No to Nato coalition pressure SNP leadership

Ben Wray reports from the No to Nato coalition's lobby of the SNP's public cabinet meeting in Renfrew. He argues that winning the argument over Nato is vital for supporters of independence.

The No to Nato Coalition organised a lobby of the SNP’s public cabinet meeting in Renfrew yesterday. Protestors spoke to cabinet members on their way in and made their point clear: Nato means nukes and war; independence is supposed to be about peace and nuclear disarmament.

Anti-war and anti-Trident campaigners travelled from across Scotland to join the demonstration.

Members of the No to Nato Coalition joined a ticketed public audience later to further put the pressure on the SNP leadership that any change in policy will have damaging consequences.

The SNP’s support has grown exactly because people in Scotland are fed up of Labour’s warmongering. A shift in favour of Nato from the SNP signals that they intend to be obedient to the status quo – rabid militarism led by the United States. The Nato death toll from Iraq to Afghanistan to Libya speaks for itself.

Furthermore, the SNP’s flagship policy of being opposed to nuclear weapons is under serious threat from a switch to Nato. The right-wing of the SNP like Angus Robertson claim that it’s possible to want Trident out of the Clyde whilst being part of a pro-nuclear weapons coalition. Even if this was the case (which is suspect to say the least), any principled opposition to the global destruction nuclear weapons would cause must surely be on an internationalist basis.

The issue is becoming a major battleground within the independence camp. Several MSP’s have broken the party whip by coming out against the proposed change before the debate at the SNP conference in October. The SNP CND group have their conference this Saturday, and it is expected that it will be used as an organising body for rebellion within the SNP against the proposed change. Even a government whip, Bill Kidd MSP, has today came out with a supportive message for the SNP CND group conference.

Salmond’s attempt to ‘reassure’ Scottish voters of independence by diluting what it means is not working. Independence cannot be forged into a half-way house like Devo Max – it is a break from Britain, and therefore you have to convince people of what is wrong with Britain in order to convince them of what would be better about Scotland. The polls are evidence of this, a recent one showed support for independence at just 27%, whilst support for the union was at 60%.

In that context, the argument over Nato is not just about opposing militarism and nuclear weapons, it’s also about a shift in strategy over the referendum. The positivity-heavy, content-lite approach has failed – it allows the No campaign to get on the front foot in every debate. We therefore need a bit of positivity-lite, content-heavy in its place: we’re for independence cause it’s a chance to break with nukes and war, break with cuts and poverty, for welfare, public services, education and job creation. It’s taking an aggressive stance about what’s wrong with Britain that is necessary to claw back the support in the polls.

Switching policy to support for Nato will only demoralise the grassroots and weaken the arguments for independence. If they know what’s good for them, the SNP leadership will listen to the hundreds that will gather outside its conference in October and say no to Nato.

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