BY EFFIE DEANS
Scottish nationalism depends on the idea that nothing much would change if Scotland left the UK. It would merely involve Scottish MPs ceasing to sit on green benches in Westminster, instead of which they would go to Holyrood. Instead of being First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon would be Prime Minster, perhaps President or even Tsarina of all the Scotlands. We would no longer have to worry about being ruled by Tories in general and Boris Johnson in particular, but everything else would be the same.
This is why the SNP has been so keen recently to argue that there is nothing to worry about pensions as the Former UK would continue to pay them. But this argument lasted about a week before the SNP discovered that there was no pension pot at the end of the rainbow because there would be no rainbow or indeed no UK after the departure of Scotland broke it up. But the same goes for some other things that we take for granted and which suddenly are beginning to look more important than they once did.
One of the consequences of the end of the Cold War was that Scottish nationalism began to look safer for the first time in decades. Only a few fascists and eccentrics in the SNP thought that breaking up Britain was a good idea during the Second World War. So too in the decades that followed few Scots thought that a sensible response to Soviet aggression towards small countries like Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968) was to become a small country ourselves.
But by the 1990s Russia was obviously no longer any threat to anyone. We could relax. We could indulge ourselves with our own parliament and then as memories of the Soviet Union faded, we couldn’t see any real danger in partitioning our small island just off the European continent.
But that island has been strategically important in the past few centuries. Britain has played a crucial role in both the First and Second World Wars. The outcome of both would have been radically different without our involvement. So, the idea that the departure of Scotland from the UK would make no difference always showed both ignorance and a lack of imagination.
The only serious armed forces in Europe are the British, the French and the Russians. The SNP’s idea is to destroy the British Army and remove Britain’s nuclear deterrent from its base in Scotland. This lacked foresight even when the Cold War had just ended, because it failed to predict a time when those armed forces and that deterrent might be necessary, but now when European security is threatened again it looks not merely foolish but selfish.
NATO members in Eastern Europe will be grateful that the British Army still exists and no doubt hope that our means of deterring Mr Putin might just extend to their being protected too.
Back in 1994 Ukraine gave up all of the former Soviet nuclear weapons that were still stationed on its territory. It received assurances from Russia about its sovereignty, independence and borders. If Ukraine had kept a few nuclear weapons in a silo near Kiev it would not now be worrying about Russia invading and it would not have lost either Crimea or the Donbass.
Sturgeon likewise wants to remove nuclear weapons from Scottish territory. Ukraine’s act of unilateral nuclear disarmament has taught her nothing. She is so stuck in the 1980s that she might as well still have a CND poster on the wall along with the one of Duran Duran and a young Alex Salmond.
The SNP would leave Scotland defenceless. Scottish regiments are fully integrated into the British Army. The creation of a Scottish Army and a Former UK Army would not be the British Army. If the Scottish Navy was built in the same way as Scottish ferries, it might just be able to patrol Scottish waters some decades from now in a paddle steamer. Meanwhile the Russian Navy could do what it pleased.
It would take a remarkably small force of Spetsnaz to take over the Orkney and Shetland Islands which are strategically important for access to the Atlantic and Sturgeon would have nothing to defend them. The deterrent that the UK used to have to stop Russian aggression would have no home because the SNP in their wisdom would gone the way of Ukraine by disarming.
Russia is a long way away, but so too was Czechoslovakia when we decided at Munich to allow an aggressor to take what it fancied. But our lifestyle in Scotland depends on the security system that has kept us safe from invasion for the past centuries.
Scotland is integral to the defence of everyone in Britain. Prior to the UK both Scotland and England were diminished by continually fighting each other. England always had to worry about its northern flank and the influence that foreign powers might have over Scotland. Imagine now if there were no RAF fighters flying out to meet Russian Tupolov Tu-95s approaching the Moray Firth.
The SNP’s defence plan amounts to destroying our armed forces and unilaterally removing our nuclear deterrent from Scotland. This must be because it thinks that there is no threat to Scotland and that the only enemies we have speak with posh English accents and vote Tory. It is a security plan that might have worked in 1314 when Scottish defence amounted to two handed swords, wooden stakes and bows and arrows, but it is essentially refighting Bannockburn when your opponent has Stealth bombers.
But this is the SNP’s whole problem. It is stuck fighting the Scottish Wars of Independence. Its heroes and its goals have not moved on from Bruce and Wallace and so became obsolete with the invention of the musket.
The excellent Effie Deans writes at Lily of St. Leonard’s here.