The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: A Defence Force for Scotland-A Conspiracy of Optimism? - Scottish Affairs Committee Contents


The first duty of a government is to protect its citizens.

The Scottish Government's White Paper must therefore make absolutely clear the details of both its foreign and defence policies and how these translate into armed forces, with specifics given on planned personnel, equipment, bases and alliances.

The time for vague generalities is over.

Much of what the Scottish Government have suggested up to now suffers from a conspiracy of optimism—the assumption that everything will go according to plan, that every other government and international body will fall in with the Scottish Government's proposals. But what if this doesn't happen? What are their alternatives? The Scottish Government must also spell out its fallback positions in the event that everything does not go according to plan.

The most explicit pledges made to date include: that the whole cost of security and defence will be no more than £2.5 billion, that personnel in the armed services will total 15,000 full time and 5,000 reserve personnel, and that the defence force will include "current Scottish raised and restored UK regiments".

What does this mean in practical terms? Will we have a defence force which is army heavy? An army which is infantry heavy? Or will historic regiments be redesignated as platoons, reserves or non-infantry units?

If Faslane is to be kept at its existing workforce, how will people be retrained? What effect will this have upon other bases? What costs will be inccurred in the transition to the new Scottish Defence Force? Can we assume that Scotland will inherit only the equipment it desires? What are the implications for procurement whether or not Scotland gets the assets it wants?

Hanging over all of this is the future of Trident. What does "earliest safe removal" actually mean when the United Kingdom, rightly or wrongly, believes that its safety requires Trident to remain for the foreseeable future? Will a separate Scotland impose unilateral nuclear disarmament on the UK? And since membership for Scotland of NATO will require not only the unanimous agreement of all the existing NATO members, but also the resolution of any disputes with the UK, then how does the Scottish Government propose to resolve these matters?

The Scottish Government must make clear that it accepts that no service personnel can be forcibly transferred into any Scottish Defence Force against their will and spell out what wages and conditions it would propose to offer to compensate those who would leave behind participation in world class armed services.

As we move ever closer to the date of the referendum the people of Scotland are entitled to expect that those who propose drastic change can explain what the consequences would be and how future defence would be organised.

Anything else would be a dereliction of duty.

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Prepared 23 November 2013