THE claim that the UK must spend two per cent of its gross domestic product on the military is one of the most gigantic Westminster con jobs imaginable.

Common sense alone suggests the target is odd. Two per cent is an arbitrary figure removed from all military realities based upon a proportion of an economic measurement (GDP) that itself invites scepticism. Is this really how to work out what to invest in? The naval support, planes and troop numbers? The technology and secret security services? Of course not.

The target figure is chosen for explicit political purposes, to pressure members of Nato to increase military expenditure – often to counter phantom threats in the name of the military-industrial establishment.

The UK Government, being one of the most supine and fear-mongering within Nato, was keen to push this as a mandatory spending target when the military alliance met on the eve of the Scottish independence referendum.

Beyond the self-evident stupidity of applying such an approach to the complexities of international relations and security, it carries a few other problems. Most members of Nato aren’t anywhere near meeting the target. In 2013, only four of Nato’s 28 members spent two per cent of their GDP on the military.

Countries like Canada and Germany, who take a more responsible approach, spend closer to one per cent and have made it clear they won’t be leading a new arms race.

This for UK hawks is embarrassing enough. But in the run-up to the General Election the situation got worse. The UK was set to fall below the phoney target and that just wasn’t acceptable for those who like to strut about shouting “Rule Britannia!”

The books were cooked. Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute identified plans for the Ministry of Defence to move military pensions payments into the forces budget to make it look like the two per cent target had been met. He said “such payments are not related to the generation of current defence capability”.

The European Leadership Network agreed that the UK’s actual spending would fall below the two per cent target. Since then, Chancellor George Osborne has desperately been trying to reallocate spending from other areas.

Trident nuclear weapons are a clear example of this continued British hypocrisy – where military priorities are determined by a desire for power and status, not constructive peacekeeping.

During the Labour leadership election, Jeremy Corbyn made waves by distinguishing himself from the groupthink of warmongers and phallic bomb fetishisers.

But, like on other issues of late, even that basic morality is being worn down by a British nationalist press intent on depicting sensible military arrangements as extreme. They write as if, were Corbyn to prioritise health and education over war, the Faroe Islands’ fishing fleet (with strategic support from the Republic of Ireland and Isle of Man) would seize UK ports.

The politics of fear has had its effect. So in recent days even those close to Corbyn have raised the prospect that he would back the fanciful two per cent figure, as long as the party made the case for nuclear disarmament.

In doing so they would hope to counter the accusation that Corbyn is weak, and decide to focus on domestic issues over foreign affairs. But in the eyes of those who understand the ridiculousness of this British convention and were attracted to Corbyn because he took a distinct position on foreign policy, selling out to meaningless military establishment claims could cost the new Labour leadership more than they expect.

It is campaigning for peace that is popular. If that cannot be made clear by Labour, then those who care in Scotland will have to do the job ourselves.

Rejection of land reform policy is a stride forward

OUR Land Campaign victory is a great cause for hope.

The SNP members who rejected their party’s land reform policy have done the SNP and the country a great service. There has been pressure from conservative government lawyers to remove more substantial proposals to combat the inequality of land ownership. There has, predictably, been fierce lobbying from the vested interests that don’t want things to change. Thankfully, the majority at the SNP’s national conference – more politically educated than ever following the referendum – understood that they too have a part to play in this story.

It wasn’t enough to accept the watered-down proposals in the draft Land Reform Bill. Members demanded more action on the 750,000 acres held in tax havens, the derelict land in cities, lack of tenure security for tenant farmers and the massive concentration of ownership.

Those responsible for the bill were listening. Now they have an emboldened mandate to take more radical action.