The House of Commons Defence Committee last night published evidence submitted by the UK Government to its inquiry into the defence implications of possible Scottish independence.
Commenting on the publication, the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said:
“As part of the UK, Scotland benefits from high levels of protection and security provided by the UK’s sophisticated defence capabilities, including highly capable, well equipped and well supported armed forces. The UK also has a strong network of alliances and relationships, which, together with our defence capabilities, ensure national security and resilience, protecting our people, economy, infrastructure, territory and way of life. They help to shape a stable world through actions beyond our borders to reduce the likelihood of risks affecting the UK or our direct interests overseas.
“Scotland, as an integral part of the UK, plays a big role in the defence of the UK. It is home to major Navy, Army and RAF bases and other key facilities. Scots and Scottish-recruited units are an integral part of the UK armed forces. And the defence industry in Scotland, including its shipbuilding industry, plays a key role in equipping and supporting the UK armed forces.
“The United Kingdom is one of the most successful and long-standing political, social and economic unions in history. The close ties and our shared history mean we can project significant influence in the world and face global challenges and risks with our shared talents and resources. The UK Government’s position is clear: Scotland benefits from being part of the UK and the UK benefits from having Scotland within the UK”.
The Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore said:
“As an integral part of the UK, Scotland plays a big role in the defence of the UK and benefits from high levels of protection and security, significant international influence and great opportunities for industry. We are stronger and safer as part of the UK family.
“Our armed forces are totally integrated across the UK. It is absurd to suggest that an independent Scotland would simply produce a mini version of the UK armed forces.”
The evidence outlines Scotland’s key role in the defence of the UK . Extracts from the evidence include:
“Scotland, as an integral part of the UK, plays a key role in the defence of the UK. It is currently the location of major bases for: the strategic nuclear deterrent; four regular infantry battalions and an air support regiment; two Royal Marines Commando units; and five squadrons of fast jets, including those providing the UK’s northern quick reaction alert force. There are also a significant number of reserve units, extensive training and testing areas and other facilities there. As at 1 July 2012, there were some 15,500 Ministry of Defence personnel located in Scotland, including some 11,000 regular armed forces and 4,500 civilian personnel, at some 50 locations across the country. Future plans envisage bases in Scotland for: all Royal Navy submarines; an Army brigade; and one of the Royal Air Force’s three fast jet main operating bases.”
“Scots and Scottish-recruited units are an integral part of the UK armed forces and are highly integrated into the overall force structure of the UK’s very sophisticated fighting forces. In 2011/12, about 9% of recruits to the regular armed forces were recruited through Scottish recruiting offices. There are around 3,000 volunteer reserves and 17,000 cadets in Scotland. Scots have a proud and distinguished record of service in the armed forces.”
“There is a substantial defence industrial footprint in Scotland, ranging from design, manufacture, assembly and maintenance of complex warships on the Clyde and at Rosyth to the latest high-tech innovations in aerospace engineering, defence electronics and electro-optical systems in companies based right throughout Scotland. As part of the UK defence industry, the defence industry in Scotland has a highly skilled workforce and plays a key role in equipping and supporting the UK armed forces.”
The evidence also explains the defence benefits for Scotland of being part of the UK:
“The UK has the fourth largest defence budget in the world. Agreed funding for defence over the period 2011/12 to 2014/15 is some £34 billion per year, which meets the NATO target to devote at least 2% of Gross Domestic Product to defence.”
“It is important to emphasise that all parts of the UK gain significant benefits from the provision of defence on a UK basis. The formulation of defence policy and strategy and the planning and delivery of defence on a UK basis provides high levels of protection and security for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the Overseas Territories, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and British citizens abroad. As an integral part of the UK, Scotland receives the full benefits of this protection and security.”
The evidence states the UK Government’s views on the possible implications for Scotland if it decided to separate from the UK:
“There is no doubt that a smaller nation of just over 5 million people would have a much smaller defence presence than that of the UK with over 60 million. There would be a much smaller tax base and a much smaller recruiting base. That would inevitably have implications for defence manpower and budget and the armed forces’ capabilities, including being able to protect its own territory and to deploy on exercises and operations, especially those connected with any international commitments.2
“The creation of independent Scottish armed forces would not be as simple as transferring existing Scottish-recruited or Scotland-based units as this would not create in any sense a coherent, credible or balanced force.”
“In terms of defence industry in Scotland, should it decide to separate from the UK, we are sure that companies there would continue to make strong bids for UK defence contracts; but they would then be competing for business in an international market. And it would only be eligible to bid for contracts that are competed outside the UK..”
The evidence went on to address the issue of NATO membership:
“The UK Government believes that Scotland is certainly stronger in defence terms as part of the UK within NATO and does not believe it would be in the interests of an independent Scotland not to be a member of NATO. However, if an independent Scotland decided that it wanted to be a member of NATO, the North Atlantic Council would need to decide whether or not it would meet the criteria for membership. There is no guarantee that NATO membership would be automatic.”
The HCDC announced that it was to embark on an inquiry into the defence implications of possible Scottish independence on 10 May; it announced the terms of reference for the inquiry on 29 June. The MOD memorandum was submitted in response to the Committee’s invitations for written evidence. This will be followed by Ministerial oral evidence at a date to be arranged.
The full text of the memorandum can be found at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmdfence/writev/483/m00.htm