Scottish independence: Defence clarity call

Soldiers from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (5Scots) head into Canterbury Cathedral for a farewell service. Picture: PA
Soldiers from The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, 5th Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Scotland (5Scots) head into Canterbury Cathedral for a farewell service. Picture: PA
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The role that Scotland would play on the international stage after independence must be set out for voters ahead of the referendum, a defence expert has warned.

• The SNP must outline a clear defence strategy in the event that Scotland becomes independent, according to a defence think tank

George Grant. Picture: Jane Barlow

George Grant. Picture: Jane Barlow

• George Grant of the Henry Jackson Society claims that Scottish Government has not conceived a strategy behind stated desire to have submarines and army regiments while ditching Trident

The SNP Government has pledged to retain all the historic army regiments and build submarines and frigates for its Scottish navy, while ditching the UK’s Trident nuclear armed submarines.

But George Grant of think tank, the Henry Jackson Society warned MPs on the Scottish Affairs Committee at Westminster today that the SNP’s proposals are not clearly thought out.

“Unless you have a clear national strategy that starts by saying what sort of country you want to be in the world, what you think the risks to your national security are going to be, what you want to do, I do not believe you can have a sensible conversation about the sort of military assets that you want,” he said.

“I don’t get the sense that the SNP have done all of that - they’ve just said we would want conventional submarines, we would want fast jets we would want 15,000 men. I don’t see why they would want those things - I don’t think they’ve been clear enough.”

The Scottish Government is to publish a white paper later this year setting out its vision for Scotland after independence and Mr Grant said this must give more detail.

The Nationalists have set out a number of “headline” defence policies like keeping on 15,000 armed forces personnel, a budget of £2.5 billion and conventional submarines.

“I would imagine the content of their white paper would be an attempt to justify those positions,” according to Mr Grant who published a report on an independent Scotland’s defence prospects last week.

The Nationalists have indicated that Scotland would be a more regionally-focussed power in Northern Europe and would not be dragged into another Iraq war.

But it remains unclear if Scotland would “proactively involve” itself in UN peacekeeping operations or limit itself to disaster relief, Mr Grant said.

“The important issue is that voters have a clear idea of what they’re voting for,” he added.

“The SNP almost seem to think it’s more important to say we will have submarines and fast jets - I think the most important thing is that voters know more or less what the likely outcome will be for Scotland. That’s why it’s important people give a little bit more clarity ahead of the referendum that they’ve done to date.”

Many of the threats that the UK current face are unlikely to diminish in Scotland after independence, according to Mr Grant.

“There seems to be a view that’s quite widely held that the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom is directly related to the UK’s foreign policy and an independent Scotland, by virtue of dis-associating itself from that foreign policy, would automatically be able to reduce the treat from terrorism,” he said.

“I do think it’s pretty simplistic to just assume the terrorist threat to Scotland would be significantly lower by virtue of Scotland being an independent country.”

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