Spring Budget a chance for 'sleepwalking' UK government to 'get serious' on defence, SNP say

The SNP claimed vital resources were being wasted on nuclear weapons

The Spring Budget offers the “sleepwalking” UK government an opportunity to “finally get serious” on defence, the SNP has claimed.

Martin Docherty-Hughes, the party’s defence spokesperson, warned the UK government has been failing to take rising threats to our allies' security seriously.

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It comes as the SNP also urged Chancellor Jeremy Hunt to boost NHS spending by £15 billion, saying such an increase would result in an additional £1.2bn for Scottish health spending through Barnett consequentials.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has been urged to increase defence spending.Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has been urged to increase defence spending.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt has been urged to increase defence spending.

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn has said the Scottish Government’s capital budget is facing a real-terms cut of £1.6bn, with Scotland’s capital spending power expected to shrink by 10 per cent over the next five years.

Highlighting the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) £17 billion equipment black hole, Mr Docherty-Hughes claimed the UK government’s priorities were askew, with an estimated £205 billion in costs for the UK’s nuclear weapons stockpiles taking precedence over conventional equipment and capabilities.

The West Dunbartonshire MP accused ministers of cutting the UK’s defence budget in recent years, seeing the armed forces shrink, with infantry numbers at their lowest levels in hundreds of years.

He told The Scotsman: “The Spring Budget offers this sleepwalking UK government an opportunity to finally get serious on defence. However, whether they take it remains to be seen.

“The UK government has so far refused to take growing threats to our allies' security seriously, and the Ministry of Defence’s enormous £17bn equipment black hole is just the tip of the iceberg.

“Sweeping cuts have also seen infantry numbers slashed to their lowest levels in hundreds of years. These are not the actions of a government preparing for a more unstable and unpredictable world.

“If we’ve learned anything from the rising threat level in light of the war in Ukraine and trouble in the Middle East, it’s that we should be bolstering our defence capabilities, not cutting them.

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“All this is made even more scandalous by the £205bn wasted by the UK government on weapons of mass destruction that will continue to sit and gather dust unless the UK has plans to indiscriminately wipe out entire populations.

"That's money that could be invested in our out of date and worryingly small supply of conventional equipment and capabilities, but instead Westminster's preference is weapons of mass destruction.

“Scotland is a nation that stands ready to take our collective defence seriously, but our unique needs have been ignored and hindered for too long by successive Labour and Tory governments whose priorities have been askew”.

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt will deliver the Spring Budget on Wednesday next week, which is likely to be the last major fiscal event before the next general election.

However, there is no expectation the MoD will get extra funding, despite military figures and politicians warning about the state of the Armed Forces.

It is understood the Treasury believes tight public finances have limited the ability to announce new spending, despite reported pressure from defence secretary Grant Shapps.

The MoD had a funding rise last spring, when an extra £5bn was given over two years, with another £2bn a year extra for much of the rest of the decade.

The MoD has been approached for comment.



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