An independent Scotland could trade its share of the UK's nuclear arsenal "for something more useful", First Minister Alex Salmond has said.
Mr Salmond's comments come after SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson said the party should drop its long-standing opposition to Nato, on the proviso that Trident nuclear missiles were removed from Scottish soil.
"The nuclear weapons concerned are not Scotland's nuclear weapons," Mr Salmond said at his Bute House residence.
"If they are regarded as an asset, which I would find difficult to regard it as, then I am quite certain that we can trade that asset for something more useful."
Experts predict that independence would herald prolonged negotiation over the UK's military assets.
Mr Salmond said he was "surprised" by comments from former Nato secretary general Lord Robertson who told the Daily Record newspaper that the SNP has to accept that "Nato is a nuclear alliance and members will retain nuclear weapons".
Mr Salmond said: "When he actually was Nato secretary general, in a speech to the Moscow State Institute on Foreign Relations from February 21 2001, Lord Robertson said: 'In the founding act, Nato committed itself to the famous three nuclear Nos: no intention, no plan, and no reason to establish nuclear weapons storage sites on the territory of new members'; a commitment still valid.
"Clearly Lord Robertson's memory is escaping him. What he is saying about Scotland seems to be different to what applies to 25 out of 28 member countries in the Nato alliance."
Angus Robertson's resolution, which will be debated by delegates at the SNP's October conference, states that Scotland "will inherit its treaty obligations with Nato".
This suggests that Scotland will not be a "new member" but a successor state in the SNP's analysis.
Mr Salmond said: "Times change. Circumstances change. The resolution sets out a very carefully positioned statement which shows a willingness to co-operate with our friends and allies but makes clear that the non-nuclear position of the SNP is paramount."
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said: "This SNP opposition to Nato, something that is ridiculed across the world, has been nurtured on Alex Salmond's watch. He even called the intervention in Kosovo, to stop ethnic cleansing: an unpardonable folly. This is a startling turnaround from a man and a party who have been opposed to Nato for three decades.
"Alex Salmond's support of this motion is nothing to do with defence, an issue on which he is continually exposed as weak. It has everything to do with the referendum. He's terrified at what the people of Scotland think about his vision for separation and is watering down every policy he can think of.
"Just as he has reversed his party's position on replacing the Queen and adopting the euro, so now his long-held opposition to Nato is cast aside as the referendum gets closer.
"It is a cynical move from a man who has shown time and again that his interest is not with what is best for the defence of our nation or the men and women who serve in uniform, but for his own narrow nationalist agenda."
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