THE SNP would not commit an independent Scotland to signing an international treaty banning nuclear weapons, the External Affairs Secretary has said in an apparent U-turn on previous Scottish Government policy.

Angus Robertson made the admission as he spoke to journalists at the launch of a new white paper on an independent Scotland’s place in the world.

The paper, the 11th in a series laying out the Scottish Government’s position on policy areas post-independence, argues: “As an independent country, Scotland could negotiate directly, and become a state party to treaties, conventions or agreements which the UK has not signed or ratified. These include the Revised European Social Charter …”

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However, despite frequent mentions of nuclear weapons and the bases at Faslane and Coulport, the paper does not mention the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which Nicola Sturgeon had previously indicated an independent Scotland would sign.

The former first minister said in 2021: “An independent Scotland would be a keen signatory and I hope the day we can do that is not far off.”

Nato, the nuclear alliance which the new white paper argues Scotland will seek to join, has called the TPNW incompatible with the policy of nuclear deterrence and no member states have signed.

Commentators are divided on whether a state who has signed the TPNW could join Nato.

Asked about the absence of the TPNW in the new white paper, Angus Robertson said an Scottish Government would inherit obligations under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which was signed in 1968.

However, he would not commit to signing the TPNW, which calls for an outright ban on nuclear weapons while the NPT only looks to prevent new countries acquiring them.

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Robertson (above) said: “We're absolutely committed to signing the [NPT], which I think I'm right in saying I think is now 50 years old.

“The NPT commits all member states, including the United Kingdom, to work towards nuclear disarmament. We'd be committed to doing absolutely that.

“In this case, you're talking about inheriting treaty obligations, and that's exactly what we would do.”

Pressed on support for the TPNW, which is a different treaty and was first signed in 2017, Robertson said: “We will inherit our treaty obligations as part of the nonproliferation treaty. And then, of course, all other treaties are matters for the government of the day.

“What I have said repeatedly now is we actually want to live up to our commitments, which the United Kingdom shares, which is for nuclear disarmament, working with the international community to do that, and that's exactly what we will do.”

In 2017, the UK, US, and France – the three Nato members with nuclear capabilities – issued a joint statement rejecting the TPNW, saying it “clearly disregards the realities of the international security environment”.

At the same time, the three nations also made clear a “continued commitment” to the nonproliferation treaty.

Robertson’s statement therefore looks to have brought the Scottish Government into line with UK policy, moving away from former first minister Sturgeon’s statements.

Elsewhere at the media briefing, Robertson insisted that the UK Government would not be able to keep nuclear weapons in Scotland after a vote for independence – adding that the issue of where to store them instead was not for him to answer.

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He would not be drawn on the projected cost of any of the policies in the white paper, which include launching a new armed services with air, water, and land capabilities and a new Scottish intelligence agency.

The paper does include annual defence spending from five “comparator countries” – Ireland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark – which ranges from around US$1 billion a year to $8bn a year.

However, asked not about annual upkeep but set-up costs, Robertson would not give a figure.

He said that no numbers could be provided until an independent defence and security review, which would also look to spell out the exact types of regiments and weaponry an independent Scotland’s armed forces would use.