THE Ministry of Defence will “want out” of an independent Scotland, moving defence contracts to territory “controlled by London”, a leading military analyst declared in the latest clash over the impact of secession.
At a major conference, titled Defending an Independent Scotland, organised by The Scotsman yesterday, Professor Trevor Taylor warned it was “hard to see” why London would continue to send contracts to Scottish firms once it was a “foreign” country.
Prof Taylor, a fellow of the think-tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) and an expert on the UK defence industry, said as many as 16,000 defence jobs would be affected, including those on the Clyde and at Rosyth where two Queen Elizabeth class Royal Navy aircraft carriers are being built.
Other vulnerable contracts would include the provision of RAF airborne radar systems and other MoD electronics contracts.
Independence would “not increase the appeal for Scotland as a locality for defence businesses”, he added, as export and security arrangements established within the UK would no longer apply.
His comments came as the conference heard from a series of experts on the possible make-up of an independent Scotland’s armed forces.
One independence-supporting defence analyst, Stuart Crawford, told the conference a new nation would have no need for carriers, submarines or fast jets.
This could deliver a potential £1 billion “peace dividend” to the new country, with Scotland only spending around 1.5 per cent of gross domestic product on defence, compared to 2.7 per cent in the UK.
Prof Taylor told the conference: “If Scotland becomes sovereign it becomes a foreign country. I think it is at least a proposition that when thinking about that, the UK defence establishment will want out of Scotland as a consequence.”
He went on: “It is hard to see why London should support Scottish facilities since there would be no security of supply or economic advantage in so doing.”
He suggested an option might be for the SNP to take the “painful” decision to keep Trident in Scottish waters, in return for a retention of defence contracts.
Prof Taylor said that the best estimates suggested 16,000 jobs were reliant on such contracts.
The claims were disputed by the SNP last night, which argues that sharing defence procurement would continue after independence. However, the SNP’s defence spokesman, Angus Robertson said: “In terms of cooperation, under all constitutional options including independence there will continue to be significant defence spending between Scotland and England, because it is in everyone’s interests to procure the best quality and most cost-effective equipment.
“That is the logic behind the policy of the UK government, Labour opposition and the SNP.”
The conference, attended by defence figures, civil servants, and diplomats, also heard that a Scottish decision to remove Trident from Faslane would “impose” nuclear disarmament on the rest of the UK. Professor William Walker, of St Andrew’s University, said there was “nowhere else for it to go” in the UK.