Michael Moore MP, the quietly capable Secretary of State for Scotland in the UK Government is off on a three-city tour of the USA and Canada in the coming week, to promote trade with Scotland.
Mr Moore will be first in Washington – where he is also booked to speak on Scotland at the prestigious Georgetown University; and will then head to Ottawa and Montreal in Canada.
The Scottish Secretary will be having discussions in both countries with business leaders and with politicians; and will be visiting companies already doing business with Scotland.
His visit comes in the wake of a bit of a spat in the Washington Post between that paper and Scotland’s First Minister.
The paper ran an editorial expressing significant concerns on the consequences for world security of an independent Scotland, saying that it ‘… would significantly weaken the foremost military and diplomatic ally of the United States, while creating another European mini-state unable to contribute meaningfully to global security’.
It cited the following issues.
- The UK’s military capacity would be weakened were Scotland to secede from the Union, bringing a spectrum of defence consequences. This is straightforward logic. The UK’s defence forces would of course be weakened with the loss of Scotland. From the Americans’ specific viewpoint, a major anxiety is the potential removal of nuclear armed submarines from Scottish territory, effectively killing off the Trident replacement so dear to the USA for economic and military reasons.
- A small solo state cannot contribute ‘effectively’ to world security. This too is factual and logical. Israel is the exception to this rule – as the most high profile small state with a major military profile – but it is bankrolled by the USA and it could hardly be said that its military capability ‘contributes to global security’.
The Washington Post article comes on the heels of the publication of a key ‘nations brand index’ [the Anholt-GfK Roper] which showed that Americans’ ranking of Scotland had slipped from 8th to 20th in the world.
This is thought to be the result of the freeing of the Lockerbie bomber – which, in the light of the serious doubt cast on the evidence against him and on his irrecoverable cancer, was a civilised action of which Scotland can be proud.
The First Minister was given right of reply in the pages of the Washington Post, making the following points.
- The paper’s information is out of date in claiming that an independent Scotland would be antithetical to membership of NATO. While this is true, in terms of the new position accepted narrowly, divisively and under compulsion at the SNP’s 2012 Autumn conference, any future government of an independent state of Scotland, of whatever party, would be free to leave NATO; where a part of the UK would not.
- There are other small states – like Norway and Denmark – each of which flew more sorties in the recent international action in Libya than did the UK. Does this mean that the First Minister envisages a Scottish airforce with attack capacity and with carrier and ground support?
There are strong arguments the First Minister did not make but which identify a key role in world security which a small state like Scotland might well be able to make – and which it might work to gain a position to deliver.
A small state [not unlike Sweden], that is non-militaristic, pacifist, respected for integrity and good judgment and is available as an honest broker in conflict resolution, could be credibly said to be capable of contributing more to world security than an armed and opportunist drum beater, as the USA has been with Iraq and Libya – and is working at again with Iran.
We don’t all have to run around the world with grenade pins between our teeth, an AK47 in each hand and the code for a nuclear deterrent embedded in our memories. There are different ways of supporting world security than frightening the bejasus out of all comers.
The astute but consensual Mr Moore’s visit to the USA and to Canada comes at an interesting and a potentially constructive moment.