AN independent Scotland would be able to fund a Scottish Defence Force including four frigates, 15 fast jets and 9,000 regular soldiers with a £2.5 billion budget, a new report claims.
The paper, which gives a detailed breakdown of an independent Scotland’s defence capability, was published yesterday by the Scottish Global Forum (SGF), a think tank associated with prominent independence supporters.
The vision of a Scottish army considerably smaller than the Irish Republic’s and a navy modelled on Danish frigates and German submarines was warmly welcomed by the SNP last night.
“Securing the Nation: Defending an Independent Nation” was produced by SGF director Dr John MacDonald, a lecturer at Glasgow University, and Lt Col Andrew Parrott, a former Royal Corps of Transport soldier.
The SGF lists Alex Salmond’s ex-aide Stephen Gethins as an adviser, prompting speculation the paper gives a glimpse into the SNP’s thinking on defence shortly before the publication of the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence.
The report’s authors claim Scotland could be better defended at less cost after independence. They say the £2.5bn annual defence expenditure proposed by the current Scottish Government is similar to Denmark’s. “We might reasonably assume that if Denmark can sustain an appropriate, modern and highly regarded military force on such a budget then an independent Scotland could as well,” the report says.
It says Scottish taxpayers could not be asked to contribute towards the £100bn it might take to sustain the UK nuclear deterrent over the next few decades. “On the balance of available evidence, there thus seems to be no question that an independent Scotland would be able to pay for and sustain a meaningful defence posture of the kind envisaged by the present Scottish Government,” the report says.
The Scottish army would consist of 9,000 full-time and 8,000 reserve soldiers, a number the report admits is fewer than in the Republic of Ireland, which has around 8,500 regular and around 14,000 reservists.
The report proposes Lossiemouth be used for air defence and policing, while Leuchars is used for other roles.
SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson welcomed the report, saying it was “a thoughtful and constructive addition to the debate about defence in an independent Scotland”.
Pro-Union politicians were unconvinced. Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said: “I find it surprising the SNP would welcome a report showing that an independent Scotland’s army would be about three-quarters of the size of Ireland’s. Currently, Scottish soldiers are part of the most professional fighting force in the world and UK troops take part in missions across the globe under the banner of Nato and the UN.”
Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “The report recommends scrapping any idea about building Type 26 frigates on the Clyde for Scottish use, just four days after Nicola Sturgeon said that would be her plan. Last week the mantra was ‘buy British’. All the way through this report it recommends ‘buy anything but British’.”
He added: “Crucially, it says it will take a dangerous decade for the defence force to get up to strength.”
Although the report argued that its proposals would “elevate” Scottish employment, it conceded that some service personnel would be reluctant to transfer to a Scottish Defence Force and predicted a manpower shortfall to begin with.