AN INDEPENDENT Scotland would not be guaranteed access to crucial intelligence on terrorism and organised crime from the UK and other states, Home Secretary Theresa May said yesterday.
Proposals by SNP ministers to set up Scotland’s own domestic intelligence service were based on “assumptions”, Mrs May warned during a visit to Glasgow.
She said the new country would have to work to build trust with neighbours before they agreed to share intelligence.
SNP ministers have claimed that Scotland and the rest of the UK would continue to swap intelligence on the basis of mutual benefit as they sought to deter security threats across the British Isles after independence. Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that she expects that an “independent domestic intelligence machinery” would be set up post-independence and that it would co-operate with the police and intelligence services throughout the rest of the UK.
But Ms May used a visit to Scotland yesterday to insist that independence would materially change the relationship.
“The point is that if Scotland is separate it becomes a separate state. So it is not the same as sharing intelligence across the UK,” she said.
Scotland, she added, would need to establish the same basis of trust that the UK currently has with other nations.
She also criticised the fact that there was still uncertainty surrounding such issues, although she declined to speculate how the rest of the UK would handle the situation.
“The SNP make a lot of assumptions in a lot of areas and are trying to tell people nothing would change but there is a whole range of issues that would need to be looked at and decided upon,” she said. “I think in terms of looking ahead to the referendum, people would question very seriously the SNP if they don’t come up with firm proposals on issues like this.”
Her criticism comes after Ms Sturgeon told the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee that Scotland would have its own intelligence agencies but would continue to work closely with both MI5 and MI6.
Ms Sturgeon said: “In terms of security and intelligence, I would envisage Scotland having an independent domestic intelligence machinery, sitting alongside our police service but working very closely, given our sharing of an island, with the rest of the UK.”
Asked if Scotland would expect to be able to read the rest of the UK’s top secret intelligence, Ms Sturgeon replied: “There are arrangements with other countries, I think there would be a very close relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK.”
The Deputy First Minister also said that there was “substantial” work being carried out by the Scottish Government on the costs of setting up an intelligence agency.
Ms May added that the Scottish Government had a “duty” to explain to voters what those costs would be prior to the referendum in 2014.
The row over the security implications of an independent Scotland comes with the UK government preparing to launch its first major paper on Scottish independence on Monday.
Last night, a spokesman for the justice secretary Kenny Mac- Askill said: “This is rank hypocrisy from Theresa May, who is in no position to lecture Scotland.
“In any case, these comments make no sense – if the UK government is happy to share intelligence with Algeria, as David Cameron recently announced, why wouldn’t it make sense to share intelligence with an independent Scotland?
“An independent Scotland will continue to share open borders with the rest of the UK and Ireland as part of the common travel area which has existed in these islands for decades.”