Perhaps the most insufferable aspect of the ongoing debate about reform of the GRA is the claim of those on one side of the debate that they are on "the right side of history" and that their opponents are on "the wrong side of history". They sound exactly like Marxists when they say that, because Marxism is one of the few ideologies that insists the course of history is predetermined (and arguably it's already been proved wrong about that). For non-Marxists, considerably more humility is required, because it's very difficult to tell whether you're on the right side of history when you're living bang in the middle of it. In 1940, for example, it seemed obvious to many people that fascists were on the right side of history, at least within the confines of continental Europe, because the fall of France and the Low Countries seemed to leave no route back. Philippe Pétain's guiding principle in reconstituting the French state after the Nazi invasion was that the 1789 revolution's goals of 'liberty, equality and fraternity' had been defeated forever. But then Hitler overreached himself by invading the Soviet Union and declaring war on the US. From that point on it seemed equally obvious that the course of history favoured the Allies, and that the future of Europe belonged to liberal democracy and Soviet-style communism.
Sometimes, what appear to be the prevailing trends of history can even contradict each other in the here-and-now. Due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and the momentous decisions that have subsequently been made by Finland and Sweden, it seems obvious that Europe's destiny is to unite under the NATO banner against a common enemy to the east. But it's equally obvious that there's a trend in recent years towards challenging the assumption that nuclear weapons can never be eliminated, with dozens of countries signing up to a new and legally-binding treaty that bans nukes completely. Those two historical trends are more or less in direct conflict with each other because NATO is a nuclear weapons alliance. And yet somehow the SNP leadership have got themselves wrapped up in both.
How did that happen? Support for the nuclear weapons ban treaty can be explained by the legacy of the SNP's long-standing status as a unilateralist party, which the membership will accept no overt backtracking from. The support for NATO membership stems from the desire of self-styled 'modernisers' at the top of the SNP to make the party look more 'normal', with 'normality' being defined as centre-right militarism. (During the SNP conference session a few years ago at which opposition to NATO membership was finally overturned, Alyn Smith infamously said that he was upset that the party's principled stance on peace was making it look 'odd'.) There's been an uneasy narrative that NATO membership is not strictly incompatible with the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil, but that attempt to square the circle may have been pushed beyond breaking point by the emergence of an actual nuclear ban treaty with very strict provisions.
The SNP's militarist wing has now been emboldened by the war in Ukraine to such an extent that the defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald felt able to openly express his willingness to allow NATO nuclear weapons to be temporarily welcomed in an independent Scotland - totally at odds with his party's supposed belief that all such weapons should be wiped from the face of the planet. That triggered a timely intervention from CND Scotland, who pointed out that McDonald's words are not even compatible with the text of the treaty that the SNP apparently want an independent Scotland to sign and be legally bound by.
Is there any way at all that NATO membership can be squared with joining a legally-binding nuclear ban treaty? It doesn't look easy to me. Only three EU countries have ratified the treaty so far - Ireland, Malta and Austria. Those are all neutral countries where there isn't even any serious debate about the possibility of joining NATO. Sweden initially voted in favour of the treaty but later decided against joining, and that was presumably partly because NATO membership has never been a non-issue in Sweden (and in neighbouring Finland) due to geographical proximity with Russia. Now that Sweden has actually applied to join NATO, it's surely unthinkable that it will join the nuclear ban treaty in anything remotely close to the foreseeable future.
So in the real world, the SNP leadership may have to make a straight choice between whether NATO or the nuclear ban treaty represent "the right side of history", rather than pretending that both do simultaneously. At the very least, they need to be honest with themselves and with others that what they claim to want to do - join both NATO and the treaty - is not only unusual ("odd" as Alyn Smith might put it), it's totally and utterly unique. An avowedly non-nuclear independent Scotland would of necessity be a very different sort of NATO member, not a full-blooded 'mainstream' member like Belgium or Denmark, and there needs to be an acknowledgement of that.
And if a straight choice has to be made, let's remember where Scottish public opinion stands on the issue of the nuclear ban treaty. A poll commissioned by this very blog one year ago asked about the subject, with dramatic results...
Scot Goes Pop / Panelbase poll, 21st-26th April 2021: