The Scottish National Party leadership has been condemned by anti-nuclear activists, Greens and its own members after it voted for NATO membership today (19 October)
Narrowly reversing the party's previous position that an independent Scotland should stay outside the pro-nuclear weapons alliance, the SNP conference voted by 426 to 332 in favour of NATO this afternoon. A thwarting amendment was defeated by 394 to 365.
The decision is likely to cause dissent in the 'Yes Scotland' campaign, and has already led to accusations that the party is moving towards the corporate political consensus it has previously criticised.
John Finnie MSP declared: "Scotland had a very distinctive education, health and justice system and I think the SNP government has got different priorities from the UK government. This self-styled defence policy update is not in that distinct social justice vein, it's more of the same old UK."
After the vote at the SNP's annual conference in Perth the decision was immediately welcomed by Scottish Conservative MP Murdo Fraser, who tweeted: "Excellent news as SNP back the NATO nuclear alliance. Trident is here to stay."
Meanwhile, pro-union supporter Mike Elrick, a former Labour adviser, declared: "I love NATO... So now, does the SNP."
But others took a very different view.
"The SNP's change of policy on NATO is moral hypocrisy, and a terrible misjudgement," the Scottish Green Party declared, pointing out that claiming to oppose nuclear weapons while choosing to shelter under a nuclear umbrella was contradictory, incoherent and opportunistic.
Glasgow MSP and Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said that "the decision will alienate anti-nuclear Scots who are still considering whether to vote for independence."
He continued: "Rather than building a platform of distinctive policies that make the case for a radically better Scotland, the SNP leadership seem determined to quash the party's better instincts.
"It is moral hypocrisy of the worst kind to be so vocal in opposition to Trident but in favour of an alliance based on the nuclear protection of other states. This is a profound misjudgement that sets the face of the SNP against radical Scotland at a time when they should be energising campaigners.
"The SNP have also backed a policy of spending at least £2.5 billion every year on defence in an independent Scotland. The idea of a NATO-backed minimum spend on defence is highly disturbing and seems designed to fall into step with the military posture of the UK and US, aggressively projecting power around the world."
While SNP insiders congratulated themselves loudly for "a mature debate", Scottish CND described the result as a "pyrrhic victory for Mr Salmond", who was "only able to pass the NATO vote by pressuring elected members and ministers."
The decision has dismayed a considerable number of SNP members and representatives. Pro-NATO Alyn Smith MEP was booed as he ridiculed and patronised opponents of the policy switch and boasted of the supposed "realism" of the proposed change.
Delegates cried "shame" after he claimed that an anti-NATO policy made the SNP appear "hopelessly naive" and "not ready for big league".
But Sandra White MSP defiantly declared: "It's not enough to say that you believe in independence and then say that you want to belong to NATO. As far as I'm concerned, it's hypocritical to say we shouldn't have nuclear weapons and we want to belong to NATO. How dare we say that?"
Meanwhile, Jamie Hepburn MSP warned: "Expect [NATO] to say, 'It's OK, come in, join the club, but we'll get back to you some time about the other thing'. Do we consider nuclear weapons are immoral just because they're located in Scotland, or do we consider they're immoral, wherever they may be located?"
Commentator and historian David Torrance, a biographer of Alex Salmond, declared that the SNP leadership "won the vote, but they lost the debate." During the proceedings he tweeted: "Keith Brown and John Swinney [speeches] in favour of NATO motion both argument-free zones."
Churches and other faith community members who have taken a strong anti-nuclear weapons stance are also likely to be concerned by the SNP's change of position, which brings it into line with the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats.