Salmond’s latest headache: Two MSPs defect from SNP

By Charles Maggs

Two Scottish Nationalist party MSPs have defected in protest over the party's change in policy towards supporting Nato membership.

John Finnie and Jean Urquhart quit the party because of a vote on Friday at the party's conference affirming that an independent Scotland should join the alliance.

"I cannot continue to belong to a party that quite rightly does not wish to hold nuclear weapons on its soil, but wants to join a first strike nuclear alliance," said Finney.

Both are opposed to Scotland being part of the group because of its support for nuclear weapons.

"The issue of nuclear disarmament and removing Trident from Scotland's waters is a red line issue for me, and I could not remain committed to a party that has committed itself to retaining membership of Nato," Urquhart said.

The motion was supported by party leader Alex Salmond but had been subject to a heated debate before it was passed. Although the party now advocates joining Nato, it remains opposed to nuclear proliferation.

It leaves the separatist party with a majority in Holyrood of just one and will weaken Salmond's position ahead of the historic independence vote to be held in 2014.

Salmond's personal ratings have been on the wane of late, and some polls have put support for leaving the union as low as a third of the Scottish electorate.