THE SNP’s defence policy for an independent Scotland appeared in disarray after the party’s spokesman said the country could still host the nuclear deterrent.

Nicola Sturgeon said earlier this month that it was her “expectation and hope” that Trident would be removed from the Clyde in the first parliament after a Yes vote.

All SNP candidates at last year’s Holyrood election also pledged an independent Scotland would never allow any stationing or installation of nuclear weapons in its territory. 

However MP Stewart McDonald said an independent Scotland would not “permanently” host nuclear weapons from other states but did not rule out short-term arrangements. 

His comments followed a row over the First Minister saying membership of the Nato nuclear alliance would be a “cornerstone” of Scotland’s defence in a speech in Washington DC on Monday. 

Ms Sturgeon failed to tell her American audience that it was also SNP policy to remove Trident from Faslane, potentially disarming one of Nato’s three nuclear powers.

Speaking to BBC Scotland, Mr McDonald was asked if an independent Scotland would ban visiting nuclear submarines from the US or France if in Nato.

The Glasgow South MP said: “We would join on similar terms of Norway or Denmark, in that we don't want to permanently host nuclear weapons from other states, but we certainly will take our commitments as new members of the alliance seriously. We will be a nuclear free member of Nato like most member states."

Pressed on accepting nuclear-armed subs, he said: “You don't host them permanently, but there are rules around the visiting of nuclear facilities, whether they be nuclear weapon themselves or just nuclear-powered submarines in peace time.

"I'm not suggesting for a minute that we would turn our backs on what would be expected of us as an alliance member, but we very clearly wouldn't become a permanent base for nuclear weapons.”



Alba MP Neale Hanvey said the “soft acceptance” of nuclear weapons opened the door to Trident and its successor being hosted in Scotland for many years even after independence.

He said: “The SNP defence team are completely out of touch with the tradition of the independence movement.

"Alba continues with that tradition and believes that WMDs should be removed from Scottish Territory from day one of Scotland regaining the status of an independent nation. This is a galvanising red line for the movement and must be honoured.

“Nicola Sturgeon in the US has been doubling down on the SNPs commitment to doing whatever Nato requires of Scotland.

"Upon her return, she must immediately set the record straight, dismiss the comments of her defence spokesperson and make it crystal clear that an independent will not play host to nuclear weaponry, permanently or temporarily.”

The SNP CND group said Mr McDonald’s comments suggested he no longer supported party policy on excluding nuclear weapons.

Ms Sturgeon was also criticised after saying the war in Ukraine had made it “more important” that Scotland was independent and played its part in global affairs.

Speaking to the Associated Press in the US, she said: “With all the challenges, it’s more important that Scotland plays its full finding the solutions to the challenges the world faces, and independence better equips us to do that.”

Labour MSP Sarah Boyack called it “grotesque opportunism”, adding: “There is nothing Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP won’t try to exploit in the name of their single-minded constitutional obsession.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “Literally nothing about the devastation of the sovereign nation of Ukraine has anything to do with Nicola Sturgeon’s narrow separatist agenda to break up the UK. To pretend otherwise is an insult to those brave Ukrainian men and women fighting for their lives.

"It's not clear why splitting one of Ukraine's strongest allies in two would help the world in the slightest. If anything it would have Putin clapping in delight.

"By splitting apart, both Scotland and the rest of the UK would be poorer and less effective on the international stage. That's not what I want for my country.

"The world is a dangerous place. We should be focused on forging new partnerships, not breaking apart."

Scotland in Union boss Pamela Nash added: “These remarks are utterly tasteless and out of touch.

"It’s disgraceful to use the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine to make the argument for separation, and it’s also undeniably the case that breaking up the UK would weaken the west.

“When the world is coming together to face today’s challenges, only the SNP could think the solution is turn inwards and create division.”