Government response |
The UK Government is pleased to present its response
to the House of Commons Defence Committee (HCDC) Sixth Report
of Session 2013-14 The Defence Implications of Possible Scottish
Independence (HC 198), which it welcomes as a valuable contribution
to the referendum debate.
As the Committee will be aware, the UK Government's
Scotland Analysis programme is producing a series of papers to
inform and support the debate on Scotland's future within the
UK. Since the publication the Committee's report, the UK Government
has published two papers - Scotland Analysis: Defence
and Scotland Analysis: Security - as part of its effort
to provide the people of Scotland with as full a picture as possible
of how Scotland contributes to and benefits from being part of
the UK, as well as the potential consequences of Scottish independence.
From a defence perspective, the arguments for Scotland
remaining in the UK are extremely strong. As part of the UK,
Scotland benefits from a very high level of security and protection
provided through the UK's integrated defence capabilities and
network of international defence alliances and relationships,
as well as from the opportunities for industry available through
the UK's single, domestic defence market and access to exports.
An independent Scottish state could not come close to replicating
We agree with the Committee's conclusions that it
will be for the Scottish Government to make its case that an independent
Scottish state could sustain an appropriate level of defence and
security, to provide details in its White Paper about its plans
for a Scottish defence force and how it proposes to finance it,
and to provide more information on matters relevant to industry.
The UK Government provides for defence of the whole
of the UK and all its citizens equally, acting on behalf of people
in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the
Overseas Territories and UK citizens abroad. As part of the UK,
Scotland benefits from every pound spent on UK defence and from
the full range of UK defence capabilities and activities. These
defend UK airspace, patrol the surrounding seas and help to protect
everyone in the UK against both natural and man-made threats.
Scotland also benefits from the UK's extensive defence engagement
overseas to project influence and help to safeguard and establish
peace and security in countries affected by conflict or instability,
maintain competitive advantage and tackle security threats before
they reach the UK.
The UK has the resources and military capabilities
to deal with multiple operations and to respond rapidly to support
conflict prevention and resolution and humanitarian crises. It
has one of the largest defence budgets in the world at around
£34 billion, funding world-class armed forces, equipment
and supporting structures and services. This includes a large
and increasing presence in Scotland, including major Royal Navy,
Royal Marine, Army and Royal Air Force bases and other facilities
and, by 2020, 12,500 regular armed forces, which generates economic
benefits for communities.
Scotland, as part of the UK, benefits from the UK's
strong, established global network of international relationships
and alliances. The UK has a geopolitical influence that few states
of similar size can match. It is a permanent member of the UN
Security Council, a leading member of the EU and a founder member
of NATO. And it has an extensive and longstanding network of
bilateral defence relationships, principally with the US and France,
and with numerous other countries around the world.
The scale of UK defence spending is a key factor
in sustaining defence industry throughout the UK. The MOD spent
over £20 billion with UK industry in 2011/12. Over the 10
years from 2012/13, the MOD will spend almost £160 billion
on new equipment and data systems, and their support. According
to Scottish Development International, the defence sector in Scotland
employs over 12,600 people and has sales in excess of £1.8
billion per year. As an example, there are currently around 4,000
jobs in Scottish shipyards directly linked to the Queen Elizabeth
Class aircraft carrier programme. And, as confirmed by the announcements
made by BAE Systems and the MOD on 6 November, although there
will be job losses at shipyards in Scotland as work on the Queen
Elizabeth Class blocks finishes, BAE Systems has decided to focus
its shipbuilding activity on the Clyde.
Remaining part of the UK offers certainty for people
in Scotland, of continuation of their security and defence as
part of the UK's comprehensive and effective existing arrangements
and of the UK Government's plans for continued investment in manpower,
bases and other facilities in Scotland, as well as continued investment
in military equipment.
In the event of a vote for independence, an independent
Scottish state would therefore lose the benefits of one of the
largest defence budgets in the world and of an integrated approach
to defence that currently protects all parts of the UK, while
offering significant economies of scale, as well as contributing
to conflict prevention and resolution, and to humanitarian operations
overseas. The start-up costs and complexity of establishing separate
defence capabilities for an independent Scottish state would be
very significant, and would need to be factored into the Scottish
Government's budget estimates.
It is notable that the most optimistic Scottish Government
proposed budget that we have seen of £2.5 billion for both
defence and security (including intelligence and cyber) is only
about 7 per cent of the UK's combined budgets for defence, intelligence
and cyber. Assuming this estimated budget was adopted, this is
less than Scotland's population share of the UK. It is not clear
what level of security and protection this would provide for Scotland;
but it is clear that it would be much less than that provided
to Scotland as part of the UK.
In the event of a vote for independence by the people
in Scotland, the rest of the UK would be the continuing state,
retaining membership of international organisations. An independent
Scottish state would be required to apply to and / or negotiate
to become a member of whichever international organisations it
wished to join. If it wished to be a member of NATO, all 28 member
states would need to agree unanimously to its accession.
As the Committee has noted, the UK Government's Joint
Delegation to NATO facilitated a fact-finding visit by Scottish
Government Officials to NATO HQ on 8 July 2013. All discussions
with NATO International Staff on this and other UK policy and
political issues are facilitated by the UK Joint Delegation to
Regarding the implications for defence industry,
companies based in an independent Scottish state would no longer
be eligible for contracts that the UK chose to place or compete
domestically for national security reasons under an exemption
from EU law. And where they could continue to compete, they would
be bidding in a competitive international market dominated by
major economic powers. They would therefore see lower domestic
demand for defence goods and would lose the support to exports
provided in key markets around the world through the UK's considerable
levels of international defence engagement and facilitated by
the UK Armed Forces' global reputation.
In the event of a vote to leave the UK, the referendum
would mark the beginning of a lengthy and complex set of negotiations
between the Scottish and UK Governments on the terms of independence.
Negotiations would have to take place on a whole range of matters,
across government including on assets and liabilities.
We note the Committee's recommendations regarding
contingency planning; however, the UK Government's position remains
that it is not planning for Scottish independence and cannot pre-negotiate
the details of independence ahead of the referendum. There is
no democratic mandate for the UK Government to do so: unless and
until people in Scotland vote in the referendum to say that they
wish to leave the United Kingdom, the UK Government will continue
to represent all parts of the United Kingdom.
As stated in the MOD's written evidence to the Committee
in October 2012, in the event of Scottish independence there would
be many issues for the UK and Scottish Governments to address
regarding future separate national defence and security arrangements,
such as: separation of armed forces; basing; division of assets
and liabilities; and potential cooperation. Negotiations to work
through these would be very complex and, in the case of personnel,
would touch on citizenship considerations. Without knowing what
a future independent Scottish Government's approach to defence
would be, there is uncertainty over the implications for defence
of the UK and, in particular, for defence of an independent Scotland.
With regard to serving members of the UK Armed Forces,
an independent Scottish state could not simply co-opt existing
units that are primarily recruited in Scotland or based in Scotland
as these are an integral part of the UK Armed Forces. Nor would
this provide a coherent force. Similarly, individual members
of the UK Armed Forces, in whatever units they serve, could not
simply be moved into the forces of a separate Scottish state.
Existing members of the UK Armed Forces would still be part of
the UK Armed Forces and, as far as the UK Government is concerned,
would be able to continue to serve in them, subject to the usual
requirements of service.
Some personnel may wish to be allowed the option
of transferring and, as made clear by the Secretary of State for
Defence in his evidence to the Committee on 2 July 2013, this
would be a matter for negotiation. However, it is far from clear
that large numbers of current serving UK Armed Forces personnel
would choose to do so. UK Armed Forces personnel can expect varied
and interesting careers in one of the most highly regarded, well-equipped,
technologically advanced forces in the world, providing rewarding
opportunities for international and operational experience, as
well as many other benefits such as training and development,
career advancement and good pay, conditions and pension.
On the question of whether the UK Government would
continue to welcome recruits from an independent Scottish state,
as stated by the Secretary of State for Defence in his evidence
to the Committee on 2 July 2013, the UK Government would make
that decision based on its perception of the UK national interest
at the time.
The franchise for the referendum on Scottish independence
has been set by the Scottish Parliament in the Scottish Independence
Referendum (Franchise) Act 2013. The effect of the Act is that
Service personnel registered in Scotland at the time of the referendum,
and entitled to vote in local government elections, will be able
to vote. It also extends the franchise to 16 and 17 years olds.
We will be issuing a Defence Notice to all personnel setting
out the position for members of the Armed Forces and their families
in the near future.
Ministry of Defence officials will be working closely
with the Electoral Commission as part of the annual information
campaign to encourage Service personnel and their families to
register to vote. All units in the UK and abroad have a unit registration
officer, responsible for making Service personnel and their families
aware of the need to register and of how to vote, and posters,
leaflets and presentational material are made available to reinforce
the message. The next campaign will be held early next year and
will highlight the forthcoming referendum in Scotland. Information
will also be provided for families to determine whether their
16 and 17 year old children will be eligible to vote, and on the
arrangements to enable them to be registered.
Once details of the timetable for the referendum
are confirmed, Ministry of Defence and Electoral Commission officials
will look at the implications for Service personnel overseas in
relation to postal votes. Service personnel and their families
abroad are advised to vote by proxy but some may choose to register
for a postal vote.