Summary: Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond has outlined the SNP’s plans for Scottish defence during a recent keynote speech in Shetland as part of a summer tour.
Mr Salmond said that Scotland would have greater “naval capability” under independence than currently exists as part of the United Kingdom, that the Royal Navy is unsuitable and that current capabilities are “based on prestige, not performance”.
He said: “At present what we have, we don’t need. And what we need, we don’t have. Our current naval capability is based on prestige, not performance.
“The navy does not have a single major surface vessel based in Scotland. The largest protection vessels stationed in Scottish waters are those of the fisheries protection vessels run by the Scottish government.
“It is absurd for a nation with a coastline longer than India’s to have no major surface vessels. And it’s obscene for a nation of five million people to host weapons of mass destruction.”
In opposition to the current set up, Mr Salmond said that an independent Scotland would have defence capabilities in line with the nation’s size and political needs. It would prioritise the air and naval capability needed to monitor and secure Scotland’s offshore territory and oil and gas resources, while safeguarding Scottish coastal waters more effectively.
The SNP leader’s claims were later seemingly supported by revelations that the UK has been forced to pull out of key NATO naval defence groups, showing just how stretched the Royal Navy has become.
The MOD has acknowledged it has not provided a frigate or destroyer for NATO’s maritime group defending the North and East Atlantic since 2009.
However, Mr Salmond’s statements have come under criticism, with claims that his speech glosses over some main areas of contention in the SNP’s defence plans.
Commenting on Alex Salmond’s speech on defence, Labour’s Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP said:
“Alex Salmond should stop talking our Navy down. Thousands of Scots proudly serve in the UK Royal Navy to keep us safe. He should suggest to our Royal Marines that their capability is based on prestige, not performance and see where that gets him.
“Alex Salmond seems to care about where ships sail from but not where they are built. His complete failure to acknowledge the impact of his plans to break up Britain on the thousands of workers in our shipyards is shameful. Experts and unions insist that separation would result in yard closures. It is clear that thousands of jobs in Scottish shipyards are at risk as Alex Salmond pursues his own political agenda for independence.
“The UK Armed Forces and defence industry are the best in the world. Let’s keep it that way.”