SNP-Green split 'embarrassing' as Greer says Nato member as bad as Russia

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Green MSP Ross Greer and SNP MP Ian Blackford
Green MSP Ross Greer and SNP MP Ian Blackford

THE Yes movement split over whether to join Nato if Scotland  becomes independent has deepened, with the Greens accusing an alliance member of behaving as badly as Russia in Ukraine.

Green MSP Ross Greer said Turkey had committed “horrific crimes” against its own Kurdish minority that were “the same and worse” as Russia’s against its neighbour.

He said it was one of the key reasons the Scottish Greens regarded Nato membership as “morally wrong”, the other being its first-strike nuclear weapons policy.

Nicola Sturgeon said in America this week that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine had made her more certain than ever that an independent Scotland should join Nato.

Nato and EU membership would be “cornerstones” of the country’s defence, she said.

Scottish Labour said it was “embarrassing” that the SNP and Greens were so far apart on such a major issue, yet proposing to hold an independence referendum next year.

Mr Greer was speaking on BBC Radio4 this morning about his position on Nato.

He said: “The Greens object to Nato membership on the basis of it being a nuclear alliance.

“Most Nato member states are not themselves nuclear armed, but the basis of the alliance is its nuclear weapons, and it's a first strike nuclear alliance. That's key to our objection.

“Nato reserves the right to launch the first strike in a nuclear war. We simply believe that's morally wrong. No one has the right to do that, that is an evil and a wicked thing to do.

“The second root of objection that we have to Nato is around defence of human rights.

“Nato claims that it's an alliance in defence of freedom and democracy.

“Well, if that's the case, why is Turkey a member?

“Turkey is a state guilty of horrific crimes of ethnic cleansing against its own Kurdish minority population, against peoples in neighbouring countries like Syria.

“If we look at the horrific crimes that Russia has inflicted on the people of Ukraine over recent months, Turkey’s done all the same and worse to its own Kurdish population over the last 70 years.”

Pressed on his last point, Mr Greer cited the example of the Kurdish town of Cizre in south-east Turkey where security forces reportedly killed around 160 civilians during a 78-day curfew in 2015 and 2016 in a campaign against the banned PKK group.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said residents painted “an apocalyptic picture of the wholesale destruction of neighbourhoods”.

Asked if it was “really the position of the Scottish Greens that Turkey behaves as badly to the Kurds as Russia is currently behaving towards the Ukrainians”, Mr Green said: “Absolutely.”

He went on: “Look at what happened in Cizre back in 2015, where around 100 people, largely women and children, were herded into the basement of a couple of buildings that was then set on fire by Turkish troops who destroyed that town. They massacre civilians.

“They massacre people who simply want the right to live their lives freely as Kurds. That's ethnic cleansing.”

However he said he had no objection to the UK arming Ukrainians.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford then defended Nato membership on the same show.

Asked about the morality of a first-use nuclear weapons policy, he said: “Actions speak louder than words. I think when you look at the role that Nato is playing here [in Ukraine]  and has played elsewhere, it's a defensive organisation.

“It seeks to come to the aid of any of its members, of course, under Article Five, that are attacked - we absolutely fully subscribe to that.

“One of the things which is clear as an independent Scotland would not have nuclear weapons on the Clyde, we would seek a negotiation with the rest of the UK, and the UK would have to decide what it wants to do.

“We are advocates, one, of removing nuclear weapons from Scotland, but also making sure that we encourage others to take part in multilateral discussions to remove the nuclear threat.”

Ms Sturgeon said this month it was her “expectation and hope” that Trident would be removed from Faslane naval base in the first Holyrood term after a Yes vote.

However Mr Blackford did not put any timetable on it when asked for one.

He said: “We understand that if the UK chose to keep those weapons, and that would be a choice for the rest of the UK, that they would need to build facilities.

“But this would have to be done in a timely matter (sic). But these are points of negotiation when we won a referendum. There would be a transition.”

Asked if visiting Nato nuclear submarines would be allowed in Scottish waters, Mr Blackford said they would, despite recent SNP party policy turning against it.

Referring back to the White Paper on Independence, he said: “Well, you know, we covered this actually in the independence referendum in 2014.

“There’s a formulation of wording that we used. And if I quote from that paper. ‘While they are both strong advocates for nuclear disarmament, both Norway and Denmark allow Nato vessels to visit their ports without confirming or denying whether they carry nuclear weapons. We intend that Scotland will adopt a similar approach as Denmark and Norway in this respect.’ So that’s the position we had in 2014.

“Of course we will update that when we publish our prospectus for independence.”

He added: “The important thing is that Scotland would not be a home to nuclear weapons.”

Under the SNP-Green joint government deal, the two parties are supposed to work on a joint prospectus for independence.

Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray said that the project was “falling apart” over Nato.

He said: “It is embarrassing that Scottish Government ministers can’t agree on the very fundamentals of an independent Scotland, yet they seem to be planning a referendum in just over 12 months’ time.

“War is raging in Europe, and while the democratic world has rallied around to stand united against Russian aggression, Nicola Sturgeon wants to break up one of Ukraine’s closest allies.

“The idea of a joint prospectus on independence is made a mockery by the SNP and Green inability to agree on a cornerstone principle of foreign policy.

“It’s more of the same from the nationalists – unable to answer basic questions about what independence would mean.

“They should do the honest thing and abandon their plans for a joint prospectus.

“Nicola Sturgeon and Patrick Harvie should focus on addressing the rising cost of living, not fighting amongst themselves about independence.”

 

 

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