AN independent Scotland would adopt a "don't ask" policy to allow Nato ships to dock in its ports with nuclear weapons, according to a leading academic.

Colin Fleming of Edinburgh University believes the Scottish Government has effectively signalled willingness to compromise on its traditional anti-atomic stance and therefore ensure quick and easy re-entry to the western military alliance.

Several Nato members - including Norway and Denmark- remain firmly opposed to nuclear weapons being deployed on their territories but avoid conflict with the alliance by simply not asking if US, French or British vessels are carrying them.

Dr Fleming, a former SNP member who spoke in favour of the party's 2012 U-turn on Nato membership, spelled out the policy in a paper co-authored with fellow academic Carmen Gebhard.

Pro-UK campaigners have suggested that an anti-nuclear Scotland would struggle to get in to Nato because it would not be able to sign up to the alliance's "Strategic Concept", its deterrent.

Dr Fleming and Dr Gebhard, however, in their paper said: "The SNP and the Scottish Government have never issued any statement suggesting that Scotland would not be willing to fulfil the criteria for membership. Rather, they reacted that Nato membership would be sought, with the caveat that no nuclear weapons would be hosted on Scottish territory."

They added: "The White Paper signalled the Scottish Government's intention to sign Nato's Strategic Concept, thus accepting the provision that Nato is a nuclear alliance.

"Consequently, the Scottish Government has committed itself to a 'don't ask' policy similar to Norway and Denmark's, which would allow naval vessels to dock in Scottish harbours without the requirement to state whether they were carrying a nuclear payload."

A "Don't Ask" policy would almost certainly be rigoriously opposed by the most staunchly anti-nuclear and anti-Nato wings of the SNP and wider Yes movement but put an independent Scotland in line with its nearest neighbours, many of whom are eager to remove any obstacle to Scottish membership.

Dr Fleming and Dr Gebhard also believe that signalled willingness by the SNP to be responsible on Trident relocation would also smooth Nato entry.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond earlier this month said it would take 10 years after independence and cost "billions" to find a new home for the submarine deterrent based at Faslane.

The SNP aspires to remove the weapons in the first term of an independent government but has left itself room to negotiate by saying the bombs would go when it was "safe".