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Military task force exercise begins

A massive military exercise involving troops from across Europe and North America is set to get under way.

Joint Warrior will see warships, submarines and aircraft take to the west coast of Scotland for a two-week training exercise.

The exercise is held twice a year to prepare forces from the UK, US, Denmark, Norway, France, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands for events and active service.

The event is aimed at creating a task group capable of being deployed to worldwide incidents such as last year's war in Libya, as well as testing the ability of the Armed Forces to cope with events such as a terrorist attack on the Olympics.

An air assault exercise will see troops from the 16 Air Assault Brigade secure an airfield at West Freugh, in Stranraer, through a combination of parachute, air assault and Tactical Air Landings. Once it has landed, the task force, based around the 5 SCOTS battle group, will defend the airfield and carry out air assault exercises to defeat a notional enemy force. The exercise will involve more that 1,600 troops, and be supported by Apache, Chinook and Sea King from the Joint Helicopter Force.

A total of 8,000 Royal Navy personnel on board 30 vessels are also taking part in the Joint Warrior exercise.

The military exercise comes as the Scottish National Party played down reports that its leadership was considering proposing a change to the party's policy on Scotland's future membership of Nato.

The party has been opposed to membership of the military alliance for more than 30 years. Its policy is to be a member of Partnership for Peace, such as Sweden, Austria, Finland and Ireland, which allows bilateral co-operation between Nato and non-Nato countries.

But the BBC reported that the party was expected to discuss whether an independent Scotland should remain in Nato at its next meeting of its National Council in June.

An SNP spokesman said last night: "Anything that may happen in the future is mere speculation. If a motion is submitted it will be considered by the party's Standing Orders and Agenda Committee who will decide if it goes forward for debate. This reflects the democratic processes at the heart of the SNP."

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