As I will say later on, we are a peacekeeper and peacemaker because of our commitment to freedom and its defence. We are protected and insured against aggression by our collective will and our collective commitment to stay strong, but we must be prepared to commit resources to that end. While we are rightly proud of our armed forces, which are the undoubtedly the best in the world—I have heard the Defence Secretary on several occasions say that they represent the best of us and the best of our Union—and proud of their operational capabilities and reach, I worry that they are simply not big enough for everything we ask of them. I remind the House, although it needs little reminder, that behind our men and women in the Queen’s uniform there are families.
Scotland’s national motto—the House will forgive my schoolboy Latin—is “Nemo me impune lacessit,” which, appropriately for this debate, means, “No one provokes me with impunity.” In Scots, we might say, “Wha daur meddle wi’ me?” Our strength is not only our defence, but defence to our friends and allies in NATO, and the hon. Member for Bridgend spoke so well about the importance of the combined strengths of NATO’s members. The UK is not a warmonger. We take our nuclear non-proliferation obligations seriously and remain committed, as a country, to the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and Vernon Coaker made an outstanding contribution on that point.
However, the nuclear arsenal is a vital part of western defence under the NATO umbrella. We enjoy a hard-won peace, and there has been no recent major state-on-state conflict, principally because of the strength of resolve of the members of NATO, to which I am proud that we contribute. Aggressors need to know that they will face consequences. Our love of peace should not be misinterpreted by anyone. We are resolved to protect it by being strong in the deployment of soft power through diplomacy and hard power through our armed forces. Our security is put at risk by those who would simply dismantle such capabilities. We should not glory in weapons systems. This country, rightly, does not parade its missiles, as some countries do, but we should not be ashamed of our nuclear stance.
The Leader of the Opposition, who has always opposed nuclear weapons from a position of principle, would put our country at risk if he ever sat in 10 Downing Street. Anyone aspiring to this country’s greatest office of government should be prepared to put our national security front and centre, and anyone who aspires to that job must accept the important place of the nuclear deterrent in our defensive formation.
The SNP position is clearer than Labour’s, and the position derives from the party’s position on independence. The House needs to understand that, for the past few years, the SNP has been busy trying to build a wide coalition of support in Scotland to break up the United Kingdom, and it is doing that by pivoting, contorting and doing whatever it has to do to mop up as much support as possible.
It is not so long ago that the SNP was not just not in favour of NATO but was anti-NATO, and Alex Salmond persuaded his followers that they needed to be more realistic about the mood of the most conservative nation in these British Isles, namely the Scots, who would never wear the idea of us walking away from our obligations and responsibilities to other free people in the world. He persuaded the party that it needed to embrace the idea of NATO, and it now has this half-hearted position of saying that it would be in NATO on certain conditions. But those conditions would make Scotland an unsuitable and inappropriate member of NATO. There are many principled proponents of disarmament in the SNP.