THE rest of the UK would owe an independent Scotland almost £5 billion in defence assets or cash even if it handed over all the major items of military hardware identified in the independence white paper, SNP research today reveals.
The UK government, defence experts and two House of Commons committees had said an independent Scotland could not afford the start-up costs for its own defence force under SNP plans.
But Scotland on Sunday has been handed calculations that show an independent Scotland would be entitled to £7.751bn of defence assets based on an 8.4 per cent population share of the total value of £92,277,442,000 for items held by the Ministry of Defence.
The briefing is meant to show an independent Scotland could meet the start-up costs from what it would inherit, over and above the annual £2.5 billion defence budget set out by the SNP government.
In November, Tory defence minister Dr Andrew Murrison described the White Paper plans as “risible”. He added: “They are talking about having submarines, complex warships, fast jets, and restoring the Scottish regiments. It is impossible to have that with a budget of £2.5bn.”
Both the Defence and Scottish Affairs Committee also questioned how start-up costs could be met.
However, the SNP response, based on published UK government documents and written answers from ministers, claims major items identified in the independence White Paper would be worth £1.621bn. These include two Type 23 frigates (£149.6 million); four Sandown minesweepers (£133.7m); one Bay landing ship dock (£128.7m); two offshore patrol vessels (£26.6m); six patrol boats (£1.2m); 16 Typhoon fighter jets (£976.5m); six Hercules planes (£129.4m); and six Lynx helicopters (£75m), which the White Paper envisages Scotland receiving from current UK assets.
A further £1.429bn would be accounted for through MoD land and property in Scotland, including Faslane navy base on the Clyde, RAF Lossiemouth in Moray; Leuchars in Fife; Craigiehall, Redford and Dreghorn barracks in Edinburgh and Glencorse in Midlothian.
The property calculation is based on the values in the 2007 asset register which has never been updated, but SNP sources have pointed out that since then property has devalued after the economic crash and the MoD has sold off some land.
According to the briefing, once property and major assets are removed from the equation an independent Scotland would still be owed £4.702bn by the rest of the UK.
Westminster SNP leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said: “Scotland’s fair share of assets will safeguard key bases and provide the necessary capabilities and equipment for the armed forces in Scotland.
“There will still be a requirement to procure equipment the UK has failed to maintain like Maritime Patrol Aircraft. However Scotland’s fair share of existing defence assets will make an excellent start to better defence arrangements after independence.”
However, the calculations have been rejected by the MoD, which has insisted that no calculations will be made or negotiations entered into before September’s referendum.
An MoD spokeswoman warned that in the event of a Yes vote the negotiations would be “protracted”.
Of the SNP briefing she said: “This demonstrates the SNP’s total lack of understanding of how defence works. These proposals are unaffordable within the budget they’ve set out, and would leave the Scottish people less safe and secure than they are as part of the UK.”