Speech

Scotland analysis: defence

This speech was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Speech by Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Defence

Introduction

Thank you Alistair, and thank you to Selex ES for kindly hosting us this morning.

I wanted to make this speech here at one of the key defence industrial sites in Scotland because, over the next 11 months, it will be vital that people in Scotland understand fully the implications for Scottish jobs and for the Scottish economy of the SNP’s plans for independence.

And I hope that companies in the defence sector, large and small, will contribute to the referendum debate with factual information to their employees and the wider community.

So that they can make their voices heard, because thousands of Scottish jobs in defence depend upon Scotland remaining a part of the United Kingdom.

Back in March, I came to Edinburgh and set out many of the arguments in favour of retaining the Union and they still hold true today.

I also analysed, in that speech, what little the nationalists had put forward in the way of plans for Scotland’s defence and security under independence.

I made a series of assertions which fundamentally undermined the nationalists’ case.

I was expecting a furious rebuttal in the next morning’s press.

But nothing.

No response. No attempt to rebut. No case to make.

And seven months later, having raised those vital questions and challenged the SNP to come clean on their plans I had hoped to be able to engage today in a detailed debate about the future security of the Scottish people.

But instead of coming forward with detailed, costed and credible proposals to fulfil that first duty of government, the SNP have been culpably silent on the issue.

Less than a year before the Scottish people go to the ballot box to take one of the most important decisions in the history of Scotland, the SNP’s plans remain insultingly vague, a two page wish list that is neither costed nor credible.

The security of the Scottish people is too important to be ducked and dodged.

Perhaps they think that if they don’t engage in the debate, it will go away.

Well, I’ve got news for them: we think it matters, even if they don’t.

And we are determined to force a public debate on these important issues.

So, today I am publishing the most comprehensive analysis to date of the potential consequences of Scottish independence on the UK’s approach to defence and on Scotland’s future security and prosperity.

At the heart of the paper is the argument that in defence, scale matters.

The size and resources of the UK armed forces, generated from the whole of the United Kingdom, and backed by the fourth largest defence budget in the world, gives Scotland

  • a far higher level of security and certainty
  • a much greater degree of international influence
  • and sustains countless more jobs in industry

than would a separate force serving Scotland alone.

And not only Scotland would suffer.

The proud traditions of our armed forces are traditions shared by all the nations of the UK.

And no nation has greater cause for pride in its contribution to the UK armed forces’ achievements in defending democracy and protecting these islands than Scotland.

The rest of the UK would be poorer without it.

As Defence Secretary, I am clear that the nations of the United Kingdom are stronger, safer and more secure together than we would ever be apart.

Stronger security through integrated defence

Our forces are structured and positioned, not on an arbitrary national or regional allocational share as the SNP would have it, but on military logic to afford the best possible protection to the UK as a whole.

When it comes to the defence of our skies, for example, military radar and radio equipment in the Outer Hebrides and Aberdeenshire enable the Control and Reporting Centre south of the border at RAF Bulmer in Northumberland to control our quick reaction alert Typhoons based at RAF Leuchars and RAF Coningsby to deal with incidents and intercept potential aggressors long before they reach the UK.

How would a Scottish defence force provide that same level of integrated protection, particularly when the SNP, at least until last week, planned to have not Typhoon jets, but Hawk Trainer aircraft?

Scale also matters when it comes to the range of threats our armed forces are able to meet.

At a time when sophisticated military equipment and capabilities are becoming increasingly expensive, smaller, less well resourced countries often have to make painful trade-offs about which capabilities to retain, and which they can no longer afford to maintain the UK armed forces are fortunate that their scale enables them to deliver full spectrum military capability to meet the full range of security threats set out in the National Security Strategy and to deliver the vital security tasks set out in the SDSR.

From homeland defence to counter narcotics in the Caribbean from training the Afghan security forces to protecting our critical cyber networks and from maintaining security in the shipping lanes off the Horn of Africa which are so vital to our prosperity, to maintaining the ultimate guarantee of our security, the nuclear deterrent.

There is no question of Scotland having to pick and choose which threats to counter and which to ignore, which capabilities to build and which not to, so long as it benefits from an integrated, whole of UK defence.

Last week, I announced that we will invest hundreds of millions of pounds in developing a new offensive cyber capability in addition to our defensive cyber programme to deter potential aggressors and help protect our vital networks.

These new capabilities will be vital to maintaining our future security, but they require significant, fixed cost upfront investment.

How would an independent Scottish government fund a separate Scottish cyber capability, when its defence and security budget has already been stretched well past breaking point?

And that’s just one part of the budget question that remains unanswered since I posed it in March: with a budget of £2.5 billion, if you believe Angus Robertson, or just £2 billion if you are more inclined to John Swinney’s sober view of Scotland’s fiscal position covering not just defence, but security as well: counter terrorism, domestic and foreign intelligence; surveillance and signals intelligence, cyber defence saddled with a pledge to retain all “Scottish” Regiments and all current Scottish bases and with huge start up costs and massive dis-economies in trying to maintain a wide range of capabilities on a small scale how can Scotland be properly defended? And before Angus Robertson starts blathering on about Norway and Denmark, one spends at least 1.5 times the SNP’s proposed budget on a comparable basis, and the other well over twice as much.

And scale also matters when it comes to the ability to attract motivated, high calibre people to our armed forces.

Today, those wishing to join the UK armed forces know that if they sign up they will not only get world class training and development, good pay, conditions and pensions but also the opportunity to train, and to serve, throughout the world.

Even as we draw down our forces from Afghanistan, British forces are on active service, deterring Argentine aggression in the Falklands, training local forces to counter Islamic terrorism in Mali, protecting vital trade routes off the coast of Somalia, peacekeeping in Cyprus and Bosnia and advising local security forces in Libya.

In just the last 3 years, UK troops have provided humanitarian assistance in Haiti, Chile, Pakistan, St Lucia and Jamaica.

The key to recruitment and retention is the quality of the offer you are able to make, and the British armed forces are able to attract recruits, from across the UK, of the highest calibre because of the wide range of opportunities available, and the chance to serve in the most widely respected forces in the world.

And you have to question, what sort of opportunities Scottish defence forces would offer by comparison? What calibre of people would they be able to recruit and retain?

Because the SNP have made a great deal of their plan to include current Scottish linked regiments in their defence force, as if they would, or could, just be broken off from the British army and transferred wholesale.

But what would be the incentive for the men and women serving in those regiments to make that transfer? What sort of future could they look forward to? What level of opportunity would they enjoy? And what influence would the force they served in have?

Stronger security through greater influence

The size and scale of our armed forces, combined with our willingness to deploy them, means the UK is considered a partner of choice by many countries around the world, delivering a geopolitical influence that few states of similar size can match.

And that influence is vital to enhancing our security and shaping to our advantage the international agreements, partnerships and multi-lateral organisations that underpin the UK’s security.

We are a permanent member of the UN Security Council; and a founder member of NATO, and the second largest contributor of deployed forces to it.

We have an extensive and longstanding network of bilateral defence relationships, most prominently with the United States and France, but also with numerous other countries across the world.

We are a leading member of the world’s most successful international intelligence sharing partnership, the Five Eyes community.

This high level of strategic, international influence and engagement provides access to billions of pounds worth of military and intelligence capability, contributing directly to the UK’s security by ensuring:

  • that we have access to information on the latest threats
  • that we can collaborate on highly specialised weapons and platforms; and
  • that we can shape the future of institutions such as NATO to ensure the protection of the British people for decades to come

And when it comes to NATO, the cornerstone of this country’s defence policy, the Scottish government has some explaining to do.

Until recently, they still claimed that, in the event of independence, Scotland would inherit the UK’s treaty obligations and rights.

But as the very first of this government’s analysis papers showed, if the Scottish people were to vote for independence, Scotland would be, in the eyes of the world and the law, be a new state.

It would have to build its own relationships, and apply for membership of international organisations anew.

And that includes NATO.

Put aside for a moment the resistance to Scottish membership that might be displayed by other member states seeking to contain independence movements in their own countries the SNP have still to explain how they would seek to persuade other NATO members that an independent Scotland should be granted membership of an avowedly nuclear alliance at the same time as not only opposing nuclear weapons in policy terms but actively seeking the removal from Scottish soil of a crucial part of NATO’s security umbrella.

The Scottish people deserve to know, before the referendum, what commitments have been given by the NATO Secretary General, and what hope an independent Scotland would have of future membership?

Because without that membership, and without the international defence alliances and networks the UK benefits from, the future security of the Scottish people would be significantly undermined.

Stronger industry, through a single defence market

The Scottish people also deserve to know what the impact of independence would be on the jobs and livelihoods of the many thousands of people in Scotland that are employed in the UK armed forces or in the defence industry that equips and supports them.

Because the UK defence presence in Scotland generates huge economic benefits.

Take, for example, Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde.

Faslane and Coulport together are the largest employment site in Scotland, providing 6,700 military and civilian jobs, a figure set to increase to 8,200 by the early 2020s.

By that time, Scotland will be home to the Royal Navy’s entire fleet of submarines, one of the British army’s seven Adaptable Force Brigades and one of three Royal Air Force fast jet main operating bases which, together with our pledge to increase the number of regular armed forces personnel based in Scotland to 12,500 (at a time when the overall number of UK personnel is decreasing) demonstrates not only our commitment to Scotland’s future, but the vast number of jobs that directly depend on it.

Add to that the £140 million a year the MOD spends on the defence estate in Scotland; the £100 million planned investment in army accommodation in Scotland; and the thousands of local jobs and businesses that depend on those bases and it’s clear that the UK armed forces footprint in Scotland is a key contributor to the Scottish economy.

And that’s without accounting for the impact of the defence industry in Scotland.

The scale and scope of UK defence spending, a £33 billion annual budget and a £160 billion 10 year equipment programme, directly sustains a significant proportion of this industry.

According to Scottish Development International, the defence sector in Scotland employs more than 12,600 people, generating sales in excess of £1.8 billion per year.

Shipbuilding accounts for a sizeable proportion of those jobs.

The MOD is by far the principal customer for the shipbuilding industry in Scotland.

Just over the Forth Bridge in Rosyth, the final sections of the first of the Royal Navy’s aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth, are now in place: a construction programme that, as at July, had already delivered £1.9 billion in work for the Clyde and Rosyth, with 4,000 jobs in the yards directly linked to the programme.

And, of course, the Scottish shipbuilding industry has already played a major part in the recent successful completion of delivery of the Royal Navy’s six Type 45 destroyers, a programme which, at its peak, also provided up to 4,000 jobs.

Yet the spectre of Scottish independence threatens to put those shipbuilding jobs in jeopardy.

Those jobs on the Clyde and at Rosyth exist because we have chosen to maintain in the UK a sovereign capability in complex warship building.

And to pay the premium prices for our naval vessels that underpins that strategic domestic capability.

But what would be the impact of a vote for independence on those jobs?

Outside the two World Wars, the UK has not had a complex warship built abroad since the start of the 20th Century.

There is absolutely no plan to change that posture.

So those jobs, and, indeed, the very existence of those yards, would become dependent upon orders placed by an independent Scottish government.

Since we know that the workload to sustain the Royal Navy’s fleet with 2 aircraft carriers and 19 frigates and destroyers is only just enough to support a complex warship building yard, it is abundantly clear that the industry in Scotland could not survive on Scottish government warship orders to sustain a fleet which, in practice, would not be bigger than one or two major ships, at most.

So that leaves exports.

But the Scottish Affairs Committee has already concluded the Scottish yards “will have little prospect of winning export work”. The export customer will not pay the premium that the Royal Navy will for “sovereign capability”.

The nationalists have created a high degree of uncertainty with their plans, blighting the futures of thousands of families across Scotland.

By their unwillingness to publish detailed defence proposals, they are doing nothing to dispel those concerns or allay the fears they cause.

Conclusion

Whether it’s the level of security the Scottish people enjoy from our high quality, integrated forces the level of influence that the UK’s international networks bring or the jobs and investment that the UK defence budget sustains it’s clear that Scotland is safer as part of the United Kingdom and the United Kingdom is stronger with Scotland within it.

What little the SNP have published of their plans for the defence of an independent Scotland doesn’t add up. And it does nothing to suggest that the Scottish people would benefit from anything like the level of security the UK armed forces currently provide, or the level of prosperity that Scotland’s defence industry currently delivers.

My message to the Scottish government is simple.

The debate on the future of defence in Scotland is too important to be ignored, or brushed under the carpet, or fobbed off with half baked sound bite policies which are financially and strategically incoherent.

The Scottish people deserve facts and answers.

We are clear, in our heads and in our hearts: we want Scotland to remain part of the UK.

And by publishing this paper today, we are setting out what the Scottish government very well knows, but dares not admit that both Scotland and the rest of the UK are stronger, safer and more prosperous within the Union.

That we are better together.

Thank you.