Future of defence

Perhaps the most significant words in the exchanges between Unionist and SNP politicians over the aircraft carrier contracts are Scottish Secretary Michael Moore’s concession that “it was unlikely in our lifetime” that there would be anything as big as the two carriers again (your report, 15 November). Quite so.

The two carriers were part of defence spending plans that created a £30 billion deficit in the Ministry of Defence’s forward budget. The estimated completion costs of the carriers now far exceed the original estimates and could reach £10bn.

One of the carriers is due to be mothballed on completion and may never see service, at least with the Royal Navy. The other won’t have any aircraft flying from it until 2020 and they will be the second choice.

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Given the scale of the UK’s financial problems, reliance on a never ending series of major UK defence contracts is a very shoogly nail on which to hang the future of Scottish shipbuilding.

Government Expenditure and Revenue for Scotland 2009-10 identifies Scotland’s contribution to the UK defence budget at £3.1bn.

If an independent Scotland devoted the same proportion of its GDP to defence as Norway, a non-nuclear member of Nato, it would have a defence budget of around £2bn, allowing for an annual procurement budget of up to £400m.

That would leave £1bn to spend on stimulating new jobs in alternative industries, including green energy, offering a far more secure future than a defence industry which has outgrown the UK’s financial capacity to support it.

Stephen Maxwell

Findhorn Place