AN INDEPENDENT Scotland’s ability to fight terrorism would be damaged, as key intelligence from MI6 and MI5 would dry up, Home Secretary Theresa May has warned.
The UK currently boasts “some of the finest intelligence and security services in the world”, but Scotland would lose access to them and have to establish its own spy networks, according to the latest report by the coalition government on the prospect of independence.
But the claims were branded “nonsense” by Nationalists who insist that Scotland would continue to have close relations with the rest of the UK.
Ms May said both the remaining UK and an independent Scotland would face an increased threat if Scots vote Yes next year. She also warned that UK safeguards against the growing threat of cyber-attack would also be lost.
“The national security risks the UK faces are complex and changing,” she said on a visit to Edinburgh yesterday.
“Terrorists and organised criminals will seek new ways to exploit any weakness in our justice and policing capabilities, and the scale of emerging threats such as cyber-crime demands a comprehensively resourced response. Now is the time to work more closely together for the security of all citizens.”
Police Scotland would remain an important partner in law enforcement UK-wide if Scotland becomes independent. But the Scotland Analysis report on security warns: “It [Scotland] would lose automatic access to the capabilities and resources of MI5, SIS [MI6] and GCHQ, and the UK’s wider intelligence analysis capabilities.”
Ms May rejected Nationalist arguments that Scotland might face a diminished threat from terrorism by rejecting nuclear weapons and shunning “illegal wars”, such as the Iraq conflict. Some terrorists had “an issue with the way of life in the West” rather than any specific grievances about foreign policy, according to the Home Secretary.
“I don’t think it is possible to guarantee that the threat would diminish with a separate Scotland,” she said.
The SNP has set aside a budget of £2.5 billion after independence for both defence and security, but this compares with UK spending of about £33bn for defence and £2bn for security, intelligence and cyber-security.
There could also be new delays in extraditing Scottish suspects from other parts of the UK.
If an independent Scotland joined the EU, European arrest warrants would be needed, which take an average of three months to secure extradition.
However, Scotland’s justice secretary Kenny MacAskill said: “These claims are wrong – not least because Scotland is already an independent jurisdiction when it comes to policing and justice issues. An independent Scotland will have first-rate security arrangements to counter any threats we may face. And we will continue to work in very close collaboration with the rest of the UK on security and intelligence matters.”
Allan Burnett, the former Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland co-ordinator of counter-terrorism, said “an excellent Scottish intelligence organisation could be developed”.
Former home secretary Lord Reid, a Scottish Labour politician, said: “There is no doubt that a separate Scotland would be less secure than it is at present.”