Being small is no obstacle to an independent Scottish armed force


By a Newsnet reporter

An independent Scotland could have a thriving and exciting armed force that could evolve to integrate with the existing UK armed forces, according to a former member of the Irish Defence Force.

Declan Power, a Dublin based journalist who served in the Irish Defence Force said that such a force would still be capable of meaningful participation in conflicts around the world and that being part of a smaller force would be no barrier to those seeking promotion to top decision making jobs.

Such a force, said the Irish journalist would almost certainly maintain links with the current UK regiments as happens now with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Mr Power said there was a still a huge number of Irishmen who still serve in UK armed forces in Irish regiments that still exist, despite Ireland’s independence.  He revealed that, far from being drawn to the UK regiments because of their size and theatre of deployment, some Irishmen looked to the larger UK armed forces only after failing in a bid to join their own.

Mr Power was speaking on Newsweek Scotland following an article in the Scotsman newspaper written by MoD advisor Hew Strachan who said of an independent Scotland Armed Force:

“Belonging to an army that goes nowhere, has limited promotion opportunities and is not able to provide the latest equipment is hardly a challenge for those called to a job whose very essence rests on the appetite of young people for adventure and even risk.”

Mr Power acknowledged that the that first five years of any young officer was when they would be most keen to go into battle, but as experience grows he said, officers realise there are more challenges out there that require skills and experiences other than those needed in battle.

He explained that even in the UK Army, many military personnel were administrators who carried out a lot of dreary but essential tasks just to put one soldier into the field.

The ex-soldier challenged the view that smaller armies do not participate in the riskier theatre of war and explained that though relatively small, the Irish Army take part in a great number of overseas operations, including UN, EU and even NATO led missions despite Ireland not being a fully signed up member.

Mr Powers’ comments on NATO are particularly relevant and follow reports that the SNP are planning to debate the party’s stance on whether an independent Scotland should join the organisation – the current SNP position is not to become a full member.

He said that the reason Ireland was not a full member was, like the SNP, partly due to the organisation’s nuclear weapons policy but he insisted that Ireland was very much part of the Western block of nations whose forces are configured to operate with NATO forces on a case by case basis – a position similar to France.

Mr Power suggested that an independent Scotland could evolve whatever structure best suited its needs but insisted that having an armed military force was important as an expression of nationhood.

“The Irish armed forces today, their primary role and their most successful role in modern times has been as an expression of Irish State’s foreign policy and we have been well regarded within the international community for that.” he said and added:

“We have become specialists in low intensity conflicts, peacekeeping and peace enforcement and Irish and Scottish military tradition is very similar.

“We both have a very blood drenched military history but there is nothing to stop Scotland evolving its own small, potent professional military force who can become experts in this way and learn from Irish lessons, learn from Scandinavian lessons, Belgian and Dutch lessons and indeed Canada, New Zealand and Australia, there are other small militaries that have combined forces, army, navy and air corp.”

He went on:

“You could come to see the day where you would have a Scottish force in the field, maybe not a large force but a pivotal role.  You have Irish officers and NCOs involved at high levels in headquarter appointments around the world, where they are decision makers they are movers and shakers in various missions.”

Mr Power described a scenario that allowed Scottish armed force personnel to participate in exchange schemes, rotating between UK armed forces and Scottish regiments as already happens with other Commonwealth countries.

“You could write your own draft on this and it could be hugely interesting, but the benefit would be you could have a footprint internationally that says ‘Scotland’ and is indicative of Scottish military professionalism and Scottish foreign policy.”