Foreign policy considerations for the UK and Scotland in the event of Scotland becoming an independent country - Foreign Affairs Committee Contents

4  Characterising a future RUK-Scotland bilateral relationship

The foreign policy posture of the RUK's closest neighbour

106.  Dr Kaarbo told us that she anticipated that Scotland would be "a liberal, open-trading state, embracing interdependence [...] that would be very similar to UK foreign policy now".[184] Catarina Tully told us Scotland would engage in "typical small-state diplomacy", with a foreign policy that is narrowly focused on soft power, economic intentions and national strategic interests.[185] As a result, the RUK would share many common interests resulting in a high degree of convergence in their foreign policies.[186]

107.  While more information about aspects of Scotland's future foreign policy have gradually begun to emerge in recent months, its totality remains unclear and information on a range of key foreign policy issues remains unknown. What is now clear is that Scotland would want to: endorse NATO membership (albeit as a non-nuclear state and one which reserves the right to refuse to not engage in 'out of area' operations); that it would emphasise the 'High North' and relations with Nordic and Scandinavian countries; that it would allocate £2.5 billion to security and defence; and that its foreign policy priorities would be "to advance Scotland's economic interests, to protect its citizens and assets and to play a responsible role as a good global citizen, contributing to peace across the world".[187] More information has also been published on an independent Scotland's defence posture (a subject the Defence Committee is scrutinising) which goes hand in hand with Scotland's foreign policy choices and priorities. As the RUK's closest would-be neighbour, the decisions that Scotland would take in respect of its foreign policy would have an important impact on the overall nature of the bilateral relationship and on the FCO's work.

Co-operation or competition?

108.  One of the strongest themes present in Scottish Government statements on Scotland's future foreign policy is the notion that the Scotland-RUK bilateral relationship would be a close and constructive one, that it would be a "partnership of equals",[188] and that "where now decisions are taken in London alone, with independence we will be able to take them together".[189] From a security and defence perspective, the Scottish Government wants to pursue joint procurement as well as shared conventional basing, training and logistics arrangements.[190] The Deputy First Minister also told us that Scotland would work "closely with the FCO network"[191] and referred to the "increasing tendency towards co-operation" in terms of consular activity, shared premises and shared services.[192] She added that "we contribute to [...] the current FCO network and would be entitled to a share of assets. We would look to share premises with not just the rest of the UK but other countries".[193]

109.  What is not clear, however, is the extent to which the RUK may be willing or indeed able to co-operate with an independent Scotland or how much this might cost the Scottish Government. For instance, in terms of requests for diplomatic and consular co-operation, the Minister of State, David Lidington, told us that "British Ministers faced with that decision would say, 'where do the interests of people and companies in the remaining United Kingdom lie'". He added that there would most likely be a cost for securing some services.[194] Under existing arrangements, and assuming that Scotland became a member of the Commonwealth or EU, the UK could provide some first-line consular assistance to Scottish citizens where Scotland had no diplomatic presence. However, the FCO cautioned that these arrangements would not extend to particularly challenging or sensitive cases or ones where there was an expectation that assistance would be provided directly by the country concerned. The FCO argued that this could have a significant impact on Scottish citizens involved in overseas crises involving child abduction, forced marriage or criminal cases.[195]

110.  Similarly, while bilateral co-operation in the field of trade may be the aspiration, witnesses told us that in practice, because Scotland and the RUK were likely to focus on similar overseas markets, competition could overtake co-operation as a key feature of the bilateral relationship. The FCO stated that burden-sharing arrangements for business services do not exist at an inter-state level and that an independent Scotland would not have access to UKTI networks and resources. It added that "independence would mean that Scottish companies and potential foreign investors in Scotland would lose access to that global network, and risk missing out on investment in the form of jobs, skills, capital and tax revenue from all over the world".[196] Mr Lidington told us that he was concerned that Scottish Ministers "are keen to give the impression that the current arrangements for trade promotion and investment promotion will just continue as normal when they are in no position to give such a guarantee, having failed to spell out the model that they imagine happening".[197] The Minister of State said:

I am very far from clear at the moment how the Scottish Government expects that an independent Scotland would provide the diplomatic network and diplomatic heft to promote the Scotch whisky industry, to promote Scottish financial services, to promote defence sales from Scotland, particularly given their stance on defence policy. It seems to me that is a gap in their own public preparations that is for them to fill.[198]

111.  In written evidence, Dr Kenealy suggested that "an independent Scotland could emerge as a key competitor of the RUK in the contest for inward investment, and that the FCO (along with UKTI) would have to strategise and respond accordingly". He added that "with full powers over tax policy, Scotland could lower corporation tax in an effort to make itself a more attractive investment climate".[199] There is a risk, according to the European Policy Centre, that ultimately both Scotland and the RUK would suffer adverse consequences:

There is no guarantee of course that the Scottish economy would flourish on its own. In case of independence, the border between Scotland and the RUK would gain in importance, and significant asymmetries would emerge thanks to the different regulatory regimes, subsidies, labour markets and levels of taxation. The new border could even lead some companies to refrain from investing anywhere on the island at all, for fear that it would become a more fragmented and less predictable market.[200]


112.  In spite of the many likely foreign policy similarities outlined above, the idea that Scotland's foreign policy would be different to that of the UK has become something of a leitmotif for the Scottish Government. Professor Chalmers noted that the Scottish Government seeks sovereignty not "because they want to launch a twenty-first century Darien adventure, but because they want Scotland to have the right of refusal in future British military adventures, of which the most controversial recent example was the invasion of Iraq in 2003".[201] He added that "this rejection of key aspects of UK defence policy is given added force by the widespread opposition within Scotland to the basing of nuclear-armed Trident submarines at Faslane".[202] Professor Walker told us that:

This is about looking out at the world in a rather different way, and not thinking about big expeditionary forces and not playing this major global power role that the UK has tried to play for a very long time. I think that they imagine, rightly or wrongly, that they just do not need so much to defend themselves and that, in fact, perhaps the UK exaggerates the amount of expenditure, resources and capability that it needs to defend itself.[203]

Although Catarina Tully told us that the key difference would be "one of style and the vision of itself", she also suggested that Scotland may choose to pursue substantively different policies in respect of energy, trade and fisheries.[204]

113.  We also received evidence about a potential for divergence on the issue of migration and border control. On the face of it, there would be little scope for disagreement: the Scottish Government has stated that for practical and geographical reasons it would seek an opt-out from Schengen Agreement to enable it to continue existing arrangements for visa-free travel within the British Isles and the Republic of Ireland under the Common Travel Area. The idea was supported by a number of witnesses who warned that to do otherwise would lead to "the nonsense of 20-mile tailbacks of trucks on the M74" with "border posts and biometric checking along Hadrian's Wall".[205] However, witnesses noted that in practice, there was a high probability that Scotland would pursue a less restrictive immigration policy than the RUK[206] and, in these circumstances, or in the event that Scotland could not secure an opt-out to Schengen, the RUK may seek to impose some form of border check.[207] Professor Whitman told us that "it is probably an area in which the UK would be sensible to think through what kind of relationship it wants to have to the Schengen zone in the future and how it would cope with having a state as a neighbour that was in the Schengen zone, and having that sort of border arising".[208]


114.  Earlier in this report we discussed the possible international implications for the RUK of the Scottish Government's stance on nuclear weapons (see above at Paragraph 66). Nuclear policy would also be a key issue in bilateral relations and would be one of the most striking areas of foreign policy divergence between the RUK and Scotland. For the UK, maintaining its nuclear status is critical to its current foreign policy posture whereas the Scottish Government is committed to removing the UK's nuclear weapons from Scotland. In 2012, the SNP pledged to introduce a constitutional provision in the event of independence making it illegal to have nuclear weapons on Scottish territory or in Scottish waters. Giving evidence to us, Ms Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government would be "a responsible Government and a responsible partner" on this matter to ensure that the UK's nuclear deterrent was removed "in the speediest safe way possible".[209]

115.  The Scottish Affairs Committee took evidence on what the "speediest safe transition" could mean in practice and concluded that it would be possible to deactivate Trident within a matter of days, and for the nuclear warheads, missiles and submarines to be removed from Scotland within twenty four months, assuming that there was full co-operation between the Scottish and UK Governments.[210] Faced with this prospect, the RUK would need to make decisions on the future of its deterrent and consider the international implications of the renewal and relocation of the Trident nuclear system.[211]

116.  The current Government, however, states that voluntarily relinquishing its nuclear status is not an option. Two other options are routinely mooted. The first option would be for the two parties to enter in an agreement to enable the RUK nuclear force to remain in Scotland, temporarily, until a timescale for relocation could be agreed. In practice this could involve significant difficulties. It would require continuing liaison between RUK and Scottish military and security forces based in Scotland, together with a clear agreement on submarine and warhead movement in Scottish waters and on Scottish roads.[212] This arrangement would, however, be far from ideal; even assuming goodwill on both sides, Scotland would be hosting nuclear weapons contrary to the SNP's stated policy to remove them, and the RUK would have its entire nuclear deterrent based in another sovereign state, raising crucial issues over command, control and sovereignty.[213] Professor Chalmers said:

As part of the condition for Irish independence, they agreed to treaty ports for the Royal Navy, and the Royal Navy stayed in Ireland until 1938. [...] When we came to 1938, when the Royal Navy was facing its biggest challenge, that was precisely the moment at which the Irish said, "No, we want to maintain neutrality in the coming war. These ships have to go." The relevance of that for today is that I think there would be ways found, in this scenario, to manage this issue in the short term, because Scotland would not want to be seen to be pushing the much bigger power on which it would rely. But would the RUK want to continue to base its only nuclear deterrent in a foreign country on which it might not be able to rely in times of intensified threat? After all, the nuclear deterrent, if it is ever to be relevant, will be in times of existential crisis, not in the sort of period we are talking about now.[214]

117.  The second option is the relocation of the RUK's nuclear capabilities south of the border. The technical challenges implicit in this have been considered in detail by both the Scottish Affairs and Defence Committees and in other publications, and we do not intend to repeat them in detail here. In short, it would present huge logistical, planning and political challenges for the RUK, involving controversial and significant infrastructure investment, population movement and the construction of new facilities, which in turn would considerably increase the current capital cost estimates for the renewal project "by £10 billion [...] and possibly a great deal more if the problems faced became significant".[215]

118.  Professor Chalmers told us that:

It is not by any means clear [...] with the information that I have, that an alternative location could be found [...] but even if you believed such a location could exist, it would take a period of certainly more than a decade and perhaps significantly longer for relocation to take place.[216]

Given these circumstances, Professor Sir David Omand told the Committee that he thought the issue of Trident's re-location could be "a deal-breaker":

I do not see a feasible alternative site at reasonable cost. The cost would presumably fall on the Scottish Government as part of the overall settlement, which in itself would have to be made clear to the Scottish people before the referendum—that a big bill would be attached to that particular part of the policy.[217]

119.  The RUK could also find its negotiating position and bilateral relations with Scotland constrained and affected by its need to reassure the international community that it was not placing undue pressure on its newly independent neighbour to continue to host RUK nuclear weapons against Scottish will.[218] There could be international consequences for Scotland, too. Written evidence from the London-based think tank, the British American Security Information Council, stated that "unless Scotland is willing to be seen as an outlier within the Alliance its new government would need to be cautious in moving too quickly to force expulsion of nuclear weapons from its territory. This would make enemies very quickly, and it's not clear how the rest of the UK could comply".[219] Likewise, Professor Walker stated that he could not imagine Scotland, a small state in NATO, being allowed to coerce the UK into giving up its nuclear deterrent. Professor Chalmers told us that there would be little international sympathy, at least amongst the UK's traditional allies, if Scotland was to insist that the UK's nuclear deterrent leave on a timescale that did not allow the RUK to construct alternative bases. Such a policy could "throw a big spanner in the post-referendum negotiations" and induce a robust response from the RUK and its traditional allies, "perhaps even a questioning of whether it could support Scotland's NATO and EU aspirations".[220] Professor Omand stated that the reaction from NATO allies to this scenario, in particular the US and France, would be "hostile" and that this "creates exactly the wrong kind of environment for an independent Scotland to try to establish itself in the international community, NATO and the European Union".[221]

120.  In contrast, if Scotland was willing to accommodate RUK concerns on this issue, it would place it in a strong position to expect RUK support on other issues.[222] However, the extent to which the Scottish Government would have room to manoeuvre politically given its commitment to ensure a speedy expulsion of Trident is unclear.

121.  The Scottish Government's commitment to removing the UK's nuclear deterrent from Scotland would, if delivered, have far-reaching bilateral, foreign, security and budgetary consequences for both states. It is also likely to have a significant effect on the willingness of the UK to co-operate on other issues upon which Scotland may need assistance, as well as influencing its overall position on the independence settlement. Any resulting disarmament by the RUK would be received badly by the UK's key allies and could create problems for Scotland with other NATO and EU Members as it forged a path as a new state. While the Scottish Government's commitment to removing nuclear weapons is not in question, international factors may constrain its ability to realise its goal and could mean that Scotland might not be nuclear-free for another generation.


122.  The Scottish Government argues that independence would provide Scotland with the freedom to make its own choices and forge its own foreign policy path, unbound by the constraints of the Union. The evidence we received suggests that in practice, Scotland's foreign policy would be heavily influenced by the position of its larger, more powerful neighbour, the RUK. In bilateral trade terms alone, Scotland would remain heavily tied to the RUK if trade patterns continue as they are at present. England is Scotland's main trading partner: in 2011, the value of Scottish exports (excluding oil and gas) was estimated at £69.4 billion. Of this, exports to the rest of the UK accounted for an estimated £45.5 billion (an increase of £1.9 billion since 2010).[223]

123.  It would not be wholly one-sided: Scotland would remain strategically important to the UK, particularly as a NATO ally with valuable naval and air facilities, access to the Atlantic and North Seas and under-sea and offshore oil and gas reserves. Interdependency in terms of electricity, telecommunications, finance and banking information systems and air defence would also speak to enduring links and continuing interdependency.[224] In one area in particular, however, Scotland's needs may far exceed those of the RUK, as we discuss below.


124.  Every year, in excess of £2 billion is allocated to the UK's security and intelligence agencies to combat threats to national security and critical infrastructure ranging from those judged to be the most serious (including cybercrime, international terrorism, a foreign crisis drawing in Britain, natural hazards such as severe coastal flooding or an influenza pandemic) to lesser threats including organised crime and satellite disruption.[225] Developed over many decades, this vast cross-governmental network, which provides law enforcement agencies in every part of the UK with relevant information and intelligence, derives partly from the UK's externally focused security agencies, specifically the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) and Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), both of which work closely with the FCO and for which the Foreign Secretary has ministerial responsibility.

125.  In the event of independence, it is likely that the RUK would argue strenuously that it would retain the intelligence and security capacities and infrastructure outlined above. If this was the case, it would be, according to Professor Sir David Omand, the former UK Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator and head of GCHQ, "perfectly capable of looking after itself".[226] In contrast, unless it succeeded in negotiating otherwise, Scotland, it's Government, and its law enforcement agencies would be cut out of the intelligence loop upon independence. Support would become discretionary on the part of the RUK and other international partners. In such a situation, Professor Omand warned that "problems could arise in respect of counter-terrorism or cyber security where a lack of appropriate investment resulted in Scotland becoming "a weak link". He added "if that is the easy way into the United Kingdom, you have a net loss of security on both sides of the border".[227]

What resources does Scotland have and need?

126.  Professor Omand told us that the security aim for the period after independence "should be to so arrange matters that security on both sides of the border is not diminished".[228] Witnesses were in agreement that an independent Scotland could not (for reasons of cost) and need not (given its relatively more limited foreign policy aspirations) replicate the security and intelligence structure that currently exists in the UK. Yet, it would still need a significant security and intelligence infrastructure to deal with the strategic security threats that the Deputy First Minister told us Scotland would face, namely: cyber threat; international terrorism; the threat from global instability and the possibility of failed states; and serious international organised crime.[229] The Scottish National Party has also committed itself to creating "a cyber security and intelligence infrastructure to deal with new threats and protect key national economic and social infrastructure".[230] This would need to include, but would not be limited to, the North Sea oil and gas platforms which currently provide up to £12 billion a year in revenues, and future oil fields west of Shetland on the Atlantic frontier, as well as offshore wind and marine energy plants, and Scotland's substantial fishing grounds.[231]

127.  According to witnesses, having the capacity to tackle such threats would require both internal and external intelligence capabilities. The Scottish Government would have certain, albeit limited, existing resources at its disposal. For instance, in forming a domestic service, it could draw upon its existing law enforcement agencies which have experience in domestic intelligence gathering for law enforcement purposes. However, these agencies do not currently have any formal overseas intelligence-gathering infrastructure in place upon which to build in the event of independence. Instead they use UK assets, funded by the UK Government, which would revert to the UK upon independence.

128.  If Scotland became a member of NATO, it could access some security and intelligence support in the same way that other small NATO nations with limited capabilities do. However, the intelligence specialists who testified before us were clear that much more than NATO support would be needed if Scotland was not to be left exposed in security terms. In terms of cryptography, as Professor Omand noted, Scotland has "excellent computer science departments" and "very advanced companies [...] which no doubt could be harnessed" to develop Scotland's security and intelligence cryptography. However, on the issue of cryptography alone, creating appropriate structures within the two year period between a 'yes' vote and independence that is envisaged by Scottish Ministers would be enormously problematic. Professor Omand cautioned that "it would take years to build up the capability. I have some doubts as to whether it would be feasible to do it to the requisite standard".[232] Sir Richard Mottram, former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee, told us that that quite apart from technical capabilities, "people networks" were vital and "you cannot create that overnight". He added that:

It might be that the Scottish Government could persuade some people with significant UK Government experience to work for it. [...] But one has to be cautious about how quickly you can create an organisation of this kind which is very complicated and has all these international links.[233]

129.  It would also be extremely costly. The costs of setting up a new security and intelligence infrastructure afresh which would command the confidence of Scotland's allies would be, according to Mr Lidington, "enormous".[234] Sir Richard Mottram calculated that if the Scottish Government chose to spend between 8 and 10 per cent of the roughly £2 billion that the UK currently spends on the security and intelligence agencies a year (this would amount to approximately £160-200 million which would put it on par with other small states) some form of Scottish external intelligence agency could be created. However, he cautioned that it would have a "fairly narrow range of functions" and would "not bear any relationship to the scale of the network that is currently operated by SIS and the range of information that it derives".[235] On cyber security alone, the UK Government has committed an additional £650 million to its strategy between 2011 and 2015. Professor Omand told us that "the highest standards of cyber-security will be necessary for economic reasons. I cannot imagine a Government in Edinburgh would want to take a different view, [which] means you then have to have access to technical capability linked to some serious intelligence capability".[236] Professor Omand concluded that overall, "it is not self-evident to me that that goal can be met, or that it can be met at reasonable cost".[237]

130.  Sir Richard Mottram told us that as a minimum, Scotland would need a policy capability at the centre of the Scottish Government, "which would not be difficult to achieve" and "more importantly, a capacity to understand the problem and to tackle it […]. They would need a mini-GCHQ to both protect their information and consider other things that go with this".[238] Witnesses were clear that without appropriate infrastructure, information exchange regimes, and suitably qualified and vetted personnel to guarantee the security of information received from international partners, those same states would simply not engage fully with Scotland on foreign intelligence issues.[239] In addition, given the hard-headed, reciprocal basis to international intelligence sharing, Scotland would need to be in a position to offer something of value to its partners.[240] Professor Omand stated that:

[Perhaps] Washington would ask what role this new nation is playing in the NATO enterprise. [...] the new nation might say that its foreign policy would make it difficult to join in certain NATO enterprises. All those things connect together. [...] That would be the worst possible start to an independent Scotland, and of course it could then prejudice the arrangements for entry into NATO. I point that out to reinforce my view that you cannot just assume good will and that everything will work. You have to have nailed things down in advance.[241]

131.  The extent to which the Scottish Government has up until now engaged with these issues is unclear. The Scottish National Party has provisionally allocated £2.5 billion for "defence and security" provision. However, it is not clear whether this figure includes set-up costs, intelligence gathering and dissemination, and related infrastructure, both domestic and foreign. The Deputy First Minister did tell us that she envisaged Scotland having an "independent domestic intelligence machinery [...] sitting alongside our police service".[242] However, when we asked whether an external intelligence service would be created to provide information to help tackle the threats from cybercrime, international terrorism, failed states and organised crime, Ms Sturgeon was unable to provide a response. She told us that the Scottish Government was currently undertaking a "substantial piece of work" examining how Scotland would address external threats in the event of independence.[243] In an article for Scotland on Sunday, Baroness Meta Ramsay, a former senior SIS officer, maintained that it is "not clear from [the Deputy First Minister's] answer that she does realise the magnitude of the tasks of providing Scotland with a domestic security service, setting aside altogether the question of an external intelligence service".[244] Sir Richard Mottram noted:

The interesting question would then be: is the capability that they created capable of underpinning the vision of the Scottish Government about Scotland's place in the world? [...] There is a sort of paradox here. You could imagine a cheap and cheerful system that sustained a cheap and cheerful country, with very limited international ambition and very limited focus on the rest of the world, but that is not really Scotland's history.[245]

132.  There was a general consensus among witnesses and other experts that if Scotland was "not to face being left out in the cold" and find itself at "a distinct intelligence disadvantage"[246] it would need to request some form of access to the RUK's security and intelligence resources. The Deputy First Minister also appeared to believe that the RUK would provide Scotland with assistance. She argued that "it would be not just in Scotland's interests for there to be very close intelligence sharing arrangements with the rest of the UK. It would clearly be in the interests of the rest of the UK for that to happen as well". Ms Sturgeon declined, however, to "get into the specifics of how that would work because that is dependent both on our own work and discussions that I would want us to have with the rest of the UK".[247]

133.  Providing bilateral security and intelligence support to Scotland could well be in the RUK's interests given that it would continue to share the same landmass, face similar security threats and articulate mostly complementary foreign policy goals. Nor would such a situation be without precedent; the UK already co-operates with the Republic of Ireland on security matters particularly in the field of counter-terrorism. In practice, support from the RUK could take a number of forms. It could, for instance, involve assisting the Scottish authorities in the transitional period following a 'yes' vote, offering advice and expertise on Scotland's new intelligence infrastructure or, over the longer term, loaning personnel as it has done with other states with whom it has close relationships.

134.  However, it remains unclear how much support the RUK might be willing or indeed able to give in the field of intelligence and security and what impact this might have on its other foreign policy priorities, budgets and resources. Sir Richard Mottram told us that the RUK would take a selective approach to assistance[248] while Professor Chalmers noted that although there would be a strong incentive to co-operate, it "would not be taken for granted".[249] Other witnesses suggested that the extent of RUK support might depend upon the degree to which Scotland's foreign policy diverged from that of the RUK. If it created difficulties with the US, for instance, Sir Richard could not "think why the [RUK] Government would facilitate such a process and underpin it". He added that the RUK Government would have "a very narrow definition of what they would want to do. Where they had a direct interest in things such as counter-terrorism, yes, they would do something, because that was in their interests. Otherwise, they would probably be quite awkward".[250] Baroness Ramsay stated that the Deputy First Minister

[seems to think] Scotland can rely on the umbrella of GCHQ, MI6 and MI5. I believe she needs to think again. She told the [the Foreign Affairs Committee] and obviously believed, that there would be continued shared arrangements with the rest of the UK regardless of Scotland's independent capability. I do not think so and more importantly for Scotland she does not know.[251]

135.  Even if the RUK was willing to help Scotland, there is no guarantee that it could act unless it secured the consent of relevant international partners. Witnesses drew attention to the example of New Zealand which in 1985 adopted a strong anti-nuclear stance, as the Scottish Government intends to do. As a result, US warships were no longer able to visit New Zealand and the US cut off the putative US-Australia-New Zealand arrangements for military co-operation, ended all intelligence relationships and prevented the signing of a bilateral free trade agreement. According to Professor Omand, the impasse, which held until 2011, caused "real difficulties for the UK" in maintaining an intelligence relationship with New Zealand. The US "played hardball" and "in that intervening period, New Zealanders were in the cold".[252] To be cut out of the privileged Five Eyes intelligence sharing arrangement (involving the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand), would not seem to be in an independent Scotland's interests. Nor would it be in the RUK's interests to see its own security compromised because of weaknesses in Scotland's intelligence and security provision.[253]

136.  In the case of Scotland, the decision to share US intelligence held by the RUK would be a decision for the US, not the RUK and would depend on whether they felt that they could trust the future Scottish Government's safeguard systems with that information and whether it would be to their overall advantage.[254] It remains unclear whether this privileged access could or would be extended to Scotland once its intelligence agencies were fully operational. Sir Richard Mottram told us that the UK receives information from partners like the US "on which the present UK Government operates a wide range of its policies" because the UK in turn gives them "things of scale and value". He stated that "a Scottish Government, under any circumstance, will not be capable of doing that." He added that:

You will get into a very interesting question about the rules of the game [...] If the UK Government discovers a terrorist threat in, hypothetically, Estonia or wherever, it passes on information, but we do not share with Estonia loads of other information that we have in our possession on which we draw in reaching policy decisions. The challenge for Scotland will be that there will always be gaps, because it will be on a different scale from the present UK Government in relation to all of these security matters. There is no way round that in my view.[255]

Summarising the position Scotland could find itself in after independence, Professor Malcolm Chalmers noted that:

[There are] other small European countries that have much more limited capability in this area, which get by. They get by partly by partnership with others, being friendly with others, heeding the wishes of bigger powers with more capabilities, and sometimes by having some degree of specialism so they have something particular to offer. Immediately after independence, Scotland might have very limited capability in this area, but it might build up a particular specialism that it can offer to the rest of the UK and say, "We can do this, but in return we want that". [...]. That degree of interdependence in security capabilities will constrain the ability of a Scottish Government to pursue a radically different foreign and security policy agenda, because that could have consequences for the willingness of the rest of the UK to continue with it.[256]

137.  By the Scottish Government's own assessment, in the event of independence Scotland would need both internal and external security and intelligence capabilities to deal with the many diverse potential threats it believes it could face. Yet Scotland has no external intelligence infrastructure to build upon. With just over a year to go before the referendum takes place, it is not at all clear that the Scottish Government has a costed and coherent vision of the security and intelligence infrastructure it needs to put in place to protect Scottish citizens, businesses and economic interests. Much more than just NATO support would be needed. Creating a Scottish domestic intelligence service would be possible, but establishing an external service from a standing start would be expensive, and neither could be created overnight. It would take years before the necessary systems were in place to enable allies to trust Scotland with information relevant to its needs. In the meantime, there appears to be a working presumption on the part of the Scottish Government that the RUK would fill the intelligence shortfall that would emerge at least in the short term, but possibly over a longer time frame too. The basis for this position is not at all clear. Scotland would undoubtedly remain of strategic interest to the RUK and in the vast majority of cases it is likely that it would be in the RUK's interests to assist Scotland. However, it is crucial that Scots are aware that the RUK's intelligence and security help would be discretionary, based on self-interest and could not be taken for granted, particularly where the RUK faced competing interests or priorities.

Continuity and constraints

138.  Notwithstanding some of key differences and areas of divergence outlined above, the evidence we received suggested that in many respects Scotland's foreign policy would be similar to that currently pursued by the UK through the FCO, not least because Scotland's ability unilaterally to shape its goals is constrained by the same external forces that apply to and restrict the UK's choices. Scotland's strategic priorities, including economic advancement, protection of its citizens and assets and its desire to act as a good global citizen, map almost exactly onto the Foreign Secretary's policies for the UK, which are to safeguard British national security; build Britain's prosperity by increasing exports and investment, opening markets, ensuring access to resources and promoting sustainable global growth; and support British nationals around the world through modern and efficient global services.[257] Scotland's foreign policy may differ in style but, based on current information, it will in many respects ape the UK, albeit on a smaller scale. With co-operation envisaged by the Scottish Government on a range of foreign policy and bilateral issues and the likelihood of some degree of Scottish dependency on the RUK for security and intelligence support, it is difficult not to conclude that the notion of a truly independent Scottish foreign policy is in many ways a misnomer.

139.  Even on the greatest potential area of divergence, that of nuclear weapons, Scotland's ability to forge its own foreign policy path would arguably also be constrained by the RUK. While witnesses did not doubt the Scottish Government's commitment to delivering this key political pledge, they did allude to the international factors which may constrain the Scottish Government's ability to realise their commitment. Professor Chalmers told us that in spite of the Scottish Government's commitment to remove nuclear weapons from Scottish soil as swiftly as possible, it could be "some time in the 2030s, but possibly later"[258] before this took place. Professor Walker suggested that "my view is that it would happen in conjunction with the UK giving up nuclear weapons, if it happens at all. The key decision is down [...] in London, not up in Edinburgh".[259]

140.  This leads us to conclude that, with the information currently available to us, Scotland's foreign policy would in many key, practical respects, be very similar to that currently pursued by the UK but without access to the many benefits that derive from being part of it.

184   Q 158 Back

185   Q 158 Back

186   Q 158 [Dr Kaarbo] Back

187   Q 224 Back

188   Q 224 Back

189   'Your Scotland, Your Future', Scottish National Party, December 2011, p29 Back

190   Corrected transcript of evidence taken before the Defence Committee, 3 July 2012, HC 483-i, Q 105 [Professor Malcolm Chalmers] Back

191   Q 291 Back

192   Q 290 Back

193   Q 320 Back

194   Q 357 Back

195   Ev 75 Back

196   Ev 76 Back

197   Q 359 Back

198   Q 358  Back

199   Ev 90 Back

200   Engel and Parkes, "Accommodating an independent Scotland" Back

201   The Darien scheme of 1698 was an attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to establish a Scots trading colony in Panama. It ended in tragedy after the plan foundered. Many hundreds of Scots died from disease and starvation and Scotland found itself facing bankruptcy. Back

202   Professor Malcolm Chalmers, "End of an Auld Sang", Royal United Services Institute, April 2012 Back

203   Q 97 Back

204   Q 158  Back

205   Q 140; Q191 [ Lord Jay] Back

206   Ev 80; Q324 Back

207   Q 46 [Professor Whitman] Back

208   Q 53 Back

209   Q 293 Back

210   Scottish Affairs Committee, The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Terminating Trident-Days or Decades?, HC 676, Session 2012-13, 25 October 2012 Back

211   Ev 81 [BASIC] Back

212   Ev 86 [Professor Chalmers] Back

213   Ev 84 [BASIC]; Ev 86 [Professor Chalmers] Back

214   Q 122 Back

215   Ev 81 [BASIC] Back

216   Q 119 Back

217   Q 144 Back

218   Q 122 [Professor Walker] Back

219   Ev 83 Back

220   Ev 85 Back

221   Q 144 Back

222   Ev 85 [Professor Chalmers]; Q 120 Back

223   'Global Connections Survey 2011', Scottish Government, 23 January 2013, Back

224   Q 141; Q 98 Back

225   The Single Intelligence Account provided £2 billion in funding for 2010-11. This increased to £2.1 billion in 2011-12 and continues at that level through to 2014-15. See HM Treasury, Government Spending Review 2010, Cm 7942, page 10-11, Tables 1 and 2. Back

226   Q 154 Back

227   Q 154 Back

228   Q 140 Back

229   Q 309 Back

230   Scottish National Party Conference Resolution, 26 October 2012 Back

231   Severin Carrell, The Guardian, 1 March 2012 Back

232   Q 132 Back

233   Q 132 Back

234   Q 342 Back

235   Q 150 Back

236   Q 131 Back

237   Q 140 Back

238   Q 130 Back

239   Q 130 Back

240   Q 196 [Lord Jay] Back

241   Q 135 Back

242   Q 310 Back

243   Q 313 Back

244   Meta Ramsay, "Security Service can take nothing for granted", Scotland on Sunday, 17 February 2013 Back

245   Q 153 Back

246   Stewart Crawford and Richard Marsh, "A' the Blue Bonnets. Defending an Independent Scotland", RUSI Whitehall Report, October 2012, p 22 Back

247   Q 315 Back

248   Q 153 Back

249   Q 94 Back

250   Q 151 Back

251   Scotland on Sunday, 17 February 2013 Back

252   Q 135 Back

253   Stewart Crawford and Richard Marsh, A' the Blue Bonnets. Defending an Independent Scotland, RUSI Whitehall Report 3-12, October 2012, p 22  Back

254   Q 343 [David Lidington] Back

255   Q 135 Back

256   Uncorrected transcript of evidence taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee on 23 January 2013, to be published as HC 139-xvi, Q 2168 Back

257   Foreign Affairs Committee, The Role of the FCO in UK Government, p 29 Back

258   Q 126 Back

259   Q 126 Back

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