Independent Scotland will need allies

I am glad to see that the UK government is waking up to the possibility of Scottish independence, and its implications in the field of defence (your report, 8 March).

A major reason for wanting independence is the need to have the choice of whether or not to join in any future military adventure overseas.

I yield to no-one in my admiration for the skill and courage of our armed forces, but in a very real sense it is not they who sacrifice themselves.

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It is we, the voters, and the governments we elect, that decide whether to sacrifice our troops in a particular field.

We will be lucky to get out of our engagements abroad without our total dead exceeding 1,000, and the number seriously injured many times higher.

The casualties we have inflicted on combatants and non-combatants run to tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands.

We are doing this to help them? We need to think more clearly about the unexpected consequences of any foreign intervention.

On the other hand there can be no doubt on either side that Scotland and the rest of the UK would need a mutual defence alliance. We will be guarding England’s back door, and vice versa.

It appears that at least some members of the defence community have accepted that Scotland has paid our share of defence costs, and is entitled to a share of the facilities and assets.

They need, in their own interest, to realise that the day after independence their defence will depend on their having agreed and placed here appropriate assets.

With the future of the eurozone, the EU itself, and Nato in doubt (the United States having slashed its defence budget, and moved its focus of interest to the Far East) it appears that the UK government had envisaged co-operation with the French, but that is now in some doubt too.

It is SNP policy that Scotland will be a member of the Commonwealth and will retain the Queen as head of state, so we will be England’s most reliable ally for defensive purposes.

The UK currently shares training, exercises and bases with a wide array of countries, and if the desire existed arrangements could be agreed. This would involve units being posted in Scotland according to defence needs, with individuals in some cases being cross-posted to take account of nationallity.

In the Second World War not only Commowealth but also Poles, Czechs and others served with UK units and there is no reason why this could not persist for a transitional period.

It would of course be the responsibility of the Scottish Government to make more regular arrangements as soon as practicable.

John Smart

Kinneddar Street