SNP slams ‘partial, partisan and inaccurate’ defence report by right-wing think tank

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  By a Newsnet reporter
 
The Scottish National Party has dismissed as “partial, partisan and inaccurate” a new report on the defence implications of Scottish independence, published by a neo-conservative think tank.

Amongst what the nationalists say are a litany of errors and incorrect assumptions by the Henry Jackson Society (HJS), is a failure to make any detailed assessment about the advantages of making defence and security decisions in Scotland with no detail on the £8bn Scottish share of UK defence assets.

The HJS report claims there are “glaring examples” of flaws in the SNP’s defence commitments, citing as an example a plan: “…to base their entire Navy and their Armed Forces’ headquarters on the Clyde; and to join NATO whilst simultaneously divesting Scotland of nuclear weapons”.

However the SNP hit back, pointing out that the most senior Royal Naval officer in Scotland, Retired Rear Admiral Martin Alabaster, in evidence to a Commons Select Committee, had already accepted the plan was feasible.

Speaking last month, Alabaster said: “There is an existing headquarters at Faslane that is used as the joint forces headquarters to run the large Joint Warrior exercise, so communications desks and computer terminals are available there, but it is not, for example, a hardened facility as we might have elsewhere in the UK. 

“Faslane is an obvious choice because it already exists, but I cannot think of any particular reason why it would be particularly hard to do it somewhere else, if that were suitable.”

Another former military chief also endorsed the SNP anti-nuclear policy and NATO membership.  Retired Air Marshall Iain McNicoll said “I think it is reasonable to point out that other members of NATO do not accept nuclear weapons.  It is possible, at least in theory anyway, for Scotland not to accept nuclear weapons.”

The HJS report claims that, “An SNP-governed independent Scotland would therefore stand alone in its commitment to unilaterally force the removal of another country’s nuclear weapons capability from its territory.”

This has been described as simply untrue by the SNP who pointed out that, “many signatories of the NPT (Non-Proliferation Treaty) would not welcome the unilateral positioning of all of one nation’s nuclear weapons in a sovereign state.”

The think tank is also criticised for confusing cross party submissions from the Scottish Government with SNP submissions which were completely separate.  Also described as a glaring error is the think tank’s mistake in attributing opinions on Hawk jets, contained in a report by Lt Col Stuart Crawford, to the SNP.

The SNP has now published a detailed list of shortcomings contained in the report and also the last defence section of the UK National Asset Register which lists £92bn of UK defence assets, of which Scotland has nearly a £8bn population share.

In a scathing and detailed rebuttal of the Henry Jackson Society report the SNP’s Westminster Leader and Defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said:

“This neo-conservative report is partial, partisan and inaccurate.  It is what we have come to expect from ‘Project Fear’as the scare-mongering reaches fever pitch.

“Independence sceptics like the Henry Jackson Society (HJS) are going to have to do a lot better, starting by correcting their factual errors and omissions.  

“The HJS report is substantially devalued on a number of grounds.  It has simply ignored the billions of pounds invested by Scots in the defence of the UK and the Scottish assets that would be inherited following independence.  It fails to realise that with a ‘Yes’ vote next year we would not simply be trying to re-create a ‘mini’ version of UK defence policy but would be devising something that meets the needs of Scotland as a conventional member of NATO in the 21st Century. 

“It misses the point by not putting in context the massive cuts and closures that successive Westminster governments have imposed on the Scottish defence sector, including the Westminster government’s basing review earlier this year which is just the latest in a long line of U-turns and betrayals which have taken the number of serving personnel to its lowest level, and left Scotland’s maritime and offshore defence highly exposed. 

“The HJS report’s credibility is further diminished by factual errors on SNP policy including on the use of fast-jets, suggesting that we would want Hawk jets, when we never have – to confusing a Scottish government cross-party submissions to the Strategic Defence Review (SDSR ) from the SNP defence spokesperson.

“It also fails to take into account evidence from former senior defence personnel to the Defence Select Committee that the SNP’s plans to share facilities following independence and that a Joint Forces HQ (JFHQ) at the Faslane base on the Clyde are both completely feasible and that Scotland would be an extremely important member of NATO both strategically and in training provision.”

Mr Robertson said that a No vote was the greater threat to Scotland and would result in weapons of mass descruction remaning on the Clyde.  The MP pointed to the disbandment and amalgamation of historic Scottish regiments, RAF bases ceasing flying operations and even army recruitment centres being closed down.

He added: “The idea that the anti-independence parties are protecting Scottish defence interests is now shown to be what it is – a myth.  Between 2000 and 2012 the total number of service and civilian MoD personnel dropped by 8,800 – a reduction of more than 35 per cent and substantially greater than reductions in the UK as a whole.  Civilian defence jobs in Scotland have been cut in half.

“Following a Yes vote next year we would want to engage positively and negotiate a position where Scottish assets are judged on how they meet the needs of a future Scottish defence policy. Scottish taxpayers would expect us to do that as we have contributed massively to projects that after independence we would have no use for, including – for example -nuclear submarines.

“We have already set out the defence budget we propose for an independent Scotland.  At £2.5 billion, this will mean an annual increase of more than £500 million on recent UK levels of defence spending in Scotland but nearly £1 billion less than Scottish taxpayers currently contribute to UK defence spending.

“On the policy of non-nuclear membership of NATO the SNP’s position is clear – the massive majority of member states do not have nuclear weapons.  Scotland would be in that vast majority.

“But most of all the HJS report neglects the key point and biggest benefit of independence: that the people of Scotland will elect a government that will decide what is in the best interests of Scotland for defence and security, whether or not our citizens go into conflict in illegal wars and that we can rid ourselves of weapons of mass destruction.”