Leaders: More questions than answers
THERESA May’s speech to the Scottish Conservative conference in Troon yesterday may come to be seen as the biggest Scottish independence scare story to date.
Certainly, to suggest – however obliquely – that an independent Scotland might be more at risk of a terrorist attack than a Scotland safely ensconced within the UK is a pretty scary thing to do. May is, after all, the Home Secretary, and might be expected to know a thing or two about the kind of terrorist plots currently threatening the UK. But is it acceptable or accurate to assert that by having three countries rather than two in the British Isles, one of those counties – an independent Scotland – would be making itself more vulnerable? By necessity we are in the world of conjecture here, and Nationalists would be justified in accusing May of using this issue for party political ends at a party political conference. The conjecture, however, may raise some challenging questions for the SNP about exactly what form the intelligence services of an independent Scotland might take, and the degree to which they would co-operate with MI5 and MI6, which would continue to protect what remained of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Modern counter-intelligence is all about sharing information, and this is now done in a far more sophisticated way than before 9/11, when it became an issue of pressing necessity. This sharing is done between different agencies in the same country, and between agencies in different countries. Between friendly nations – and even nations that may have cause to regard each other with suspicion for a variety of reasons that date back to the Cold War – sharing of information is not only commonplace, it is seen as providing a mutual benefit. There is no reason to think that should Scotland be independent what remained of the UK (rUK for short) would be ill-disposed in any way to share information fully with the intelligence services of an independent Scotland. In fact, common sense and a basic appreciation of geography would dictate that MI5 and MI6 would have to regard Scotland as their own back yard, and be as alert to threats from terrorist suspects north of the Border as it would be from suspects in London. The same would apply to how Scotland regarded England. Which raises the inevitable question – would the interests of both countries be best served by what was effectively one single intelligence service? Could it be that as well as sharing a monarch, a currency, and a lender of last resort with our southern neighbours, an independent Scotland might also want to share its intelligence services? If this was not to be the case, how long would it take to set up a McMI5 and McMI6 from scratch? And in its early phase, could such a fledgling organisation be relied upon?
Not for the first time in recent months, we are left with a number of intriguing but unanswered questions about what an independent Scotland might look like and how it might operate. Last month, when Alex Salmond spelled out his view on an independent Scottish army, his rather cursory comments left a long list of questions unanswered. Would an independent Scottish military have its own special forces to defend our oil rigs? Why site the only navy base on the west coast at Faslane, when most of its work will be patrolling the oil fields and fisheries of the North Sea?
The SNP has promised a full prospectus on independence in good time for the referendum in autumn 2014. In the meantime, what Nationalists often describe as scare stories may very well be simply questions requiring an answer.
Best in the field
IT HAS been clear for years that if Scotland wants to prosper then it must do more to export its products and services to the world’s fastest-growing market – China. Scotland has scored some unexpected successes in this field, notably the Scottish Qualification Authority’s coup in exporting the Scottish exams system to parts of the communist state. But our successes come no stranger than the one we report in our news pages today – that Scotland is about to export T in the Park to China.
Geoff Ellis, of DF Concerts, has turned a smallish gathering of music fans in a muddy field in Balado into an iconic event in the Scottish cultural landscape, mentioned in the same breath as the Edinburgh Festival and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay. He has done this by exercising a sharp business acumen while never losing the love for music that brought him into the business in the first place, organising a concert in a canteen by a then little-known Manchester band called the Stone Roses.
Tartan, bagpipes and whisky are all very well, but what Ellis has taught us is that 80,000 young people having a ball, come rain or shine, can also be something worth selling abroad. Geoff Ellis is a star in Scotland’s cultural firmament, and he is one of the reasons why this country’s creative industries are something worth celebrating - and exporting.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
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