Fox attacks SNP to deflect blame for ‘mammoth defence cuts’

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Defence is the latest battleground in Scottish politics following the SNP’s remarkable victory in the Holyrood elections earlier this month.

The weekend comments by First Minister Alex Salmond that an independent Scotland might share military facilities with England have prompted Secretary of State for Defence, Dr Liam Fox, to call for  “a serious debate” on the issues.

Speaking in the House of Commons during defence questions, Fox said: “It is tempting to make light of some of the nonsensical ideas that tend to come from the SNP.

“But now that they are in such a strong political position in Scotland we have to take some of these issues more seriously.

“It is extremely worrying that the SNP have previously had a position and a posture which is anti-Nato, and anti the nuclear defence of this country.

“I think it is now time for a very serious debate on issues that ought to worry all those who believe not only in the United Kingdom but in sound defence for the United Kingdom.”

The Scottish Government is expected to give its response later today, but the SNP at Westminster has already rounded furiously on Fox.

Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster, said: “I don’t know how Liam Fox can keep a straight face when the fact is that his Westminster Government is inflicting mammoth defence cuts and closures across Scotland right now.

“This comes on top of the 10,500 defence jobs losses and £5.6 billion military underspend by the UK Government in Scotland over the last decade.”

Robertson called on Fox to reflect on the fact that in Holyrood, the SNP now represents all of Scotland’s constituencies with air bases, and all of the country’s barracks.

He further called for the Government to reassess its plans to close further military facilities in Scotland, including either RAF Lossiemouth or RAF Leuchars.

With Labour in Westminster joining in his criticism of the SNP, Fox looks to have seized upon the Nationalists as a target to deflect attention from the massive defence cuts he must carry out.

It may or may not be a shrewd move by the defence secretary, as attention could now turn more closely to the future  of Lossiemouth and Leuchars air bases, which is unclear, while RAF Kinloss is already earmarked for closure.