THE UK minister for international security strategy has warned that Scottish independence would “severely damage” Britain’s defence.
Andrew Murrison said that there would be “geo-political consequences” and warned the security of Scotland and the UK would be under threat if there was a ‘Yes’ vote in next year’s referendum.
On a visit to Scotland yesterday he accused the Nationalists of being “negligent” and claimed First Minister Alex Salmond had failed to set out how an independent Scotland would be protected from military or terrorist threats.
The minister issued the stark warning after Prime Minister David Cameron handed him ministerial responsibility for making a specific defence and security case against independence in the run-up to the referendum. Dr Murrison, who served as an armed forces medical officer, said that defence was “one of the SNP’s weaknesses”.
The Conservative MP said he would be coming to Scotland on “every available occasion” to make the case against independence on defence grounds.
He repeated UK government claims that an independent Scotland could face opposition over joining Nato.
The SNP government is expected to set out its vision for the defence of Scotland when it publishes its White Paper on independence this autumn.
However, Dr Murrison said that defence had been “left as a bolt-on added extra” by the Nationalists and claimed the party’s failure to plan for security would leave Scotland vulnerable to attack. He said the SNP’s defence plans are “largely a mystery”.
“We are promised a white paper at the end of the year, but the details are far from clear cut,” he said.
He went on to warn that the defence of the UK would also be weakened by the loss of Scotland’s military capability.
Dr Murrrison said: “Scotland is an essential part of our defence and security offering in the UK. It is crystal clear to me that our collective defence and security would be severely damaged in the event that Scotland decided to separate from the United Kingdom.
“I think the geo-political consequences of that would be substantial. At home, our defence and security would be threatened and I think it’s highly unlikely that super-national organisations like Nato or the nascent European Union defence identity would in any way welcome the break-up of the UK.
“The SNP has been negligent in terms of the level of debate on defence. I believe defence is one of the SNP’s weaknesses. There are a wide raft of questions it has to answer about what defence would look like in an independent Scotland and what would be the impact on jobs.
“Clearly, who is a member of Nato is a matter for Nato and it cannot be taken for granted that an independent Scotland would be assured of membership.”
Dr Murrison made the remarks in Edinburgh as part of a series of visits to key Scottish military bases such as RAF Leuchars, Redford Barracks, and Rosyth dockyard.
He said: “There’s a very strong case to be made for the defence and security of Scotland within the Union and I’m passionate about this.”
SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson said: “They say attack is the best form of defence, which may explain why Dr Murrison has chosen to attack Scotland’s prospects instead of answer for the actions of his own government in cutting Scotland’s defence footprint and capabilities.”
Former Surgeon Commander with a 30-year service record
DR ANDREW Murrison has only just been handed the post at the Ministry of Defence with specific responsibility for Scottish affairs.
However, the Conservative MP for South West Wiltshire has been a Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the MoD since September last year. He holds the official title of Minister for International Security Strategy. Dr Murrison spent the bulk of his career in the Royal Navy before entering parliament, leaving in October 2000 as a Surgeon Commander.
His military career included a period as a medical officer to 40 Regiment Royal Artillery in South East Iraq. The MP also saw service with Standing Naval Force Atlantic and a similar force covering the Channel.
He served a total of 30 years in the forces as a regular and reservist.
Dr Murrison also practiced as a consultant occupational physician and GP.
His political career included a stint as a shadow minister for health, as well as an opposition spokesman on defence.
He authored a book Tommy this, an’ Tommy that; the military covenant published by Biteback.
Dr Murrison has also been closely involved with the candidates’ department at Conservative Central Office.