A remark by Dr Craig Dalzell on his Common Green blog caught my attention. In an article discussing the post-independence fate of the British state’s nuclear arsenal on Scottish soil, he writes,
… it may be that the Scottish Government simply isn’t brave enough to demand the removal of the weapons…
Controversial as this statement may be, it was not what was suggested that struck me, but my reaction to it. Six months ago – maybe even three months ago – I would have responded angrily that it is totally ridiculous to imagine the SNP would renege on its commitment to remove this abomination from our land. I would have objected strongly to the suggestion that an SNP administration might go into talks with the British government unprepared and timid.
I would have pointed out what a strong hand the Scottish side in talks on the independence settlement would have. I would have mercilessly mocked the notion that SNP politicians could be unaware of that strength, or unwilling to use it.
Don’t get me wrong! I continue to be absolutely persuaded that arrangements for the removal of Trident will be a very important part of the settlement. The British state’s weapons of mass destruction must go. That is a political imperative. The precise nature of the arrangements will depend on a number of factors. But the bottom line is a red line. Trident must go!
No sane, sober and sensible person supposes that the whole shebang will be shut down and shipped out on day one. The single strong card that the Brits will have is safety. And that card trumps pretty much everything. The Scottish Government cannot set an unrealistic deadline for removal of the British state’s nuclear paraphernalia. It may be that the Scottish Government cannot set any kind of deadline at all without risking accusations of compromising safety for the sake of politics. But, whatever the arrangements are, it must be clear that the end-point is the total removal of Trident.
Personally, I favour the ramping rent solution. Craig Dalzell nicely sets out the problems – and potential problems – with a leasing arrangement. The danger that the Scottish exchequer grows over fond of – or reliant on – the revenue. The risk that a short-term lease becomes a long-term lease and then a rolling lease. I believe these issues can be overcome by making the lease increasingly expensive for the British state – rent rising annually by a percentage that also increases – so that there is a financial imperative to move out but no political pressure which might be portrayed as the Scottish Government lacking due concern for safety.
Also, revenue from the lease should be ring-fenced for one-off capital projects that otherwise would be unlikely to be funded. That way, Scotland’s budget doesn’t become dependent on income from the lease.
All of which is by way of an aside. The discussion of options relating to removal of Trident is interesting. But what troubled me about Craig Dalzell’s comment was the suggestion that ” the Scottish Government simply isn’t brave enough”. And the fact that, unlike a few months ago, I now felt disinclined to reject this out of hand.
I now find my self obliged to consider the possibility that the Scottish Government just isn’t brave enough. The long months, stretching into years, of hesitancy and prevarication and general reluctance to confront the constitutional issue has drained the confidence that I once had in the SNP and in Nicola Sturgeon.
The other day, as I was writing about the implications for Scotland of Boris Johnson being anointed British Prime Minister, I paused to reflect on how the Scottish people would react to something like the Scottish Parliament being ‘suspended’. Obviously, there would be anger. But I was surprised to find that, in my imagining, the anger was directed, not at Boris Johnson, the British state or the Union, but at the First Minister and the Scottish Government and the SNP. Being able to imagine something doesn’t make it true or likely. But continuing to envisage it, not in a reverie, but in the light of cold political analysis, causes alarm bells to ring.
The great American aviation pioneer and author, Amelia Earhart, once said,
The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity.
For far too long the de facto political arm of Scotland’s independence movement has been characterised by indecision and inaction. Whatever good the SNP administration has been doing – and it is undeniable that it has done a great deal of good – in terms of providing leadership for the independence movement and taking forward Scotland’s cause, the SNP’s performance has fallen far short of the hopes and expectations of many in the Yes movement. Opportunities have been missed. Initiative has been lost. Momentum has been squandered.
Maybe it’s true. Maybe the Scottish Government just isn’t brave enough.
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14 thoughts on “A question of courage”
Thank you Peter and may I say that while I was aiming that comment purely in the hypothetical, I do share your worries but I also dearly hope that I’m wrong.
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You and me both, Craig. As you’ve doubtless realised, my aim is to be provocative. If I’m stirring up trouble for Nicola Sturgeon, it is trouble that she can make use of.
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There will be horse trading after independence.
Perhaps the SG will end up agreeing to keep Trident for a few years while the English government find a home for the subs. Probably at least 10 years! The trade off might indeed be that the share of the UK debt is reduced or waived entirely.
The SG will be in the driving seat if they wish to be. The English government will be in the unusual position of putting out the begging bowl.
I think our cards will be strong post independence.
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I Hate to agree with you on this one Peter, but you can only judge someone on what they do not on what they say.
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My understanding is that the weapons are required to undergo an annual inspection in the United States. All that would be required is for the weapons not to be returned to Scotland after the inspection. Where they could be stored in England would be a matter for England and the United States to sort out.
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What about the rotting hulks of Polaris (?) subs that are still here? No word of decommissioning safely, or even of decommissioning. The Soviets removed all their nuclear arsenal from all former Soviet states that were now-independent within two years of the collapse of Communism. The British State has not the slightest intention of allowing us to leave magnanimously and insist on the removal of either the rotting hulks or the present upgrades. The SNP government has still learned Sweet Fanny Adams about the British State. This was, and remains, their greatest weakness, and it does not bode well for independence any time in the foreseeable future. Ian Blackford told Gordon Brewer that there was no way the parliament, or his party at Westminster, would allow a no deal to go through before Brexit. We would not be Brexiting on a no deal, he said. Presumably, we are Brexiting on some kind of deal then, after all the posturing and big words, after the triple mandate. Pathetic. Why do we go on hoping against hope – against sense – that they have a cunning plan? There are no heroes anymore. Ours died with Wallace, de Moray, Bruce and the rest.
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It’s the snp & Nichola of course she/they will capitulate. We have a bafoon as a pm & they still won’t be able to capitalise on it. Remember we are vermin… I sometimes think the snp are the fourth unionist party in Scotland. A lot of things would then make sense.
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I’m surprised you allow the obvious Union trolls to comment on your blog, Peter.
I enjoy your blog, even though I have never commented before.
The attempt to split the SNP vote is so obvious.
I like to allow all views. And it’s easy enough to spot the nutters.
Most of us who question the SNP’s strategy are neither nutters nor splitters, Juteman. We are, in the main, long-time members of the SNP. I was a very young teenager when I joined first and wore out my share of shoe leather, delivered leaflets, knocked on doors, held jumble sales and all kinds of money-raising schemes, travelled to meetings, wrote pro independence pieces in my teens, 20s, etc. You have no right to suggest that I, and others like me, have no right to question the strategy and tactics.
I can speak for me only, and I admit that I want to try and provoke the SNP leadership into taking stock of what they are doing, hoping that they might even question their own strategy. If I hear or read another insipid “so-and-so slams the Tories…” or “so-and-so issues another warning to Westminster…”, I’ll burst. No, actually I’ll just get coldly angry instead of heatedly angry. This is the summer recess and we have around three months to remove ourselves from Brexit UK. If you believe we will, you are naive. I am angry because I feel that the michael is being taken. Yes, we lost in 2014, but the SNP has yet to understand why we lost, to face up to the reasons we lost and then, to take the appropriate action to ensure that we do not lose again. I see nothing to show that any of this has happened or is happening.
There is nothing obvious about splitting the SNP vote because that is not happening. That is entirely in your fevered imagination. No one in the SNP wants to split the vote. The British State infiltration, if it is there, and I would imagine that it is, would not take that tack; the British State would undermine the leadership by advising the leadership down a cul de sac. You undermine those in power, Juteman, not the nobodies like me. If you had ever studied the British State, you would understand how they operate. The SNP leadership is determined not to make a move, if at all, until 2021. Anyone who believes differently – and barring shock changes – is deluded. Catalunya and the imprisoning of politicians has put their gas at a peep. What I want to do is to try and provoke the leadership into admitting that instead of tossing us meatless bones of distraction at every Conference. The saddest thing is that they might not be returned in 2021, even though that seems impossible now. We are living in a time of upheaval where anything can happen.
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I’ve voted snp since the falklands war. I left the snp because of the sheer lack of leadership coming from them & nowts changed in that department. I ain’t no unionist troll. Read my comments over the past few weeks. And a nutter. There’s nothing civil I can put into words to reply to that.
I genuinely have no idea why you think my comment was aimed at you.
May I suggest that you view this matter somewhat differently. I think the UN may have a major say on just which country, England or Scotland inherits the current UK nuclear arsenal. The breakup of the USSR left country’s like Belarus with responsibility for the Nuclear weapons based on their soil. Their options were to choose to decommission or to return them to Russia. The SG ‘s silence regarding the base at Faslane may well be that they will be guided by the UN as to their disposal.
I believe I read somewhere – cannot recall where, unfortunately – that Russia, as the successor state of the old Soviet Union owned, and had responsibility for, the nuclear arsenal. It was Russia that had to remove them, and it did so very quickly, lending the lie to the “we’ll need a thousand years” to dispose of/remove/relocate these weapons. There are also the rotting hulks of the older subs, complete with nuclear reactors, that are a potential hazard to health and safety of all of us in Scotland. Please don’t say that England would be affected, too. Yes, it would, but not to the same extent, which is precisely why they are here and not there. During the last referendum, Westminster (Cameron) went to extraordinary lengths to claim successor state status, even going so far as to accepting the whole of the UK debt. Now that they have decided that Brexit will happen, successor state status in relation to the EU is relatively unimportant. Don’t be fooled, however, because successor state status will be of huge importance to rUK in the event of the Union falling, so expect dirty dealing all along the route. Yet one more reason to keep independence in the spotlight and open to the world by taking our case, via the Treaty, to the International Court (UN).