Scottish independence: A Scottish army would be too boring to attract recruits, says general
Lord Richard Dannatt, a former chief of staff, made the comments yesterday as criticism of Alex Salmond’s plans for a Scottish defence force began to mount.
But the First Minister hit back at the Conservative peer, accusing him of joining other senior Westminster politicians in “talking Scotland down”.
Mr Salmond revealed last week that a Scottish defence force would have one RAF base, one naval base and a brigade of about 6,000 troops.
But questions have arisen over what the Scottish defence forces would do, because most British military interventions have been opposed by the SNP, while the party also wants Scotland out of Nato.
It was also pointed out that the SNP had, in effect, accepted coalition cuts to the forces as Scotland’s “ideal” position, despite for years claiming that there has been a severe defence underspend north of the Border.
Yesterday, Baron Dannatt said: “If it [Scotland] just wants a relatively small territorial defence force to look after the integrity of Scotland, for people in the Scottish regiments that’s a pretty boring prospect.
“Being part of a larger British Army, doing things the British armed forces do, well that’s a pretty fulfilling career and lifestyle to have.
“Just to be part of a very small local defence force would not be very fulfilling.”
He also said Scotland would face a massive bill to “replicate” the Faslane-based nuclear submarine capability, currently paid for by Westminster.
Sir Richard Dannatt was appointed Chief of the General Staff (CGS) in August 2006, succeeding General Sir Mike Jackson. He retired in 2009, taking up the largely honorary post of Constable of the Tower of London.
Between November 2009 and the general election in May 2010, he served as a defence adviser to David Cameron
His comments were supported by Colonel Clive Fairweather, a former SAS commander and senior officer in Scotland. He said: “I remember that I joined the army in Scotland as a pimply 17-year-old for adventure, travel and pay.
“You certainly won’t get adventure and travel if they are not part of Nato, so I agree that this will have an impact on recruitment.”
He added: “The point is that for the foreseeable future Scotland is not going to be under any military threat, so there is unlikely to be any call on their forces to do anything other than helping out the United Nations on occasions as blue berets.
“With the British Army it is different, so it will have an extra edge in terms of recruitment.”
But speaking yesterday, Mr Salmond said that the criticisms were part of a Westminster approach to talk Scotland down.
He argued that the Nordic countries had shown the way on having significant defence forces in smaller states.
The First Minister said: “When you get senior politicians apparently in all sobriety, who talk about a Scottish defence force being some sort of gendarmerie, now would they say that about the Danish defence forces or the Norwegian defence forces or the Swedish defence forces?
“Of course they wouldn’t, that seems to be insulting, pejorative language that they save up for Scotland.”