The Scottish Government today published their ‘interim constitution’ for an independent Scotland, which is intended to apply between Independence Day and the ratification of the country’s permanent constitution.
It is a fairly brief, technical document which sets out the role of the Scottish Government and the rights of its people, as well as loose commitments to nuclear disarmament and environmentalism, but certain provisions ought to worry those pro-independence activists who want Scotland to remain outwith Nato, the US-led nuclear alliance which contradicts our would-be constitutional commitment to “promote international peace, justice and security”.
Section 20 of the interim constitution, for instance, states that the “Scottish Government may take whatever steps it considers appropriate to secure that Scotland maintains membership of any international organisation”.
In other words, the SNP administration – which is pro-Nato – wants to be able to decide unilaterally whether the terms of Scotland’s continued Nato membership are appropriate.
Section 21 is more generous to the people of Scotland, guaranteeing that international agreements entered by the Scottish Government cannot be ratified unless they are presented to and approved by the Scottish Parliament.
However, it explicitly excludes international agreements ratified before ‘Independence Day’, meaning that the Scottish Government is completely unaccountable if it concludes negotiations with Nato before Scotland formally becomes an independent state – which is the Scottish Government’s plan.
Scotland’s Future, the white paper setting out the case for Scottish independence and the means through which it will be realised, claims that it “will be in the interests of Scotland and other members of the alliance to secure an independent Scotland’s membership in the period between the referendum and independence”.
But the interim constitution now confirms that staying true to this course of action will effectively remove those negotiations from the scrutiny of the Scottish Parliament, ending any sort of debate over whether an independent Scotland should really be a fully-fledged member of Nato.
Scotland could, like many other European nations – including Ireland, Sweden, and Finland – remain outwith Nato and engage instead with its Partnership for Peace programme, relieving Scotland of the obligation to enter interventionist wars waged by the United States.
First Minister Alex Salmond once took a principled stance on Nato, being the first politician in the UK to decry the Nato bombing of Kosovo as “unpardonable folly” and “an action of dubious legality”. He suggested the UK “could expend the billions of dollars currently being flung at Serbia in high explosives on stepping up our humanitarian efforts to help Kosovo”.
In an almost prescient criticism of the now-ubiquitous use of drones, he said: “All war is evil, but there is something deeply disturbing about warfare which can be so conducted by remote control – missiles and bombing which sanitise conflict – at least on our side.”
Over the past decade, that principled stance appears to have faced serious weathering.
In his GQ interview earlier this year – now infamous for other reasons – Salmond indicated his only real issue with the Kosovo campaign was the lack of approval by the UN Security Council, a small clique which consists largely of great powers including the UK, USA, France, China, and Russia.
Placing such faith in institutions like Nato and the UNSC, which led, for instance, the misguided war in Afghanistan, is totally at odds with Yes Scotland’s message of a peaceful Scotland and a good ‘global citizen’.
It is now up to the two anti-Nato parties in the Yes Scotland alliance – the Scottish Green Party and Scottish Socialist Party – to provide meaningful opposition within the Yes camp to the SNP’s latent social-chauvinism and guarantee that the break-up of the British state has the positive international impact that it rightly should. Scottish independence still remains the most credible means of ending Scots’ involvement in Nato.
And I, for one, will make clear my discomfort with our proposed interim constitution in the Scottish Government’s public consultation, which is now open until 20 October.