Nuclear weapons not requirement for NATO admitted Labour in 1980s


  By a Newsnet reporter
The Labour party is today facing accusations of hypocrisy over claims that a newly independent Scotland would be expelled from NATO if it scrapped Trident, after it emerged the party’s former leader once confirmed that nuclear weapons were not a requirement.
An interview given by Neil Kinnock in the eighties has revealed that the same arguments as are now levelled against the SNP, were also levelled against Labour when the party held an anti-nuclear weapons stance.

Asked then if Labour’s non-nuclear policy would harm NATO membership, Kinnock said:

“Having nuclear weapons is not a condition for membership of NATO.  Half of NATO’s 16 members do not have US nuclear weapons on their territory.”

He added: “Under Labour, Britain would stay in NATO and work with our allies to achieve secure defence.”

In a speech in 1985, Kinnock said: “Why do the Government obstinately persist in wasting money on a so-called British independent deterrent?  …Our ballistic missiles submarines are not an essential element of NATO’s strategy. 

“Whether they are regarded as an addition to the force assigned to the Supreme Allied Commander Europe or as an independent force, they are superfluous and a waste of money.”

Since then, the number of NATO member states has risen from 16 to 28, with the number hosting nuclear weapons on their soil dropping to three.

The issue of Trident is one of the issues central to the independence debate with Labour joining the Tories in pledging billions to renew the nuclear weapons system.  The Lib Dems recently pledged to keep a nuclear arsenal, but scaled down.

However the SNP, Greens and the SSP are all opposed to renewing nuclear weapons.

Claims that a newly independent Scotland would not be allowed to continue as a member of NATO have been a central theme of the anti-independence campaign. 

This view was challenged this week by Danish Minister John Dyrby Paulsen who said that Scotland would be invited “immediately” to be a member of NATO following independence, and that the SNP’s policy of ridding Scotland of Trident nuclear weapons would have “absolutely no impact” on that invitation.

Mr Paulsen, the Foreign affairs and Defence spokesperson for the ruling Social Democratic party of Denmark and Chairman of a NATO parliamentary committee, dismissed claims from anti-independence campaigners that Scotland would have to apply for membership of NATO.

According to the Danish official, an independent Scotland would be welcomed without question because it has, “been a part of NATO since the 1940s and it would be natural for Scotland to be part of it after independence”.