THE UK’s commitment to major Nato operations has been called into question after ministers revealed they had sent only an old minesweeper and 52 men on the biggest training exercise in more than seven years.
The revelation in a written answer to SNP Westminster leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson has fueled SNP claims that an independent Scotland would be a better more active partner in the alliance.
However, the Ministry of defence pointed out that the UK is the second biggest contributor of personnel to Nato and is involved in Afghanistan.
It comes after the Ministry of Defence also admitted that following the strategic defence and security review in 2010 it had reduced the UK’s contribution to the main maritime standing groups in the Atlantic and Mediterranean.
Exercise Steadfast Jazz involved 6,000 personnel, 40 aircraft, and 15 naval vessels. It is regarded by experts as being one of the biggest exercises since the end of the Cold War.
The UK only sent a single aircraft to the training exercise immediately before, Brilliant Arrow.
The SNP Scottish Government has said that an independent Scotland would join Nato and focius on security in the high North Arctic region as well as peacekeeping exercises.
Mr Robertson said : “This revelation is utterly shocking .This was the largest and most important NATO exercise since 2006 and the UK managed only to send just one small, older ship with just 52 crew on board to take part – even the original plan to send two boats had to be reined back on. To make matters worse in the build-up exercise to this the UK sent just one plane.
“This send clear and worrying signals from the UK to our NATO allies about commitment and are a stark indication of the overstretch in the UK’s defence capabilities. The virtual absence of the UK in this exercise will not have gone unnoticed, particularly amongst the smaller nations who were able to provide far more personnel and assets. A Yes vote next year would allow Scotland to meet its defence obligations in the NATO alliance and fully play our part as a conventionally armed member, just as the smaller members of the alliance have demonstrated in this exercise.”
An MoD spokesperson said: “It is simply nonsense to suggest that the UK is not playing a full part in NATO - an alliance in which the UK holds the second largest national Defence budget and is the second largest contributor of forces to its military operations.
“Next year, the UK will host the NATO summit and the UK continues to strongly support NATO military exercises, including with the Royal Navy, around the world.
“These engagements are in addition to a range of other tasks such as counter piracy and narcotics operations and assisting in the current humanitarian mission led by HMS Daring and HMS Illustrious in the Philippines.”