By Bob Duncan
Scotland has received £7.4 billion less than it’s population share of defence spending over the last ten years, a freedom of information request has revealed.
The FoI shows an underspend in Scotland of almost £2 billion per year and, claims the SNP proves beyond doubt that the Ministry of Defence has been hiding damaging evidence of this massive underspend.
In the House of commons, the MoD has repeatedly made the claim that they no longer produce statistics allocating spending to the nations and regions of the UK. The FoI response shows that this is not true, and they do in fact produce such analyses.
Despite many attempts to uncover this information, the MoD has evaded and avoided answering – and on some occasions has lied about its ability to produce these figures.
In 2010, the then Lib Dem defence minister Nick Harvey said: “The MoD no longer compiles estimates of expenditure at the sub-UK areas described in the table as they do not directly support policy making or operations. The last estimates relate to 2007-8.
“As a result, the complex data analysis required to produce the underlying sub-UK expenditure data is no longer performed. To produce a comparable time series beyond 2007-08 would incur disproportionate cost.”
However, the FoI response from the MoD said: “The data in the table was compiled by Defence Analytical Services and Advice from the MoD Defence Business Services finance contracts database as at 5 November, 2012.
“The exempt expenditure for Scotland has been calculated from the location of work codes submitted on the DEFFORM 57, which is the detailed statistics input form that is produced when most contracts are established.”
The revelation has led to claims by the Scottish National Party that UK ministers have hidden regional spending figures to keep the defence underspend in Scotland from the public.
The FoI focussed on UK defence contracts which are protected from European Union competition rules and can be awarded to domestic countries only for national security reasons.
Between 2007-8 and 2011-12, Scotland received £3.17 billion of work out of £60bn – a shortfall of about £1.9bn.
The issue is critical in the debate ahead of next year’s referendum, with anti-independence parties claiming that an independent Scotland will lose out on billions of pounds of work in defence contracts, particularly with shipbuilding on the Clyde and at Rosyth.
As reported in Newsnet Scotland, the value and number of jobs in these claims have varied widely, leading to claims of exaggeration and double counting by unionist politicians and media.
The Scottish Government has said that independence would allow the defence and shipbuilding industries in Scotland to flourish.
Commenting on the report’s findings, SNP Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:
“The MoD has been caught red-handed. They told us they stopped publishing statistics of this type, only for it to be revealed that they do – but only for internal consumption.
“This is really nothing more or less than a cover-up as the minister assured me in parliamentary questions and debates that they were no longer published.
“Worst of all these figures show the underspend in Scotland continues to fundamentally undermine any remaining defence case for the union.
“Scottish taxpayers will feel rightly outraged at this deception and begs the question if any MoD pronouncements can be taken seriously.
“It is of course a devastating blow to unionist claims that Scotland gets a good deal on defence spending and totally exposes the deliberately misleading behaviour of the anti-independence parties.
“It beggars belief that this comes at the end of a week when a Scottish newspaper had to apologise and correct a scare story about job losses at Faslane, that was completely made up, and when a Westminster Defence minister showed himself unable to produce reliable information to the House of Commons about the same base which also had to be corrected.”
In an extraordinary statement for any civil servant – as they are required to avoid making partial political statements – an MoD spokesman commented on the policies of the Scottish Government, saying:
“The UK’s armed forces are configured to provide security for the whole of the UK and it is misleading to say that Scotland currently loses out.
“Scottish industry benefits from billions of pounds of MoD contracts which sustain thousands of jobs.
“The challenge for advocates of independence is to set out how this level of investment would be sustained in the event that Scotland became independent.”