By Bob Duncan
Defence claims by Labour-peer Lord George Robertson, made through the “Better Together” web site, have spectacularly backfired on the No campaign, say the SNP.
In his statement, Lord Robertson claims: “During both World Wars Scots’ security has been guaranteed by the UK alliance. That remains true today in face of international terrorism and organised crime,” adding, “When terrorists attacked Glasgow airport it was UK military intelligence which went to work.”
However, as the terrorists referred to by Lord Robertson were successful in breaking airport security and appear to have been thwarted by a combination of civilian staff and bad luck, his claim that Scots benefited after UK military intelligence ‘went to work’ appear unfounded. Robertson’s remarks also seem to suggest that rUK intelligence services would refuse to cooperate with those of an independent Scotland.
Lord Robertson went on: “To claim that this can be replaced by Nato is as fanciful as it is to claim that a new Force can be created on an annual defence budget less than ten percent of that which Scots currently benefit from.
“As part of the UK Scotland is part of a military which delivers global reach no small European country can claim. The 4th largest military budget in the world. The second largest contributor to Afghanistan. The most capable European nation. A leading country in operations from Sierra Leone to Kosovo.
“The UK provides Scotland not just with protection but influence.”
This final statement may indicate that it is a potential loss of UK influence abroad, resulting from the establishment of a Scottish defence force, which is Lord Robertson’s primary objection to the SNPs plans.
This view was reinforced by a statement made on Wednesday by the Foreign Office which claimed that Scottish independence would lead to a loss of influence and international standing for the rest of the UK. Referring to ‘separation’, FO officials warned MPs it was “difficult to say” what would be the effect on Britain’s (sic) international influence.
Additionally, Robertson’s statement makes no reference to the deep cuts in current military budgets which have disproportionately affected Scotland. Troop numbers are falling sharply with historic regiments facing extinction, and two of Scotland’s three air bases are being closed down.
North sea reconnaissance aircraft have been scrapped and Scotland’s oil and gas installations have been further left unguarded as appropriate naval vessels have been more than a day’s sailing away. Coastguard stations are facing closure and even the emergency tugs and helicopter services are under threat.
SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said the peer’s comments were “an insult to the 11,000 service personnel who had lost their jobs over the last decade as a result of UK defence cuts”, which have seen bases and capabilities cut and well as regimental identities lost.
The Labour peer also claimed that a nuclear free Scotland would not be welcome in Nato, and added: “On the one hand the SNP say they will ‘inherit its Treaty obligations with NATO’ and on the other they maintain wedded to unilateralism. The Nato Strategic Concept states, ‘As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance’. Both SNP positions cannot be true.
“I have expressed my doubts about whether Scotland could eject nuclear weapons one day and expect to be welcomed into a nuclear alliance the next.”
However, the SNP dismissed these claims and highlighted Lord Robertson’s previous pronouncements on the issue when the former NATO Secretary General, during a speech to the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations in 2001, stated:
“In the Founding Act NATO committed itself to the famous three nuclear “no’s” – no intention, no plan and no reason to establish nuclear weapon storage sites on the territory of the new members – a commitment still valid.”
Angus Robertson said:
“Lord Robertson’s misjudged comments have backfired badly on the No Campaign. They are an insult to the 11,000 service personnel in Scotland who have lost their jobs as a result of UK defence cuts.
“In contrast to the false claims about a significant and well-funded UK defence presence in Scotland, the facts are entirely different.
“Successive UK governments have run down Scotland’s defence capabilities, with job losses and base closures alongside a mammoth £5.6bn underspend north of the border according to the MoD’s own figures.
“Frankly, it is no surprise that George Robertson has been made to eat his own words on Scotland’s defence prospects – he is after all the man who predicted that the Scottish Parliament would kill the SNP stone-dead.
“With agreement on the withdrawal of Trident and retaining the important role of the UN, Scotland can continue working with neighbours and allies within NATO.
“The UK is making really bad defence decisions leaving Scotland exposed. 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