Scotland better off looking after itself

You carry comments by two eminent defence experts on the future defence scene in Scotland should we opt for independence (31 December).

As commentators, these gentlemen are not bound to present a full picture, but in omitting to mention the essential starting point of any such discussion they give inappropriate aid and comfort to Unionist politicians who like to pretend that an independent Scotland would have to start from scratch.

The first fact to be taken into account in any discussion of this issue is that Scottish taxpayers have paid their share (some would say more than their share) in providing existing facilities and equipment, and a proportion of personnel are Scottish.

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If Scotland becomes independent, military bases in Scotland will become the property of the Scottish state, as will a proportion of moveable assets, and appropriate personnel will transfer to the Scottish defence forces.

Clive Fairweather correctly points out that the UK needed – and Scotland will continue to need – a Special Forces capability. We had one, until the Con/Dem coalition closed the base at Arbroath.

We will also need an effective maritime surveillance system. Some commentators maintain that the Nimrod MR4 was superior to the Boeing Poseidon which the UK will eventually have to acquire, if the defence budget can afford it.

The Nimrod was cancelled to save its £200 million annual operating costs, leaving the UK without this essential capacity. Three air bases were due to be closed, and two of them turned out to be in Scotland. The Scottish military HQ has been closed.

It begins to appear that the UK government is withdrawing all military assets it can from Scotland, like the spoilt schoolboy who says “If you don’t let me win I’ll take my ball away”, ignoring the fact that it is not their ball to take.

You mention Admiral Lord West’s interview on the BBC, and his suggestion that Scotland could not afford to acquire the necessary ships, etc.

The fact is that the UK cannot afford to acquire the necessary ships. In the meantime, the Navy’s most urgent need is not for half a dozen highly sophisticated, money-no-object prestige vessels, but for at least a score of small, fast, cheap ships with long sea-keeping abilities, to deal with Somali pirates, smuggling of drugs, arms, even slaves (which is effectively the status of some illegal immigrants), and a wide variety of general duties. Something like the Second World War Corvettes!

It is SNP policy that Scotland will remain within the British Commonwealth, and retain the Queen, and her successors, as head of state (so it is inaccurate to say that it wants to leave the United Kingdom; what it wants is to recreate a Scottish State, while maintaining good relations with our nearest neighbour).

It would be possible, and desirable in the best interests of both parties, for the “Rest of the UK” and the Scots to arrive at a division of defence assets and responsibilities that safeguards the security of all parts of the UK.

It appears that Scotland could get better defence than we have now, if we spent wisely the amount of tax we currently contribute to the UK defence budget.

It would be of interest if Lord West, having entered this discussion, would confirm that UK defence assets would fall to be divided between Scotland and the “Rest of the UK”, and perhaps suggest, from the defence point of view, which of the UK’s small fleet should be allocated to Scotland.

John Smart

Kinneddar Street

Lossiemouth

Scotland will need its own SAS, in the opinion of a former deputy commander of the SAS .

That idea must have taken a lot of thinking out. Colonel Fairweather’s blindingly obvious comment raises a couple of points.

First, Scotland does not have any SAS units based within its borders at the moment despite the dangers implicit in terrorist attacks on oil fields. When Scotland is independent that gap will be filled.

Second, over many years we have heard reports of the SAS co-operating in the training and deployment of special forces in many countries.

Given that a proportion of the funding for the SAS comes from Scottish taxpayers, and many Scots have served in the SAS, why should Scotland be the only country which the SAS would not co-operate with in the training and deployment of a new special forces unit?

Surely the creation of such a unit, which is essential for Scotland, would be of benefit to the whole British Isles.

As part of Britain, Scotland does not have any form of defence strategy. When Russian ships anchored off Scotland and reputedly deposited some trash in the Moray Firth recently, where was the Royal Navy vessel monitoring their activities?

Where was the Nimrod aircraft conducting surveillance to check on what was happening? For reasons of our own safety, negotiating independence is essential.

George Leslie

North Glassock

Fenwick