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Defence implications of possible Scottish independence

27 September 2013

Scottish voters need to know how an independent Scotland would defend itself, says Defence Committee.

Information published so far by the Scottish Government on the defence and security implications of Scottish independence falls far short of requirements, says the Defence Committee in its report, published today, “The defence implications of possible Scottish independence.”

The people of Scotland deserve to be presented with as full a picture as possible prior to the referendum.
The Defence Committee also states that it cannot currently judge the likely running costs of the proposed Scottish defence force, given the limited information it has so far received from the Scottish Government. The Committee is, however, unconvinced that the proposed budget of £2.5bn can support both the proposed Scottish defence force and the purchase of new equipment including fast jets and submarines.

The year-long inquiry was intended to contribute to the independence debate and the implications for defence and security. Chair of the Committee, Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP, says “Crucially, we are not making recommendations to the Scottish people—the decision on independence is a matter for them. But we do think that Scottish voters need to see answers to the questions that we are asking the Scottish Government to provide in their upcoming White Paper. It will be for the Scottish Government to make its case that an independent Scotland can sustain an appropriate level of defence and security.”
The report seeks answers to the following questions:

  1. How would a sovereign Scottish Government ensure the defence and security of an independent Scotland?
  2. For what purposes would Scottish armed forces be used?
  3. How would Scottish armed forces be structured and trained, and where would they be based?
  4. How much would it cost to equip, support and train an independent Scotland’s armed forces and how much of this could be procured and delivered domestically? and
  5. How many jobs in the defence sector would be placed at risk?

The Committee also raises detailed questions about the proposed Scottish defence force:

  • the numbers and types of aircraft and naval vessels which would be needed and how they would be procured and maintained;
  • the numbers of combat troops the Scottish Government envisages (including its plan to re-instate historic Scottish regiments); and
  • the availability of training facilities to maintain the appropriate professional standards.

In the event of independence, the Committee considers that the defence industry in Scotland would face a difficult future. This impact would be felt most immediately by those companies engaged in shipbuilding, maintenance, and high end technology. The requirements of a Scottish defence force would not generate sufficient domestic demand to compensate for the loss of lucrative contracts from the UK MoD, and additional security and bureaucracy hurdles would be likely to reduce competitiveness with companies based elsewhere in the UK.

In relation to the SNP’s desire for an independent Scotland to become a member of NATO, the report states that the process of securing membership is complex and time-consuming and the response to an application from an independent Scotland would be influenced by the Scottish Government’s stance on nuclear weapons. Rt Hon James Arbuthnot MP said:

“NATO is a nuclear alliance and any action likely to disrupt the operation of the UK’s strategic deterrent would undoubtedly influence NATO Member countries’ attitudes towards an application from Scotland.”

Further information