Commenting (Scotland’s NATO membership) on Alex Salmond’s response to George Robertson's rubbishing of his claims on Scotland, nukes and NATO, I predicted that the wee Lair of Islay would come right back at him. He promptly did, in a letter in today’s Scotsman. (PS 21st July - and today in the Herald!) I can’t abide Lord Robertson or what he stands for (UK bombers in attack mode) but he has the better of this exchange so far, and in my view, I regret to say in this interpretation he is right.
The defence debate – the true, evil heart of the UK’s opposition to Scotland’s independence – now rages across the media – sorry, across the print media, since television coverage has been woefully and shamefully inadequate so far.
Today’s Scotsman devotes acres of column inches to it, because they see it, with some justification, as the SNP’s Achilles heel. Not even Achilles managed to shoot himself in the heel with an arrow, but this is what the SNP leadership seem intent on with their NATO U-turn.
And right on cue, scenting blood and pre-conference notoriety, in jumps Jim Sillars, full of I-told-you-so and realpolitik. His article is titled We’re all in the real world in the print edition, but more cosily titled Scotland is bound to stay in the club in the online Scotsman.
He tries to beg the question by describing a “geopolitical reality” that he claims requires accepting membership of NATO. The geopolitical reality he describes is, of course, NATO’s self-justifying paranoid fantasy, an outmoded cold war world view that ignores the radical changes in geopolitics over the last twenty five years since the collapse of the Soviet bloc and notably since the world banking crisis and the Arab Spring.
Big can no longer be presented as beautiful – its true face was always ugly and undemocratic – and the advent of the internet and social media is changing the face of power across continents. Viewed through distorting lens of NATO, the former Great Powers still seem great, but the seeds of change are altering the values of their peoples and their view of their leaders, and gradually, their political structures.
The Great Western Powers are still dangerous, of course, in their lunatic commitment to an unsustainable way of life, one that now threatens the planet itself, and the real threat to world peace comes from them, as they attempt to sustain and defend an unsustainable and indefensible way of life. The forces of religious fundamentalism and scientific irrationality pose perhaps the greatest threat. They are present in both the East - understandable because of lack of resources, access to media and to undemocratic regimes or flawed democracies - and in the West, notably America, with none of the excuses of the Third World.
Sillars’ view of the SNP membership and its values is illuminating -
“The coming referendum requires us to shed that constricting band around the national brain, especially so for that part of it represented by the membership of the SNP.”
“’No man can set the bounds of a nation,’ a quotation from an Irish nationalist, when uttered at an SNP conference, is guaranteed to win ecstatic applause.It’s guff. “
But he’s on Angus Robertson’s side. Angus – aided by polemics from Jim -is going to save the members from the constricting band in their brains at conference in October, and from false emotions such as belief in the potential of their little nation, Scotland.
You can relax, Jim – judging by my little range of contacts and from poll surveys, most of them are already either apathetic or already converted. If there is a constricting band round their brains, it’s the one causing them to underrate the dangerous implications of NATO membership, buoyed up by the “It’ll all be alright after independence” belief.
The paragraph that best sums up Jim Sillars’ cold war world view is this one -
“Scotland geographically is crucial to Nato’s integrity and capability in the European sphere. Our land is Nato’s biggest unsinkable aircraft carrier, from which the alliance can prevent an attempted incursion by a hostile naval force, via the North Sea, into the Atlantic sea lanes.”
Well, you’ve certainly captured the essence of the NATO, UK and military/industrial establishment’s visceral opposition to Scotland’s independence in that one paragraph Jim. As you say in your article, you were once a staunch unionist and the hammer of the Nats. It’s seems as if you’ve come full circle again.
Sillars in effect repeats the Aneurin Bevan’s notorious opposition to unilateral nuclear disarmament - "It would send a British Foreign Secretary naked into the conference chamber" - that led the Labour Party into half a century of supporting the concept of the nuclear deterrent, and to Blair and Iraq. Jim’s version, commenting on the fact that, if the UK lost Trident – as it will if the SNP is true to its core nuclear principles – and the consequential loss of its seat on the UN Security Council, runs as follows -
“Without that seat a Westminster foreign secretary would be as influential in the world as the one from Belgium. “
There is no constricting band round my brain. I’ve said about all I can on NATO in recent blogs. I have a larger concept of my native country than as an aircraft carrier – and as a prime target in the nuclear nightmare that awaits us if we see our new nation as simply there to serve the interests of the US/UK/NATO concept of nuclear intimidation (the nuclear deterrent) and its insular, outmoded, profoundly dangerous cold war mindset.