other issues. With that in mind, I think that an argument could be made for not focusing on getting rid of our nuclear deterrent next time:
- The first reason I say this is that the Scottish public are split on the idea. We discussed this before so I won’t go into too much detail. However, independence should be about having a country that delivers laws that reflect what Scots think. If Scots are divided on Trident, there is no point making removing it a big pledge even if it pleases most previous yes voters. A decision can be made post referendum on the issue.
- Secondly, Trident is a big negotiating chip. There are no real suitable places to have it other than in Scotland. If the UK wants to keep it then we could potentially let them use Faslane for a time period in exchange for other concessions. Even if we end up keeping the weapons on Scottish soil we shouldn’t show our hand before the negotiations begin.
- Thirdly, by not proposing to immediately get rid of Trident we silence one of the key arguments against our plans during last campaign. Given the UK military cuts described by the professor in the quoted article above, keeping Trident means we can’t be accused of being soft on defence. As we said in the last blog, we should try to frame the next debate on our own terms. We can eliminate our opponent’s points before they have a chance to raise them.
I would argue that on issues where the public are divided we need to be less radical in the white paper. There will be lots of other areas where we can be bold and still have majority support. Avoiding contentious issues will make the most important thing, winning a second independence referendum, more easy. There will be plenty of time to deal with Trident post independence.
We would love to know what you think in the comments below.