THE SNP have said that the choice of “Bairns not Bombs” has never been clearer after the publication of a report which says that removing Trident from an independent Scotland would be “a major obstacle” to the country joining Nato.

The report for the European Leadership Network by Rear Admiral John Gower, the former assistant chief of defence staff (nuclear andchemical, biological) in the Ministry of Defence , states: “Nato must clarify that, should an independent Scotland adopt policies that seriously jeopardise or remove a nuclear deterrent which provides a vital element of Alliance security, this would at the very least present a major obstacle to, and could very well render impossible, Nato membership for a future independent Scotland.”

Retired since 2014, Gower was a submarine commander who has held senior positions within Nato and was a naval attache in Washington.

In his report, Implications for United Kingdom nuclear deterrence should the Union fail, he points to Brexit as a threat to the Union: “Since the momentous vote on 23 June 2016 which triggered the long process of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the spectre of the secession of Scotland from the United Kingdom has been resurrected time and again.

“The Covid pandemic response has weakened, not strengthened, the ties which bind the Union, and the manner and detail of the final EU exit agreement has further exacerbated the differences between Scotland and England.

“The changes in UK nuclear policy announced in the 2021 Integrated review have further distanced UK policy from the principles of the Scottish National Party, thereby increasing the risk of secession. This would significantly impact the UK’s ability to field a submarine-based deterrent.

“The SNP is implacably and repeatedly against nuclear weapons yet has declared intent to seek Nato membership once independent. The March 2021 announcements in the UK’s Integrated Review that the UK will reverse its previous policy of drawing down its nuclear stockpile to 180 warheads by instead setting a new, and higher even than 2010, stockpile ceiling of 260 has widened the gulf between the SNP’s and the UK’s policies.”

Gower adds: “Today, for an independent Scotland, joining the nuclear alliance Nato on a political non-nuclear platform would be at best exceedingly difficult. Joining as the country which had either effectively severely destabilised or incapacitated the UK deterrent should be even more challenging.

“The secretary general should build on his 2017 warning that Scotland should not assume Nato entry, with a clear message that an anti-nuclear stance with negative effects on the Alliance would likely result in the refusal of an application to join. It is incumbent upon the secretary general to make this abundantly clear to the UK, and Scottish voters in particular, in advance of any future referendum.”

SNP candidate for Glasgow Anniesland, Bill Kidd, said: “Nuclear weapons are abhorrent and have no place in an independent Scotland.

“Nato membership is by no means dependant on nuclear weapons. Of the 30 members of Nato, just three have nuclear weapons – they are the exception in the world, not the rule.

“Boris Johnson’s UK Tory government has its priorities all wrong. In the same week, the SNP was enshrining children’s rights into Scots Law, the Tories were increasing the UK’s nuclear arsenal by 40% – the contrast of Bairns not Bombs could not be clearer.

“In 4 weeks, Scotland faces a choice of two futures, one with a Tory government that prioritises beefing up its nuclear arsenal or one that prioritises Scotland’s children.”