Fresh defence ‘scare’ as yet another ‘think tank’ blasts independence


  By Martin Kelly
A think tank set up in 2012 has claimed a newly independent Scotland would be susceptible to terrorist attacks and would struggle to find Scots willing to join a Scottish Defence Force.
The organisation, calling itself The Scotland Institute, has produced a report which lists a series of damaging outcomes relating to defence should Scots opt to vote Yes in the 2014 referendum.

Amongst some of the conclusions in its report include claims that a newly independent Scotland would be unable to defend itself, would be defenceless against terrorist attacks and be prone to cyber terrorism.

The pessimistic report, which contains some of the most damaging claims ever made on the impact of independence, also claims a Scottish Defence Force would be smaller than now and would harm the Scottish economy and hit jobs.

Major-General Andrew Mackay, who chaired the panel who compiled the report, wrote in the report’s foreword.

“…I see very real risks to the people of Scotland, be it from the loss of jobs and the local economic impact that the inevitable removal of the Faslane naval base would bring, the huge costs necessary to start building the armed forces from afresh, the loss of access to sensitive intelligence materials and the inevitable dilution in the quality and number of the armed forces of this small island, which to date have had such a profound effect upon the course of world events.”

The report’s alarming conclusions were defended by Dr Azeem Ibrahim, executive chairman of the Scotland Institute and one the report’s authors, who said: “We find that whilst an independent Scotland would, in some limited form, be able to provide for its defence, the manner of that provision is likely to be less comprehensive and effective than had Scotland remained in the UK.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman dismissed the report’s conclusions and said: “An independent Scotland will have first-class conventional forces which will play a full role in defending the country and cooperating with international partners, but we will not waste billions of pounds on Trident nuclear weapons.

“Scotland stands to inherit a fair share of existing UK defence assets, and an annual defence and security budget of £2.5 billion would represent an increase of more than £500 million on recent UK levels of defence spending in Scotland, but would be nearly £1 billion less than Scottish taxpayers currently contribute to UK defence spending.

“We have also been clear that we will retain all current defence bases, including Faslane – which will be Scotland’s main conventional naval facility – and our long-term commitment will ensure continued support for jobs and local economies in all the communities around Scotland that are home to military bases.

“The Scottish Government is already taking steps to strengthen cyber security in Scotland and this would continue upon independence. Intelligence sharing with the UK would be in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom, and an independent Scottish domestic intelligence machinery would work closely with UK counterparts.

“And an independent and non-nuclear Scotland’s membership of Nato would put the country alongside the 25 of the alliance’s current 28 members which are non-nuclear powers.”

The emergence of yet another think tank and the publication of yet another report detailing ‘risks’ of independence follows a pattern of similar claims by other similar bodies.

The think tank was founded 12 months ago by one of the report’s co-authors Dr Azeem Ibrahim.  The launch of the think tank featured three pro-Union politicians as guest speakers, including leader of the Better Together campaign Alistair Darling together with the Chair of the Defence Report’s ‘expert’ panel, Major-General Andrew Mackay.

In 2012 Dr Azeem Ibrahim described the SNP’s aim of independence as “sentimental, and even frivolous”.

In the article in the Huffington Post he added: “…there is the huge issue of the toxic liabilities of the Royal Bank of Scotland and how to share that liability.  If Salmond expects to get 90% of North Sea oil and gas revenues, he should expect to inherit a large part of the bank debt as well.”

The think tank’s website describes it as “committed to providing intellectual depth and range in its presentations, with independence from partisan politics.”

The website also has out of date claims on Scotland’s economy, insisting: “Unemployment rates which were once lower than the UK average, are now higher.”  In fact Scotland’s economy is outperforming the UK at the moment with higher employment and lower unemployment.

Since its launch in June 23 last year, the Scotland Institute has published three reports all by Dr Roger Cook.

There will now be real concern that self-styled ‘non partisan’ bodies can be set up and within a year be publishing ‘reports’ relating to the independence referendum, that enjoy widespread media coverage.