Scottish independence: Expert warns foreigner should head military

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AN INDEPENDENT Scotland should appoint a foreigner to head its military, because Scots would have no idea how to run the defence of a small country, an expert has warned.

Professor Ron Smith, of Birkbeck College, London, who specialises in defence economics, told MPs one of the greatest problems faced by an independent Scotland would be finding people who were able to run smaller armed forces after working in the UK armed forces.

Speaking to the Scottish
affairs select committee yesterday, he likened it to “leaving a large corporation and joining a small firm”.

He added: “If I were them I would go for a foreigner to run it. Get someone from Ireland or Denmark, who actually understands how to run defence for a small country.”

The hearing also heard evidence for a second time from defence expert Malcolm Chalmers, the research director for the Royal United Services Institute.

He told MPs that Scotland might need to buy cast-offs from the UK as a cheaper way of providing the military equipment it needs.

As an example, he said Scotland might purchase the Type 23 frigates that are being decommissioned to be replaced by Type 26 models.

The two witnesses also attacked SNP claims that there could be a joint procurement strategy on defence between the rest of the UK and an independent Scotland to save on costs.

Mr Chalmers said that the UK co-oprerated with France because they had similar-sized armed forces and needs.

He said that it was easier to make savings when a country “tries to co-operate with somebody who is very much your equal”.

But he said these savings could not be found “when you co-operate with a country which is very much smaller than you”, because transaction costs outweigh any savings which might be made.