An independent Scotland could kick out the UK’s nuclear weapons while also joining the NATO nuclear alliance, the Scottish Government has insisted.

Ministers said they would remove the missiles “in the safest and most expeditious manner possible following independence”.

The Scotland in Union group accused the SNP of peddling “contradictions and nonsense”.

In a new paper on ending the Union, SNP ministers said removing the Trident deterrent from Faslane naval base on the Clyde would not prevent Scotland joining NATO.

It said only a minority of NATO’s 31 member countries - the USA, France and the UK - had nuclear weapons, and so an independent Scotland would be similar to most of the rest.

But there is no alternative berth for the submarines based at Faslane with an equivalent of the nearby Coulport weapons store, a feature which makes the location unique in the UK.

The SNP’s critics say it is far-fetched to think that NATO would welcome a new member proposing to undermine the nuclear capability of one of its linchpin founders.

The 11th in the Building a New Scotland series, the paper states: “This Scottish Government would make it a cornerstone of defence policy that an independent Scotland would only participate in overseas military operations that are lawful, approved by Scottish Ministers, and authorised by the Scottish Parliament. 

“Furthermore, nuclear weapons should be removed from Scotland in the safest and most expeditious manner possible following independence. Neither of these proposals would prevent Scotland’s ability to act in self-defence or join NATO. 

“This Scottish Government does not regard the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil as an obstacle to an independent Scotland’s aims of gaining membership of NATO. 

“Only a minority of NATO members host nuclear weapons.

“An independent Scotland’s position would therefore be similar to the approach of most NATO member countries, which neither possess nor host nuclear weapons. 

“Finland’s accession to NATO in April 2023 highlighted that hosting nuclear weapons is not a precondition for membership.”

The paper, An Independent Scotland’s Place in the World, also looked at how Scotland could join the United Nations and European Union after a vote for independence. 

Other areas covered include establishing “a dedicated diplomatic network to promote and protect Scottish interests, provide consular support for Scottish citizens, and promote the country as a hub for innovation, trade and investment”.

The paper also signals “a commitment to meet the UN’s target of 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) on overseas development aid to help the world’s poorest countries”.

As well as “the establishment of new armed forces, informed by an expert-led Defence and Security Review, with a modern contract for personnel and strong support for veterans”.

Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson said: “Scotland is already making a contribution on the world stage, where we can, to address global poverty, the climate and biodiversity crises and threats to human rights.

“But because we are not independent, Scotland has been forced into Brexit and contributing towards billions of pounds being spent on nuclear weapons. If Scotland had full participation in multilateral bodies such as the UN we could ensure our voice is heard on critical global issues, such as on the Israel-Gaza conflict.

“Full representation within associations like the UN and EU would also enable us to negotiate directly to become party to international treaties, conventions and agreements that reflect Scotland’s values and ambitions as a good global citizen.

“These associations and the benefits they would bring, such as regained access to the world’s largest single market and freedom of movement within the EU, would also bring opportunities overseas and at home - helping to develop a competitive economy and support education, skills and jobs with our strengths in our culture and innovation industries, as well as renewable energy.”

He went on: “Our proposals also make clear that the armed forces of an independent Scotland, supported by a modern contract for personnel and strong support for veterans, would play their part to defend our national interests and contribute to global peace and security, given our strategic position in the North Atlantic.

“Ultimately, independence would enable Scotland to determine the kind of state it wants to be on the world stage. 

“We firmly believe that the challenges of the 21st century are best faced through more, not less, co-operation and I look forward to engaging with as many people as possible on the opportunities highlighted in this paper as we look to Scotland’s future.”