George Roberston, or Lord Roberston as he now is, has made some rather startling claims for Scotland. In his latest speech in the USA he asserted that Scottish independence would be cataclysmic for the west. Not just for Scotland mind you, but for all of the west. I guess the Americans and Canadians must be terrified wrecks by now. Whoever knew that poor, wee Scotland has such enormous power throughout the world! Should we all be immensely proud of our new found status, or should the men in white suits be called for the noble Lord?
It is hard to take Lord Robertson’s rather intemperate and wild assertions in anything other than jest. Though Thomas Docherty, the Labour MP for Dunfermline and West Fife was called upon to do his duty and try and make some sense out of the noble Lord’s utterances. Thomas Docherty was on Radio Scotland this lunchtime. Challenged by John Beattie to come up with some concrete examples of what this cataclysm meant, the best poor Thomas Docherty could come up with was 1. Failure of the west’s mission in Afghanistan; 2. Russian planes intruding into Scottish airspace; and 3. Possible problem in joining NATO. Now, even with the best will in the world it is very hard to see how any of the above could ever merit the word cataclysmic.
It is worth noting that the second example only seems to affect Scotland. Even then Mr Docherty was merely claiming that with independence there might be a gap of a few years in which Scotland did not have enough airplanes of its own to track and challenge Russian intruders. While this is probably correct, it is really hard to make this into a cataclysmic event for the west. Russian planes have been flying around Scottish and UK airspace for ages, without anything drastic happening. I doubt if the Russians are planning to invade and occupy part of Scotland, and as Mr Docherty made no such suggestion I am at a loss as to what significance this claim amounts to.
The claim about Afghanistan is if anything even more ridiculous. Mr Docherty laxed lyrical about the recent Presidential election in Afghanistan and claimed this was all due to the willingness of NATO troops to remain in that country long enough to ensure the transition to democracy. Let us leave aside that the claim that Afghanistan is now a stable and peaceful democracy is perhaps a bit overblown. The essence of Mr Docherty’s assertion was that the SNP MPs at Westminster had voted in 2012, to bring the troops home immediately, and that this would have put the whole Afghanistan mission at risk. Now it is just possible that if the UK had ended its commitment in 2012 that might have put the mission at risk. However it is an enormous stretch to claim that if the relatively few numbers of Scottish troops had been recalled in 2012 that would have been sufficient on its own to have risked the whole mission. I realize Scottish soldiers are very brave, disciplined, tenacious and highly regarded, but come on, to claim that the recall of a small number of Scottish troops would have had this cataclysmic effect on the rest of the NATO troops is just a tad over the top, is it not? After all troops from other countries have also been pulled out from Afghanistan. Spanish troops left in September 2013. France withdrew its combat troops in November 2012, while the Canadians ended their combat role in 2011. The last of the Canadian training contingent returned last month. Nothing cataclysmic happened as a result of these troop reductions. I don’t recall either Lord Robertson or Mr Docherty rushing to the airwaves to blast Canada, France or Spain for their dastardly dereliction of duty to the west. Only the prospect of an independent Scotland it seems warrants such condescension.
Mr Docherty’s final attempt was to suggest that Scotland might find it difficult to enter NATO. No real reason was put forward as to why this might happen. It was also a rather inopportune time to be making such unfounded claims. NATO has just announced that its new Secretary General, a post once held by our august Lord, is to be former Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg. He will replace the current Secretary General, former Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. So two small northern European countries can provide the current and next leader of NATO. Note also that neither Norway nor Denmark possess or host nuclear weapons. Yet somehow Scotland might be rejected by this alliance? On the one hand Scottish independence will be cataclysmic for the west and yet at the same time NATO is going to reject us! Doesn’t make sense to me either. But it is a long time since the No campaign came out with anything that had even a passing ressemblence to sense.