Defence in the spotlight as conference looks at independent Scotland’s armed forces

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By a Newsnet reporter
 
A conference on what the defence capabilities and costs will look like in an independent Scotland is to get underway tomorrow in Edinburgh.
 
Organised by the Scotsman newspaper, experts will discuss how the military landscape might look should Scots opt for independence in 2014.

The timing of the conference coincides with a new report which shows that an independent Scotland would be able to protect its assets for over £1 billion less than it currently costs by being part of the United Kingdom.

A model prepared by former tank commander Stuart Crawford and economist Richard Marsh shows that the cost of equipping Scotland’s armed forces post- independence could be as little as £2 billion – £1.3 billion less than the MoD claims it currently spends on Scotland’s behalf.

According to the report, Scotland would require up to 25 ships, including 8 offshore patrol vessels as well as 60 aircraft.  The army would have an HQ and two brigades and up to 12,500 personnel.

The £1.3 billion saving could be spent either consolidating the military hardware or on building new schools and hospitals.

Joint-author, Mr Crawford said: “Others have looked at this from a different position, looking at the population share of the UK or comparing to other countries or the impact on civilian jobs.

“We decided to approach this by asking first what the armed forces is for, what you need to fulfil the purpose and how much that would cost.”

The assessment was welcomed by the SNP, a spokesman for the party said it “underlined that Scotland was perfectly able to maintain well resourced capabilities across the armed forces”

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP said that independence would “diminish” Scotland’s military history.

She added: “The SNP put forward a sketched outline at the start of this year of what a separate Scottish defence force would look like, which was widely derided by military experts.

“Today we have confirmation that in a separate Scotland, spending on our soldiers, sailors and airmen could be cut by more than a billion pounds; numbers would be decimated and capability destroyed, leaving our uniformed services a third the size of Denmark’s.

“In terms of the military, as with so much else, it is clear that Scotland is better off in Britain.”

Meanwhile, the UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has refused to rule-out the further amalgamation and disbandment of Scottish raised defence units.

The Scottish units are expected to be axed as part of the UK Government’s on-going review into defence spending and may result in the loss of some of Scotland’s most historic regimental names.

Questioned today by SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP, Mr Hammond confirmed further cuts were on the way and said: “…we are going to have a smaller army. You can’t have a smaller army without some structural changes, and I will make an announcement to the House as soon as I am able about the structure of Army 2020.”

Mr Robertson claimed that, far from any Union benefit, Scotland’s military was suffering by remaining under Westminster control. 

Mr Hammond’s predecessor, Liam Fox, has previously admitted that between 2000 and 2010 Scotland saw “bigger reductions made in personnel as a proportion than in other parts of the UK”

Mr Robertson said:

“Given Philip Hammond’s refusal to rule-out further amalgamation or disbandment of Scottish raised units it is clear that, far from benefiting from a defence dividend under the Union, Scotland has been victim of a UK defence downturn.

“It is clear from the analysis being debated in Edinburgh that, not only is an independent Scotland perfectly able to maintain well-resourced capabilities across the armed forces, but that we can actually reverse the mammoth decline that there has been of defence footprint over the last decade as a result of UK cuts.”

Mr Robertson pledged that any units scrapped under this latest series of cut-backs by the Tories would be re-instated immediately on independence as part of a “modern, properly equipped, conventional Scottish Defence Force”.

He added:

“Our northern European neighbours all maintain appropriate military capabilities including fast jets, ocean going vessels, and highly trained personnel.   There is no doubt that Scotland could easily match those capabilities.

“Taxpayers in Scotland contribute more than £3.3bn a year to the MOD, but only £2bn is spent on defence in Scotland – and we are still bearing the brunt of UK Government cuts.

“Instead of the anti-independence parties scrapping Scotland’s regimental tradition and dumping Trident on Scotland, with independence we will keep the historic units and get rid of Trident.”

 

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