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Nicola Sturgeon at odds with Green government partners over Nato future for Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon.
Nicola Sturgeon.

Nicola Sturgeon insisted membership of Nato is crucial to an independent foreign policy – teeing up a clash with Greens in the Scottish Government.

Speaking in the US, Ms Sturgeon claimed the ongoing war in Ukraine meant it would be “essential” to be in the alliance if Scotland votes to leave the UK.

But Green minister Patrick Harvie argues the EU could prove “more critical” to maintaining security in Europe.

Scottish Green party co-leader Patrick Harvie.

Outlining Nato’s strategic importance, Ms Sturgeon warned there had been a rise in Russian military vehicles and submarines encroaching on British territory in the North Atlantic in recent years.

The SNP previously opposed Nato and remains committed to ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons if the country becomes independent of the UK.

The first minister’s party reversed their opposition to the military alliance when she was still Alex Salmond’s deputy in 2012.

Nato could be set to expand in the coming weeks with Finland and Sweden keen to join in order to stave off Russian aggression.

‘Strengthened my conviction’

Speaking during her US tour at the Brookings Institution on May 17, Ms Sturgeon said: “There’s no doubt that the events of the last three months have strengthened my conviction that this position is absolutely the right and essential one.

“I’m even more firm in my view today that coupled with a strong relationship with the United Kingdom, membership of the European Union and Nato will be cornerstones of an independent Scotland’s security policy.”

She added: “The Scottish Government is acutely aware of Scotland’s strategic position on the northern edge of Europe close to the arctic.

Russian military aircraft regularly approached the UK’s area of interest and in recent years there has been an increase in Russian submarine patrols within the north Atlantic.

‘Membership vital’

“We are clearer than ever that membership of Nato would not only be vital to Scotland’s security, although it would most certainly be that.

“It would also be the principle way in which an independent Scotland in an interdependent world would contribute to the collective security of our neighbours and allies.”

But Mr Harvie said: “I doubt very much my party is going to want to ditch its policy on NATO – but I do think there is an appetite for discussion about how do you achieve strategic cooperation for peace-building in a way that will include countries that want to join, and countries that are not part of that.”

During her speech yesterday the first minister also said it will be crucial to protect jobs as fossil fuels are phased out in Scotland.

Ms Sturgeon said it made “economic sense” to ensure oil and gas workers can find new employment as the renewables sector becomes more important.

‘SNP weak on international security’

Scottish Tory MSP Donald Cameron said: “This speech by Nicola Sturgeon betrayed her naivety, and the SNP’s weakness, on international security.

“She was keen to talk up how an independent Scotland would help the collective security of the West, yet conveniently forgot to mention that her party is committed to removing the UK’s nuclear deterrent.

“She also failed to address how her mission to break up the UK would help western security because, as she well knows, that’s something the UK’s enemies would relish.”

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