Ministers restore split on defence spending

THE SNP has won an important concession from the coalition government after a UK minister agreed to publish annual defence spending across the UK.

Under the last Labour government, the Ministry of Defence stopped issuing figures at the end of 2007-8 showing how defence spending was split between the UK's four nations.

But in a debate in the Commons, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson managed to persuade ministers to reverse this decision.

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Critics claimed the publication of regional splits had been cancelled because it proved how defence spending was being cut in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and concentrated in the south of England.

In Scotland, the defence underspend as a population share increased from 749 million in 2002-3 to 1.3 billion in 2007-8. Scotland got only 61 per cent of its share, compared with 94 per cent for England.

With fears Scotland could bear the brunt of defence cuts in the latest strategic defence review, with two RAF bases, the Royal Marines base in Arbroath and the Black Watch's headquarters at Fort George all under threat, the SNP had demanded that the regional split of defence spending be published again.

Mr Robertson said: "It is crucial to be able to track the impact of UK government policy across the nations and regions of the UK."