AN independent Scotland could not join Nato if it gave up nuclear weapons, a UK Government minister has suggested.

Andrew Robathan, the Armed Forces Minister, speaking during a passionate debate on the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee report about the future of Trident, told MPs: "Membership of Nato comes with the responsibilities; you cannot join Nato and pretend it is not a nuclear alliance, for it is, and you cannot join Nato and object to the concept of nuclear burden-sharing within the alliance."

SNP MP Mike Weir pointed out 25 out of 28 Nato members did not have nuclear weapons. He said; "We will join Nato if we don't have nuclear weapons on our shores; if Nato insists on nuclear weapons, we will not join Nato."

He said the Scottish Government's position was clear: the "monstrous" and "immoral" nuclear weapons would go from an independent Scotland at the first opportunity.

Asked about how long this would be, Mr Weir said he did not know precisely but explained: "After Scotland votes Yes, there will be a period of 18 months when we negotiate these matters. Trident will be high on that list and I hope by the end of that period we will be well on the way to see that these weapons will be gone from our shores forever."

Ian Davidson, the Labour committee chairman, mentioning the future of employment at Faslane, said: "There is 50 years of job security with the UK, 6700 jobs rising to 8200 with the UK, but with separation the position is unknown."