Ukraine-Russia crisis: 'Former UK defence spending cuts were a mistake as EU becomes military alliance', says SNP defence spokesperson

A leading SNP figure has branded the UK’s past cuts to defence spending “a mistake” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the announcement of £24 billion being added to the UK’s defence budget, SNP defence spokesman Stewart McDonald named former defence cuts as “short-sighted” as he described the European Union as a “military alliance”.

Mr McDonald’s comments come as Vladimir Putin recently ordered his military to put Russia’s nuclear deterrence forces on high alert.

The SNP’s opposition to Trident nuclear weapons is “long-held”, Mr McDonald said, adding Mr Putin’s threat was “dangerous sabre-rattling”, which he claimed the Russian president had made before.

Defence secretary Ben Wallace said "no cuts" are being made to the army "other than personnel", adding that £24 billion is being added to the UK's defence budget. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)

The position on defence spending comes as German chancellor Olaf Scholz pledged €100 billion [£83.6bn] in additional military spending in Germany following the invasion of Ukraine.

“With the invasion of Ukraine, we are in a new era,” he told a special session of the Bundestag on Sunday.

The UK Government previously announced a reduction in the number of soldiers it plans to have in the Army by 2025.

The target for the number of fully-trained people in the Army has been scaled back from 82,040 in 2021 to 72,500 by 2025.

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Mr McDonald said these cuts were a mistake in light of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, saying: "Although they [UK Government] are doing more spending this time round, it doesn’t mean I think they are necessarily spending it wisely.

"They're still going to cut the army by 10,000 troops. I don’t think that’s big or clever.

“Previous cuts are now having to be made up for. What’s happening [with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine] goes to show those cuts were short-sighted.”

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has said “no cuts” were being made to the army “other than personnel”, adding £24bn was being added to the UK's defence budget.

Speaking on Monday, Mr Wallace said: “In the Defence Command Paper we said a number of things should happen. One is spend the money on the armed forces to be better equipped, more lethal, more joined up and at more readiness.”

Mr McDonald said he believed the main issue was not with defence spending in the UK, but with strategy.

He said the UK should adopt a national security strategy that includes pandemic preparedness, national, economic and energy resilience.

The SNP defence spokesperson said: “It’s not enough to think about those alongside other things. They are actually crucial to defence and security planning going forward.”

The UK Government published the outcome of its year-long integrated review (IR) of foreign policy, defence, security and international development in March last year.

The IR set out a strategic framework for achieving the UK's national security and international policy objectives between then and 2025.

However, Mr McDonald said the strategy was “wrong”.

Mr McDonald said: "Our focus has to be on Europe and the new security architect in Europe, which over the course of the week has changed dramatically.”

He said the EU was now “ a military alliance” and the UK would have to “catch up rather than pursuing some ghost empire on the other side of the globe”.

Regardless of whether or not independence for Scotland was achieved, Mr McDonald said the UK Ministry of Defence’s actions were “enormously important” to Scotland.

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