Defence begins with threat assessment

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A problem with debates on the defence policies of an independent Scotland is their narrow perspective, usually manifested in competing lists of defence equipment being pored over along a continuum of “too much” to “too little” on “your list” compared with “mine”.

This has also been reflected in defence debates in the UK parliament around defence reviews – from the East of Suez debates in the 1950s, through to the strategic defence reviews of the current government since then to 2010. Defence capability is not where defence analysis should begin.

The crucial issue is in the nature and the threat from those who would do us harm.

In the Cold War decades that threat was evident from the nuclear stances of Nato and the Warsaw Pact alliances.

Support for Trident capability was, in my view, a necessary political stance for Scotland in those years and I regularly expressed that minority view within the SNP, and I should add, within the Labour Party too before then. “Broken noses alter faces; circumstances alter cases”, as trade unionists put it.

The main circumstantial change was the economic collapse of the Soviet Union that altered the Cold War dynamic.

We still have a passive nuclear confrontation between Russia and the US, with side-shows, including several other nuclear powers besides the UK and France, plus China, India, Israel, and those others close to nuclear capability – North Korea, Iran.

An independent Scotland does not need nuclear capability.

The UK Trident base is not part of a desirable defence capability for Scotland, therefore, the if, how and when of their removal from Scotland is potentially negotiable.

Current UK defence considerations include minimal defence capability based in Scotland, and recent withdrawals/reductions of RAF air capability and Royal Navy sea capability from Scotland are pragmatic evidence of Ministry of Defence’s own assessment of the external threats to Scotland, as are the slimming of UK army establishment in Scotland.

The nearness of English-based defence capability is evidence that UK defence assessments do not envisage the need to provide residential cover, which means an independent Scotland would not incur sudden risks with a smaller home defence establishment than currently envisaged by the MoD.

Threats from terrorist cells from abroad and the radicalising of some UK citizens are not addressed by fast jets, battle tanks and armoured regiments.

They require diligent intelligence resources, high-level police capabilities and liaison, and intensive, patient work, of which Police Scotland and the intelligence agencies have long experience.

There is no reason to fear that an independent Scotland would not continue this vital work in these targeted areas, in close liaison with allies in the UK and elsewhere.

(Prof) Gavin Kennedy

Suffolk Road

Edinburgh

In an attempt to prove me wrong about nuclear powers not being attacked, Thomas R Burgess (Letters, 28 March) has strained to find examples.

He cites “a few ‘nearlies’ such as Cuba in 1962”, by which, I assume, he means the Bay of Pigs, which was a foray by anti-Castro Cuban exiles, without US military support, which was rapidly crushed.

Cuba did not have any nuclear weapons. The Russians had shipped them to Cuba and they certainly never relinquished control to their hosts.

The other example he cites is Vietnam and China, which was an attack by China against Vietnam, so I am unclear how that is an attack on a nuclear power.

I suppose Mr Burgess does not see the supreme irony in explaining Angus Robertson’s credentials for a defence role in Westminster SNP on the grounds that “he comes from a military family and his mother is German”.

He must be a military expert if his mother is German. How silly of me not to have realised.

On the basis of Mr Burgess’s reasoning, I suggest that anyone seeking to have heart surgery performed should simply use someone from a medical family. That should do the trick.

Mr Robertson represents a party that seeks to lead a separate Scotland and to defend it against all comers in the event of a Yes vote.

I, like every other Scottish resident and voter, have a perfect right to question his credentials, or, more correctly, lack of them.

AndreW H N Gray

Craiglea Drive

Edinburgh