26 Nov 2013 - By
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Scottish independence and defence: White Paper analysis

Summary: As the Scottish Government unveil an historic White Paper setting out their plans for an independent Scotland following a ‘yes’ vote in next year’s referendum, DCI examines the Scottish Government’s proposals for the future of defence in Scotland.

In the debate surrounding Scottish independence, several issues have gained particular prominence including Scotland’s participation in the EU, the continued use of the pound as currency, and perhaps most crucially, the subject of defence in an independent Scotland.

Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland

Critics of the Scottish Government’s referendum campaign have noted that that an independent Scotland would not be able to reach the level of defence that Scottish citizens currently enjoy with the rest of the UK. As such, the ‘No’ campaign asserts that an independent Scotland would fail to properly protect its citizens.

In particular, the Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland report suggests that Scotland would have to develop its own fleet of ships, open an armed forces headquarters and create its own Ministry of Defence – moves which the report finds to be too costly to be achievable.

Scottish defence capability

The Scottish Government today (26 November) responded in full to the criticisms with the publication of the Scotland’s Future: Your guide to an independent Scotland White Paper, a 670-page breakdown of the Government’s plans to put independence into action and how critical aspects of the nation post-independence will be managed, included detailed analysis of the question of defence capability.

The White Paper states that, in response to the question of protecting its citizens, an independent Scotland would not need to replicate the structure of the Westminster Government or adopt its processes, since Scotland’s smaller size and specific national interests mean that a more focused approach to the design and delivery of foreign and defence policies would be in the nation’s best interests.

The Paper identifies five defence priorities following independence:

– maintaining the commitment to a budget for defence and security in an independent Scotland of £2.5 billion

– securing the safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotland as soon as possible

– building a focus on maritime capabilities, such as air and sea-based patrol, and specialist forces able to operate around our coasts, protecting Scotland’s maritime assets and contributing to collective security in the North Atlantic

– progressively building to a total of 15,000 regular and 5000 reserve personnel over the ten years following independence

– reconfiguring the defence estate inherited at the point of independence to meet Scotland’s needs, including the transition of Faslane to a conventional naval base and joint headquarters of Scottish defence forces

The Government also commits to identifying, in negotiation with the rest of the UK, a first tranche of defence assets and bases to transfer to Scottish defence forces, pending wider agreement.

Defence procurement implications

The issue of independence will have wide-reaching implications on the whole of the UK, and not least on the defence industry as we currently know it. Defence supply chains, procurement budgets, international relationships, distribution of assets and much more will be affected, and suppliers to the defence marketplace across the whole of the UK need to remain aware of the possible changes a ‘yes’ vote will bring.

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