Jim Murphy: SNP defence policy doesn’t stand up – to anything
Malcolm Chalmers, one of the world’s most respected defence experts, has delivered a devastating assessment of SNP defence policy.
The most serious study to date on independence and defence has begun to address some important unanswered questions, and we can see that separation would lead to isolation abroad and weakened forces at home.
The SNP has long argued that Scotland could have a defence posture similar to that of Denmark or Norway. If Scotland spent the same proportion of GDP as those countries on defence, however, we would have one of the lowest defence budgets among European Nato nations. Chalmers points out Scotland may have no new frigates, no modern submarines and may not be able to afford an independent air force. Constructing armies and naval forces from scratch is deeply complex and demands enormous upfront investment, which the SNP has either overlooked or misunderstood.
Scottish expertise and Royal Navy orders have preserved Clyde shipbuilding. Separation would change this. An independent Scottish Government could likely only afford to purchase equipment “off the shelf” from overseas, and the closest major market, the UK, would have no incentive to invest in defence construction in a foreign country. Chalmers concludes, therefore, that much of Scotland’s defence industry could “migrate southwards”.
All nations face tough choices on defence. Coalition building must be at the heart of modern defence postures to maximise global reach. The SNP argues the opposite. It proposes to withdraw from Nato at the very time interdependence is growing.
The combination of a limited national force and few international alliances means Scotland may have to “free ride” on other nations’ military efforts overseas. The SNP must tell us why leaving the alliance that has been the cornerstone of western security for 60 years is in the Scottish national interest.
The SNP has a flawed defence policy based on wishful thinking. When it comes to our nation’s protection, such an approach won’t cut it. This report has to be understood, not simply dismissed by everyone who cares about Scotland’s future.
• Jim Murphy MP is shadow defence secretary
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