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Scottish independence: SNP ‘cannot fudge defence’

Andrew Murrison pictured during a visit to Redford Barracks. Picture: Toby Williams

Andrew Murrison pictured during a visit to Redford Barracks. Picture: Toby Williams

  • by DAVID MADDOX
 

SNP ministers have been warned they “cannot fudge defence” in their white paper on independence and must produce a detailed analysis.

The warning came from UK defence minister Dr Andrew Murrison as he gave evidence to the Scottish Affairs select committee on the recent defence analysis paper produced bny the UK Government on the impact of independence.

Dr Murrison, who was appearing with Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, claimed that it would be impossible for the Scottish Government to meet all its defence commitments or even pay for cyber security on its proposed budget of £2.5 billion.

And he confirmed that the new Type 26 frigates would not be built in the Clyde should Scotland vote for independence and probably be constructed in Portsmouth instead, but also said that the Glasgow yards are the best place for ships to be put together.

However, the SNP pointed out that his comments on the need for a sovereign shipbuilding facility came as the UK government announced that it has ordered three new Airseeker spy planes from the USA to be built and maintained in the USA.

Mr Murrison said that while defence was not normally an issue “which people think about in their daily lives” it is “crucial” to the referendum debate.

He said: “We have to remember this is independence which is being talked about not some sort of halfway house whatever the SNP might want to pretend. They need to be clear about this and what they are going to do.”

On the proposed £2.5 billion budget put forward by the SNP he said: “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 £2.5 billion.”

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: “Another bad day for Project Fear as Defence Minister Andrew Murrison confirmed a number of things this afternoon. On shipbuilding he could not have been clearer that the Clyde was

‘certainly the best‘ place to build the new generation of Type 26 frigates , and that with the announcement of the ending of naval shipbuilding at Portsmouth, it would still be possible to build Royal Navy vessels there following a Yes vote.”

He added: “It is to say the least ironic that a UK defence minister could lecture Scots about shipbuilding and defence plans on the same day the first of three American made and maintained spy planes worth well over £180 million each land in the UK.

“The chief of the defence staff and the minister made clear the Clyde is the best place to build ships, and it appears America is the best for spy planes.”

On the decision to have a US built and maintained spy plane an MoD spokesman said: “Buying Airseeker as an off-the-shelf system provides excellent value for money. We are getting a top-of-the-range capability without having to pay the large up-front development costs that would be needed to develop something new and bespoke.”

A senior MoD source added: “The US is also our closest intelligence ally.”

 

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