Last week I received an email from a friend in England who seemed amazed that independence issues like the forced removal of Trident and NATO membership were getting quite radical coverage in the Scottish media. Their surprise was framed in a way that suggested few people south of the border are fully aware of the scale of the Scottish independence debate and the potential it has to force nuclear disarmament on the UK.
There is no doubt that independence is a subversive demand that will not be won without a fight but, as such, it has created a political forum for expressing what would traditionally be considered 'subversive' ideas in the mainstream. Scotland's first minister and leader of the largest pro-independence party has announced that an independent Scotland would constitutionally outlaw nuclear weapons and enforce Trident's 'speediest, safe removal', whether Westminster likes it or not.
The issue of an independent Scotland having NATO membership has barely left the newspapers since the SNP announced they would be debating it at their party conference in October. Conversations on independence are now starting to take the format of 'what kind of country would I like Scotland to be?' and the pro-independence argument, contrary to being innately nationalistic, has assumed a radical, internationalist nature, even in the media.
Despite this, the SNP are taking a populist stance of watering down their more radical policies to ensure winning the independence referendum first and foremost, thus pandering to defence scaremongering on the NATO issue, for 'why would the average Sun or Daily Mail reader vote for a defenceless Scotland?'
The surprise announcement that the SNP will constitutionally outlaw nuclear weapons shows that the party leadership are afraid of losing on NATO, which in turn shows that perhaps they have underestimated the average Daily Mail reader, and Scotland's desire for change.
If the SNP resolution goes through, an independent Scotland could find itself having full NATO membership and the SNP will have taken quite a substantial gamble that this will not impede their ability to remove Trident. Even in the unlikely situation that NATO takes a permissive view of an independent Scotland with an anti-nuclear constitution and facilitates the removal of Trident, the hypocritical nimbyism of upholding international law domestically and ignoring it internationally will remain, as will the necessary ignoring of a long list of other humanitarian and military issues that NATO membership demands. (As I write this I am listening to the chug of a multitude of international naval ships at Faslane for Joint Warrior, the biggest NATO naval exercise in Europe.)
What the SNP delegates decide remained to be seen as PN went to press, but as the 'NATO, Trident and independence' debates rage, those of us in the Scottish peace movement are using the media's willingness to report on these issues to our advantage, to keep NATO and Trident in everyone's minds as they decide where they stand on Scotland's future.
We remain hopeful that Scots (and the SNP) will use this unique opportunity to make a stand for peace and set the ball rolling on nuclear disarmament. Scotland is nae place fur Trident and there is nae place fur Scotland in NATO.