By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP have questioned the UK Government’s commitment to reversing the decline in Scotland’s defence footprint after parliamentary questions revealed an embarrassing level of conventional equipment being maintained in Scotland – despite Scottish taxpayers contributing more than £3billion a year to the defence budget.
While Scotland’s independent northern European neighbours boast a range of military assets and capabilities – the MoD has left Scotland with no maritime patrol aircraft, no frigates, no conventional ocean-going patrol vessels, no amphibious landing craft, and derisory levels of deployable Army vehicles or artillery.
In response to a question from SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP, Nick Harvey, the Minister of State for the Armed Forces, confirmed that there were just 16 naval vessels based in Scotland, of which 14 – including 5 nuclear submarines – are based at Faslane and are deployed in connection with the UK’s nuclear weapons capability. There are no armoured vehicles in Scotland, and just 5 helicopters.
Denmark, with a comparable population size to Scotland, has 12 large naval vessels in its navy. The Danish navy also operates 4 medium-size vessels, and 38 small vessels. 3 further large vessels are on order. The Norwegian Navy operates 5 heavy frigates, 6 submarines, 14 patrol boats, 4 minesweepers, 4 minehunters, 1 mine detection vessel, 4 support vessels and 2 training vessels.
The revelations that Scottish defences have been stripped bare by Westminster come after disproportionate MoD cuts to bases and manpower in Scotland, including the end of flying operations from two out of three airbases and the planned withdrawal of the Royal Marines from Scotland.
Despite important assets such as North Sea oil infrastructure the UK will have no amphibious capable troops or Special Forces based in Scotland. The situation is all the more alarming given Scotland’s extremely long coastline and its geographical location on the strategic access lanes to the North Sea and the Baltic from the North Atlantic.
Commenting, Mr Robertson said:
“The lack of commitment to Scotland by the UK Ministry of Defence is clear for all to see from this shocking data.
“At a time when Scotland has already been massively short-changed on defence spending, with more than 10,500 recent defence job losses and a massive £5.6 billion underspend, the decline in Scotland’s defence footprint is continuing despite the fact that Scottish taxpayers are contributing more than £3 billion a year in taxes to the defence budget.
“While our independent northern European neighbours boast a range of military assets and capabilities – the MoD has left Scotland with no maritime patrol aircraft, no frigates, no conventional ocean-going patrol vessels, no amphibious landing craft, and derisory levels of deployable Army vehicles or artillery.
“In reality the situation is worse than reported in these official figures, given the planned withdrawal of the RAF from Leuchars and Kinloss. It is little wonder the MoD has been refusing to provide regional defence data, because the facts are a total embarrassment.
“The UK is making really bad defence decisions for Scotland that leave huge capability gaps. We should make better defence decisions ourselves in Scotland – we only need to look to our northern European neighbours of comparable size all of whom maintain appropriate military capabilities including fast jets, ocean going vessels and highly trained personnel.”