6 Implications for the United Kingdom |
Government planning for Scottish
147. A "Yes" vote by the Scottish people
in the referendum in September 2014 would have significant and
long-lasting consequences not just for Scotland, but for the remainder
of the United Kingdom (rUK) too. Yet, the UK Government has stated
on many occasions that it is making no contingency plans at present,
preferring instead to await the outcome of the referendum.
148. In its memorandum to us, the MoD stated:
The UK Government's position is clear: Scotland
benefits from being part of the UK and the UK benefits from having
Scotland within the UK. The UK Government is confident that the
people of Scotland will choose to remain part of the UK, and is
not planning for any other outcome. It is for those advocating
independence to explain the nature and implications of an independent
Scotland; it is the policy of the UK Government to maintain the
integrity of the existing UK and we are supporting that position
with evidence and analysis.
149. When he gave oral evidence, the Secretary of
State for Defence confirmed this position. Asked whether this
was a high risk strategy, he replied:
A yes vote, in the unlikely event that it were
to happen, would simply be the starting bell for what would be
a long and complex process of negotiation between the Scottish
Government and the representatives of the remainder of the United
Kingdom. Looking at the hugely complicated issues that would be
involved in trying to partition a country that has functioned
as an integrated and very effective whole for 300 years, the process
would take a significant time. Of course, during that period,
appropriate contingency planning would take place. If the situation
arose, until we saw the opening negotiating position of a Scottish
Government, as opposed to the posture it had taken up during a
referendum campaign, we would not actually be clear on what contingency
planning we would need to be doing.
150. We recognise that the process of negotiation
following a "Yes" vote would be lengthy and complex.
For those very reasons, it would be remiss of the UK Government
not to make preparations in order to inform its negotiating position.
We recommend that the UK Government begin now to prepare for the
impact of possible Scottish independence. It would not be wise
to begin contingency planning only after the referendum. This
does not imply that we believe there should be negotiations with
the Scottish Government prior to the referendum, but rather that
it would be prudent for the MoD to scenario plan.
DEFENCE INTERESTS AS PART OF INDEPENDENCE
151. Earlier in our report we considered how the
two Governments might approach negotiations regarding defence
assets should the Scottish people vote for independence and the
manner by which current defence assets might be divided between
Scotland and the remainder of the UK.
152. The Secretary of State for Defence told us that
although this had not been discussed within Government, he could
"see no reason why the defence discussion would be ring-fenced
from all the other complex areas that would have to be discussed".
153. We consider it to be highly probable that
defence assets would form an integral part of wider independence
negotiations rather than a discrete strand. The UK Government
should begin work to assess what its priorities would be in relation
to defence assets in the event of a "Yes" vote.
Implications for the security
of the remainder of the United Kingdom
154. From a defence perspective, setting aside the
serious questions which would arise regarding the future of the
nuclear deterrent, Scottish independence would also result in
the remainder of the UK facing the loss of vital personnel, bases
and equipment, representing as much one twelfth of current assets.
There would be a consequent loss of capability, particularly in
the short term. The rUK Government would face a difficult decision
about how to manage this shortfall when the financial resources
available to do so would be reduced to a similar degree. This
raises the very real prospect that the rUK would face the same
level of threats to its defence and security as the UK faces today,
but with Armed Forces which were less capable and resilient.
155. If an independent Scotland was perceived by
the rUK to have weakened defence and security capabilities because,
for example, it was not a member of NATO and had decided to reduce
its level of air defences, how might the rUK respond? Air Marshal
McNicoll told us that from an air policing perspective, most interceptions
were to the north of Scotland "so there would be an impact
if the remainder of the UK only had bases south of the border".
156. We consider that the level of security and
defence presently afforded to the people of the United Kingdom
is higher than that which could be provided by the Governments
of a separate Scotland and the remainder of the UK.
157. In respect of the interests of the remainder
of the UK, we invite the MoD to explain how it would manage the
loss of personnel, equipment, bases, training facilities and industrial
capacity ceded to an independent Scotland.
158. Following independence, the SNP desires a high
degree of co-operation with the remainder of the UK as well as
other allies. Areas in which co-operation would be sought include
"shared conventional basing, training and logistics arrangements"
and "joint procurement".
159. At present, the annual budget for the UK's security
and intelligence agencies is £2.0bn.
In the event of independence, the Scottish Government envisages
Scotland having independent domestic and external intelligence
160. Professor Malcolm Chalmers of RUSI anticipated
that in the event of independence "some of the most difficult
issues in a negotiation would be on the intelligence services
and counter-terrorism co-operation".
He told us that there would also be issues about Scotland's "operational
competence and ability to co-operate and share intelligence that
may have come from quite sensitive sources on the UK side".
The UK, due to its unique intelligence-sharing
arrangements with the US, gets access to intelligence that not
every European country gets, and that enhances our own security
and counter-terrorist capabilities. As you rightly point out,
there will still be an open border, presumably, between Scotland
and the rest of the UK. There will still be a lot of movement
of people. People in the UK will want assurance that Scotland
is not a weak link in their counter-terrorism capability.
161. Asked whether the Five Eyes intelligence sharing
community (comprising the UK, USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand)
would automatically become Six Eyes with the addition of an independent
Scotland, the Secretary of State for Defence said:
Any expansion of the Five Eyes community could
only be achieved if it was agreed by all five members of that
community, and there is a very strong view among certain members
of that community that it is a something-for-something arrangement.
An applicant seeking to join the Five Eyes group would have to
show that it could add significant intelligence or analysis value
to what the group already had. Bearing in mind who the members
of the group are, that might be challenging for a fledgling state
that had no great tradition of intelligence gathering or analysis.
162. Asked about the potential for bilateral intelligence
sharing arrangements between rUK and Scotland, Mr Hammond confirmed
that there were certain things that could be shared on a bilateral
basis if rUK chose to do so, although sharing of other intelligence
would require agreement from the Five Eyes allies, because it
had been obtained through Five Eyes arrangements.
163. We consider that it is unlikely that an independent
Scotland with fledgling intelligence capabilities would be given
access to the Five Eyes intelligence sharing community. A high
degree of co-operation with rUK would therefore be crucial for
Scotland especially in the early years of independence. However,
such co-operation would rely on goodwill and Scotland could find
itself more vulnerable to threats than it is at present.
164. Should separation occur, the rUK would need
to consider what level of defence and security co-operation with
an independent Scotland would be in its own interests. Scotland
would have a strong interest in maintaining access to training
facilities such as the defence academies at Sandhurst, Cranwell
and Dartmouth. Additionally, in a similar manner to NATO air policing
in the Baltic, the sharing of air bases with the RAF, possibly
with pooled forces, might provide Scotland with one solution to
its need for fast jets to provide Quick Reaction Alert cover in
165. Following separation, the rUK would also face
the prospect of losing access to a number of important training
areas and weapons ranges including those facilities operated by
QinietiQ at West Freugh in Wigtownshire and Benbecula in the Western
Isles. Although alternative facilities could be identified elsewhere
this might prove disruptive and significantly more expensive.
166. We recommend that the Ministry of Defence
explain whether the concept of sharing facilities, including operational
bases and training areas, by Scotland and the rUK could work in
practice and to identify any significant risks arising from this
167. In relation to the potential for joint procurement
between an independent Scotland and rUK, the Secretary of State
for Defence told us that the MoD was "not opposed in principle
to co-operation on defence procurement". However, he did
not think that this would result in the rUK procuring warships
from yards in an independent Scotland.
168. The desire of the Scottish Government to
pursue joint procurement with rUK for defence materiel and services
makes absolute sense: a small country with a limited defence budget
would gain access to larger contracts offering better value for
money. Whether the rUK would benefit sufficiently to enter into
such an arrangement is less clear cut and would need to be examined
carefully before a commitment was given.
Interests of serving UK military
169. One of the most significant interest groups
in the debate about the defence implications of possible Scottish
independence is serving military personnel, particularly those
from Scotland, serving in Scottish regiments, or based in Scotland.
170. Air Marshal McNicoll expressed doubts about
whether sufficient personnel would wish to transfer to a Scottish
defence force. If the process was voluntary he envisaged problems
associated with having too many or too few personnel on either
side of the border, particularly in specialist areas. In his estimation,
"Scotland, most likely, would be short of people".
171. Rear Admiral Alabaster questioned what would
happen to Scots serving in the Royal Navy, such as nuclear submarine
what jobs would they do in a Scottish defence
force if that were non-nuclear, and, if there was some kind of
co-operation, would they still be allowed to serve in those nuclear-armed
submarines in the future? There are lots and lots of questions
to be thought about. We have a lot of Scots in all sorts of specialist
areas of the Navy that would not necessarily be replicated in
a Scottish navy.
172. Asked whether Scots serving in the UK Armed
Forces would continue to be able to do so if Scotland became a
separate country, the Secretary of State confirmed that they would.
In relation to the ability of serving personnel to transfer to
a Scottish defence force, Mr Hammond said:
It does not seem an unreasonable assumption that
people who had a connection with Scotland and wanted to be released
from their commitment to service in the UK armed forces in order
to join some putative Scottish defence force might expect to be
allowed to do so. But it would be part of the negotiation.
173. We welcome the evidence we received from
the Secretary of State for Defence that Scots serving in the UK
Armed Forces would be able to transfer to a Scottish defence force
should Scotland become a separate state. We recommend that the
Ministry of Defence should provide a clear statement, prior to
the referendum, that serving personnel would be able to choose
whether to remain in the UK Armed Forces or to transfer to a Scottish
174. Scottish independence would have a significant
impact on the critical mass of rUK Armed Forces and the financial
resources available to support them. We recommend that the MoD
set out, in its response to this report, whether it would seek
to recruit personnel to replace the numbers lost through transfers
to a Scottish defence force. Would personnel numbers be maintained
at current projections or would rUK Armed Forces reduce further
175. In light of the doubts expressed about the likelihood
of serving UK personnel deciding to transfer to a Scottish defence
force, we were keen to explore whether, given a choice, potential
new recruits would be attracted to join the larger Armed Forces
of the rUK or a smaller Scottish force.
176. When he gave a speech in Edinburgh on March
2013, the Secretary of State for Defence described as a key challenge
for Armed Forces around the world the attraction and retention
of high quality recruits. He linked the ability to do so to "the
quality of the offer you are able to make to potential recruits".
He considered that the UK Armed Forces were able to attract some
of the highest calibre recruits because:
they are able to offer exciting and demanding
career opportunities, with the chance to deploy overseas on operations
and training and with the cachet of being among the best and most
widely-respected Armed Forces in the world.
177. We sought from the Secretary of State clarity
about whether rUK Armed Forces would continue to welcome recruits
from an independent Scotland. He replied:
Scots make a tremendous contribution to the UK
armed forcesprobably a disproportionately important contribution.
I can see many reasons why the UK armed forces would wish to continue
recruiting in Scotland, as we do in the Republic of Ireland, but
we would make that decision based on our perception of our national
interest at the time.
178. Keith Brown MSP expressed the view that a Scottish
defence force could make a more attractive employment proposition
by, for example, implementing "an agreement whereby there
were no compulsory redundancies on people serving in the armed
forces during the term of their contract" and creating enhanced
career prospects for serving personnel.
179. Many thousands of Scots have served with
distinction in UK Armed Forces over many years. In the event of
Scottish independence that long history may be brought to an end
should the rUK government decide that it did not wish to recruit
from Scotland. We invite the UK Government in its response to
this report to make clear whether it would continue to welcome
recruits from an independent Scotland.
PARTICIPATION IN THE REFERENDUM
180. During our visit to Scotland in March 2013,
we spoke to many personnel serving in the Royal Navy, Army and
RAF about their experiences of being based in Scotland. The feedback
was overwhelmingly positive. When we engaged in conversation about
the forthcoming referendum it became clear that many were unaware
that if registered to vote in Scotland they would have an entitlement
to participate. We were therefore keen to understand what action
the Scottish and UK Governments would take to publicise this fact.
Keith Brown MSP told us:
We are keen to make sure that as many people
as possible are entitled to vote. Anybody who is not currently
registered, of course, has the ability, between now and then,
to register, given the due processes. Yes, everything we can do
to help maximise that, but primarily it is the responsibilityfor
very good reasonof the Electoral Commission.
181. We invite the Ministry of Defence to set
out what action it will take, in conjunction with the Electoral
Commission, to ensure that serving personnel are aware of their
rights regarding registration and participation in the referendum.
The nuclear deterrent
182. Few if any alternative options appear to exist
currently within the remainder of the UK should a sovereign Scottish
Government insist upon removal of the UK's nuclear submarines
from Faslane. Given the enormous costs associated with establishing
a new base elsewhere, we consider that other areas of potential
co-operation between Scotland and rUK would be very difficult
to achieve if no agreement could be reached regarding Trident
183. The possibility of Scottish independence
represents a serious threat to the future operational viability
of the UK's nuclear deterrent. The UK Government must now give
urgent consideration to contingency options in the event of a
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