SNP - 'High North' focus outlined in Iceland
The prospects of independent Scottish cooperation with regional neighbours have been outlined today (Tuesday) in Iceland by Westminster Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Angus Robertson MP.
The SNP Foreign Affairs and Defence spokesman was speaking at the Centre for Arctic Studies in Reykjavik on the 'Geopolitics of an independent Scotland'. While in the Icelandic capital he is also meeting with the government and opposition as well as officials from different ministries.
The visit comes one year before the historic referendum on whether Scotland should become an independent country. The SNP recently updated its policy platform stressing northern European cooperation, including security stability as a non-nuclear conventional NATO member state.
Speaking in Reykjavik Mr Robertson said:
"Scottish independence will bring significant improvements to regional cooperation with neighbours such as Iceland, Denmark and Norway.
"Environmental challenges to the High North and Arctic will impact on us all most directly. We have a shared interest in taking these challenges as well as the opportunities seriously.
"Scotland is in a vital geo-strategic position with the Iceland Gap to our north, the Atlantic to our west and the North Sea to our East.
"The SNP has committed itself to security stability with our neighbouring northern allies who are all NATO members. With a commitment to conventional maritime priorities we will be a reliable and dependable partner.
During his speech Mr Robertson contrasted the SNP commitment to the northern region with the record of the UK government:
"Sadly the UK has an extremely poor recent record taking the northern dimension seriously. The issue was completely ignored in the recent MOD strategic defence and security review and the UK is failing to take its NATO responsibilities seriously in the region. Not only has the UK withdrawn from northern air policing, but has also let years pass without contributing naval vessels to the NATO northern maritime patrol group.
"Scotland is a northern maritime nation, without any maritime patrol aircraft or serious ocean capable convention vessels. The UK government is responsible for these capability gaps and policy shortcomings. An independent Scottish SNP government will rectify this as a top priority."
Centre for Arctic Policy - Tuesday 22 October 2013.
Angus Robertson MP undertook a similar program in Denmark a few weeks ago. Invited to speak at Copenhagen University on regional cooperation with an independent Scotland, he also met with senior Danish government and opposition parliamentarians as well as defence and foreign policy experts.
Northern Air Policing: NATO conducts air policing from Keflavik airport on Iceland. Member states provide fast jets, air and ground crew on rotation. The UK pulled out from its NATO air policing commitment after the banking crisis. Non-NATO members Sweden and Finland have agreed to take part.
See Wikipedia entry: Iceland Air Policing