SOONER or later the SNP is going to have to take a decision on whether an independent Scotland should be a member of Nato, as Norway is, or take the status of “armed neutrality” as Ireland, Austria, Finland and Sweden have.
This will then determine the shape and size of our armed forces.
Irrespective of which path Scotland treads, surely the first thing to do is analyse the potential threat to Scotland and how we might meet it.
In terms of homeland security we could do well to examine the structure of the US Coastguard service – with 43,000 personnel it is similar in size to the Royal Navy – and its raison d’être.
The US Coastguard is the oldest constituted armed force in the US and has the following roles: maritime safety and security (ocean and coastal); maritime law enforcement; fishery protection; offshore installation protection; search and rescue (by air and sea including tugs); maintenance of navigational aids; inshore and port protection (including customs watch).
To cover these roles, it has a fleet of ocean-going and inshore patrol vessels and tugs, helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft, and trained landing teams for rig protection and boarding.
There are also part-timers who can operate as crews along the lines of our retained firemen.
For Scotland, such an organisation could operate out of two major bases (North Sea/Rosyth and Atlantic/Faslane with individual units at strategic ports round our coastline.
With such an organisation, would we then need a separate Navy and Air Force? In a non-Nato situation our army would be based on home defence/key point protection and UN provision, in which case reservists could make up a large part of the manpower.
As a Nato member we would need a larger force of regulars with specialist arms, probably the equivalent of two brigade groups (including reserve units).
They would be available on Nato/EU call out alongside their counterparts south of the Border. As a matter of interest, I favour the Nato option.
You refer to Professor Chalmers (your report, 9 April), who thinks that the existing SNP policy to withdraw from Nato with its ready-to-use nuclear weapons would be met with hostile US opinion, as though that should decide the issue.
Chalmers also says that neighbouring Nato countries would not like an independent Scotland to “free-ride” on their security protection.
However, there is mounting evidence that the possession of nuclear weapons has resulted in more global insecurity, not less, since the end of the Cold War.
As a small nation, we would be much more secure outside a nuclear-armed Nato that is trying to police the rest of the world. It is now counterproductive, as shown in Afghanistan, as the recruiting sergeantof terrorists rather than defeating them.
All this has been successfully argued in the recent book Security Without Nuclear Weapons by Commander Green (RN Retired) and General Sir Hugh Beach (Ret).
Vice-Admiral Sir Jeremy Blackburn KCB says: “Green’s important book will doubtless cause peturbation amongst his former colleagues and in the UK government and in defence circles more widely, but they should read it carefully as they approach the decision point for the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent.”
Of course, only those retired from active service can speak out, but there is great unease in the higher ranks that the politicians are under the delusion that we are a world power and must waste untold billions to renew Trident.
Careful study shows that an independent Scotland would have the opportunity to join the vast majority of nations who are more secure without nuclear weapons.