COMMONS

It is time for the truth on Scottish defence

25 November 2013

In a report published on Saturday 23 November 2013, the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee says that the time for "vague generalities" and unchallenged optimistic assumptions on the national defence of a separate Scotland is over.

The upcoming Scottish Government White Paper must make absolutely clear the details of both its foreign and defence policies and how these will translate into armed forces: with specifics given on costs, planned personnel numbers, equipment types, bases and alliances.

The most explicit pledges the Scottish Government has made to date on defence include:

  • The whole cost of security and defence will be no more than £2.5 billion.
  • Personnel in the armed services will total 15,000 full time and 5,000 reserve personnel
  • The defence force will include all “current Scottish raised and restored UK regiments”.

The Committee says these pledges raise more questions than they answer:

  • Will there be a defence force which is army heavy?
  • An army which is infantry heavy?
  • Will historic regiments be re-designated as platoons, reserves or non–infantry units?
  • How big will the Scottish Navy and Air Force actually be? 
  • Where will they be based and how will they be equipped?

The Scottish Government must now make clear that it accepts that no British military personnel can be forcibly transferred into any Scottish Defence Force against their will. It must spell out what wages and conditions it would propose to attract those who would be leaving behind participation in the UK's world class armed services.

The defence industry in Scotland

Is Faslane is to be kept with its existing workforce? Will they be retrained if all RN submarines leave? What effect will this have upon other bases? What costs will be incurred in the transition to the new Scottish Defence Force? Can the Scottish Government truthfully assume that Scotland will inherit only the equipment it desires? What are the implications for procurement whether or not Scotland gets the assets it wants?

The Trident nuclear deterrent

One of the biggest questions still left unanswered is the future of Trident. What does the Scottish Government's pledge of "earliest safe removal” actually mean when the United Kingdom, rightly or wrongly, believes that its safety requires Trident to remain for the foreseeable future? Would a separate Scotland impose unilateral nuclear disarmament on the UK or accept that a timetable for removing Trident would be subject to UK agreement? And since membership for Scotland of NATO will require not only unanimous acceptance by all existing NATO members, but also the resolution of any disputes with the UK, how does the Scottish Government propose to proceed?

Committee chair

Ian Davidson MP, chair of the Committee, said: "The first duty of a government is to protect its citizens.“

"Much of what the Scottish Government have suggested up to now suffers from a conspiracy of optimism—the assumption that everything will go according to plan, that every other government and international body will fall in with the Scottish Government’s proposals. But what if this doesn’t happen? The best laid plans... What are their alternatives? The Scottish Government must spell out its fallback positions in the event that everything does not go so smoothly.

 

"As we move ever closer to the date of the referendum the people of Scotland are entitled to expect that those who propose drastic, wide ranging constitutional change can explain what the consequences would be and how future defence would be organised. To fail in this would be a dereliction of any government's first duty to its citizens."

Further information

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