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

Conclusions and recommendations

What would Scotland want its armed forces to do?

1.  In a separate Scottish State, the Scottish Government would be free to pursue the foreign policy and defence goals of its choosing, in the best interests of Scotland as they saw them. The remainder of the UK would be free to do likewise. While the Scottish Government could choose to not support the UK in defence matters, similarly, the UK Government could choose to not support Scotland in defence matters. There may be many benefits in co-operation, but mutual support could not be taken for granted. (Paragraph 8)

2.  There is a clear link between foreign policy and defence policy. Understanding the likely foreign policy of a separate Scotland is important in understanding what objectives its armed forces would be designed to achieve. (Paragraph 10)

3.  In the event of separation, the Scottish Government would have to consider how best to protect its territory, its people and its interests. It is crucial that the forthcoming Independence White Paper sets out the likely risks specific to Scotland, and how the Scottish armed forces and security service would be structured in order to best anticipate and respond to those threats. This would include conventional threats, but also emerging threats such as terrorism and cyber attack. (Paragraph 15)

4.  In the event of separation, the Scottish Government will need to assess the possible threats to its people and interests beyond its own territorial boundaries, and determine how it would respond to incidents on a regional and international scale, and whether this response would include a military dimension. If the Scottish Government intends to rely on the goodwill of the UK, or other potential allies, in such circumstances, then this should be spelt out and thus identified as a topic for future negotiations. (Paragraph 17)

5.  The Scottish Government could choose to manage its security by being part of an international alliance. Being a member of such an alliance would require a commitment in times of peace and conflict. This would impact upon the level of the investment in, and design of, the armed forces of a separate Scottish State. The Scottish Government's White Paper must make clear what level of commitment, with what forces and to which alliances, is planned. (Paragraph 22)

6.  The UK Government has the capacity to transport its armed forces to carry out a range of roles, including peace-keeping, throughout the world. This requires substantial investment. Without committing similar levels of investment, the Scottish Government would be reliant upon its allies in order to deploy its armed forces beyond its immediate territory. Again, the White Paper must make the Scottish Government's plans clear. (Paragraph 27)

The defence budget

7.  It is virtually impossible to determine how much money is spent specifically in Scotland for the defence of Scotland, as at present the defence of Scotland is inextricably linked with the defence of the rest of the UK. By population share, over £3.2 billion is currently spent on the defence of Scotland. (Paragraph 33)

Transitional costs

8.  It is a matter of great concern to us that it remains unclear as to whether or not an assessment has been made of the potential aims of a separate Scottish Defence Force and the personnel and equipment which would be necessary to meet those aims. This matter needs to be clarified by the Scottish Government as a matter of urgency. If an assessment has been made of the assets which the Scottish Government would ask the Ministry of Defence to transfer, then this detail must be made available. If no such assessment has been made, then how the £2.5 billion figure has been calculated is a mystery. (Paragraph 39)

9.  It is unclear as to whether this £2.5 billion budget is the budget of a separate Scottish State defence force, wholly independent of the UK Ministry of Defence; whether this budget makes any allowance for the transitional period; or on which assumptions about the division of assets the figure is based. This is wholly unacceptable, and we seek clarity from the Scottish Government as a matter of urgency in its forthcoming White Paper. (Paragraph 40)

Intelligence and security

10.  In the event of separation, the Scottish Government would have to make an assessment of the role and nature of the security services it would require in order to address security threats such as terrorism and cyber attack, and how such services should be paid for. (Paragraph 46)

11.  The UK administration has considerable experience in the area of counter-terrorism, and invests £2 billion a year in its security and intelligence services. This is in addition to the UK's £34 billion annual spend on defence. Should the Scottish Government spend a proportionate amount, this would amount to £200 million a year on security and intelligence services. This figure, however, does not take into account the start-up costs for an entirely new intelligence infrastructure. The Independence White Paper should make clear whether the proposed defence and security budget would include spending on the equivalent of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ. This is essential in order to evaluate fully whether the security of a separate Scottish State would be diminished compared to that of Scotland in the UK. (Paragraph 47)

12.  It is possible, post separation, that the Scottish Government could argue it has contributed to the international networks, experience and relationships that the UK has built up over time. However, just as it is not possible simply to break off 8.5% of GCHQ, it would also not be possible to continue with the existing relationship as if nothing has happened. Intelligence exchange is based on mutual interest and established networks. In the event of separation, the Scottish Government would have to negotiate access to intelligence from the UK. Scotland would not automatically access privileged information from other countries on the same basis as the UK services currently do. The Independence White Paper should make clear how the Scottish Government would establish its future intelligence relationship with the UK and other key allies. (Paragraph 51)

13.  It is difficult to establish the cost of intelligence and security, and the cost of the transition period, upon the proposed defence budget for Scotland. It is likely that such costs would place pressure upon the proposed £2.5 billion budget. If we accept £200 million as the cost of a very basic intelligence and security service, this would leave £2.3 billion per annum for defence purposes. (Paragraph 52)

The division of assets

14.  Nevertheless we can see no reason why the Scottish Government should not spell out, clearly, how it would wish to see assets allocated and which additional equipment it would wish to claim, having seen these as desirable. Such information is crucial, not least because there will be a consequential impact upon procurement decisions. To give a recent example, the number of ships a Scottish navy would seek to inherit will undoubtedly impact upon the number it might subsequently wish to build. In these circumstances we can see no reason why the MoD should not provide factual details in response to reasonable requests from the Scottish Government. (Paragraph 60)

The division of assets and the transition

15.  We have heard no evidence that would lead us to believe that negotiations on such complex matters could be even close to resolution in such a restricted time period. Experience in dispute resolution leads us to believe that when one party has a deadline and the other has not, then the closeness of the deadline undermines the position of the party to whom it is important. In this context, of course an agreement could always be reached in time, but this would be likely to involve substantial concessions by those to whom the deadline is essential. (Paragraph 66)

16.  Like all UK taxpayers, people in Scotland have contributed over the years to the development of the current defence assets of the UK; the Scottish share of these assets has been estimated at between £7 billion and £8 billion. However, the division of defence assets would not be straightforward and would be subject to difficult and complex negotiations. (Paragraph 67)

17.  The Scottish Government would need to take into account whether it could afford the ongoing operating costs for any equipment inherited, and whether it had the necessary skilled personnel to operate this equipment. (Paragraph 68)

A Scottish Navy

18.  Furthermore, it assumed that all Scotland's initial military needs are met in the division of assets with the UK, and then operates on a £1.8 billion annual budget. It does not make clear what would be the choices, and financial implications, if Scotland was unable to secure all it required in the division of assets. (Paragraph 72)

19.  Further clarification is needed in the White Paper to establish how many frigates the Scottish Government would wish to inherit and, consequently, how many it would wish to buy new, and when. (Paragraph 73)

20.  The Scottish Government should identify, in the Independence White Paper, the preferred type and number of surface vessels which would be required, what their role would be, and how this compares to the assets currently provided by the Royal Navy. It should also clarify whether the Scottish navy would be limited to the protection of its territorial waters or have an ocean-going capacity. We are unconvinced that an ocean-going complex warship the size of a frigate would be the most effective way of meeting the priorities of a separate Scotland, particularly if resources were limited. However, if the Scottish Government decides that it wishes to order new Type 26 Frigates, or other vessels, to keep the Clyde shipyards busy, then they must spell out the patterns of orders, the cost, and in particular the date of commencement, to clarify how they will avoid any interruption in work flow and how this will impact upon the proposed defence budget. (Paragraph 77)

21.  There appears to be an assumption that purchasing conventional submarines would be possible because of the cash negotiated in lieu from the UK after separation. Again, the Scottish Government's White Paper must spell out how much it expects to have available to spend on new submarines, whether it plans to have these built in Scotland and to what timetable. (Paragraph 79)

22.  It is not clear whether the SNP defence industrial strategy and procurement plan for submarines, or frigates, is a cast iron commitment or a long-term aspiration. Nor is it clear how this would be scheduled to provide a steady work flow if, as anticipated, the UK Government remains wedded to retaining sovereign capability for complex warships and orders production of the Type 26 from BAE Systems from within the UK's new boundaries. While recognising that the Scottish Government does not accept this perspective, nevertheless we believe there has to be a Plan B to take account of what most neutral observers believe is inevitable. (Paragraph 81)

23.  Acquiring submarines would mean putting a large portion of the defence budget into a very expensive asset which would not be the most cost-effective way to deal with the day to day needs of the Scottish navy. Most of the evidence we received indicated that if a separate Scotland assessed the risks it faces, and chose to acquire submarines, then these would be incredibly expensive if built in Scotland; therefore we believe it would be highly unlikely that they would ever be built here. (Paragraph 82)

A Scottish Air Force

24.  The Scottish Government must identify in the Independence White Paper what Scotland's maritime patrol aircraft would do, what level of technology the aircraft would require, whether their role would be limited to Scotland's territorial waters, how many of their preferred type of maritime patrol aircraft would be required, and at what costs, both capital and revenue. (Paragraph 85)

25.  Whether a separate Scotland would be in possession of fast jets, and if so which, remains a crucial question which must be addressed in the forthcoming White Paper. The SNP has said it would have fast jets for domestic air policing duties. If so, it should make clear how this would be delivered, and also clarify whether the intention is to have a Scottish air force capable of carrying out its own air policing duties on the first day of independence. (Paragraph 96)

26.  The kind of air transport that Scotland would need would depend on what the Scottish Government would want its armed forces to do, and how far from Scotland it wished to travel. If the intention is to prioritise territorial defence, with reduced involvement in overseas deployment, then the need for transport aircraft diminishes. The Independence White Paper should set out the role of any transport aircraft, and whether the aircraft would be used to transport Scottish personnel and equipment within Scotland or whether the intention is to use their transport aircraft on an international basis, including in conflict situations. (Paragraph 98)

27.  Any reduction in the number of squadrons based in Scotland, the number of aircraft in each squadron and the state of readiness required for the aircraft would result in a reduction in the number of air force staff in Scotland. The Scottish Government should spell out clearly the number and types of aircraft and helicopters it hopes to inherit, those it consequently would intend to purchase and the implication for numbers of service personnel and civilian support staff. (Paragraph 99)

A Scottish Army

28.  The intention to create a regular army based on the historical Scottish regiments does not appear to be based on any strategic assessment. The emphasis on infantry means the budget leans towards proportionately high personnel costs and therefore less resource being available to purchase and maintain equipment. (Paragraph 112)

29.  The issue remains, if a separate Scottish State is a Member of NATO and wishes to retain the capability to take part in overseas wars, then it might be expected to retain full time, well trained infantry regiments. If it is not in NATO or adopts the Irish model of only taking part in peace keeping exercises, then the justification for a large standing army is diminished. (Paragraph 113)

30.  It is essential that the Scottish Government's White Paper clarifies exactly what is meant by "current Scottish raised and restored UK regiments" and tells us which units will exist in a separate Scottish army, the size of these units, which will be reserves, the level of supporting units that will be provided and the overall cost of this provision. (Paragraph 114)

31.  We are unconvinced that the emphasis on restoring Scottish regiments would address the fundamental needs of a Scottish army. It is not clear if the motivation to retain those units of the British Army associated with Scotland is simply to keep up numbers and maintain bases, or based on a more strategic assessment of what a separate Scottish State would either need or could afford. It is not clear how, or based on what criteria, a separate Scotland would define "Scottish raised and restored UK regiments" and how many of the disbanded or merged regiments would be restored. (Paragraph 117)

32.  The debate around the future of the Scottish regiments is highly emotive. It is unsettling and unfair to create uncertainty among those who serve now, or have done in the past, in those parts of the British Army with a Scottish association (Paragraph 118)

Choice and recruitment

33.  The British Army, Royal Navy and Royal Air Force are designed to operate across the globe. At present, it is unclear whether the Scottish defence force would be expected to operate beyond its own territory and territorial waters. The Independence White Paper should set out the range of career choices and opportunities that it expects its armed forces to offer, together with any variations in terms of conditions of employment which could be offered, and the anticipated timetable for having armed forces independent of the UK. It should set out the areas where it would anticipate a drawn out transition period or long term interdependence with the UK in the event of recruitment not reaching the required levels. (Paragraph 127)

34.  Without more information we find it difficult to understand the nature of the offer that would persuade individuals to transfer from the British Army to any future Scottish army. Furthermore, this would apply not only to the wider British Army, but also throughout the Royal Air Force and the Royal Navy. (Paragraph 128)

35.  If the UK Government did agree to the transfer of units to a separate Scotland, then it should not be assumed that all those serving in that unit would transfer with it. We call upon the UK Government to reiterate its position that no one would be forced to transfer to join a possible separate Scottish defence force. We call upon the Scottish Government, in their White Paper, to publicly accept the right of all serving UK Armed Forces personnel to choose whether to transfer from the UK Armed Forces to a possible Scottish defence force. (Paragraph 129)


36.  Faslane was designed and built as the base for the Royal Navy submarines. If the submarines are evicted, then it creates doubt as to the reasons for keeping Faslane open. We have not seen any evidence that suggested a separate Scotland would have a navy that required facilities on anything like the scale of that currently provided at Faslane. (Paragraph 137)

37.  A separate Scottish State would have a choice, between either having two navy bases and accepting this would have a large reduction upon the personnel numbers at Faslane, or having one navy base, in what is not the ideal strategic location, but still having a considerable reduction in personnel numbers at Faslane. (Paragraph 138)

38.  A separate Scottish military would have to recreate a headquarters and institutional structure which replicates that currently provided by the Ministry of Defence and its agencies. The priority, if there would be a single Joint Forces Headquarters, would be for it to be near the seat of power in Edinburgh. If there was to be only one headquarters, then Faslane would be geographically unsuitable. (Paragraph 140)

39.  If Faslane was chosen as a Joint Forces Headquarters, then it would be a short term measure based on a need to have a functioning military headquarters as soon as possible and to delay the inevitable loss of personnel and jobs as a result of the Royal Navy submarine fleet leaving. (Paragraph 141)

40.  There are unanswered questions around the balance of regular and reserve forces in a separate Scottish army. This would have an implication for the number of barracks which needed to be provided for full time army personnel in a separate Scotland. The Scottish Government should make clear which bases it would anticipate using to accommodate the raised and restored Scottish regiments. (Paragraph 143)

41.  If army units were introduced to a Joint Forces Headquarters at Faslane then this would reduce the proportion of Scottish army personnel accommodated at the current army bases in Dreghorn Barracks, Glencorse Barracks, Fort George, and Redford Barracks. (Paragraph 144)

42.  While it is clear that an independent country would have responsibility in areas such as where to base its own air force, it is not clear if the people of Scotland are being given enough information so they can assess whether they would feel safe in a separate Scotland. It is difficult to draw sensible conclusions on air force basing in a separate Scotland without more information on the foreign policy of a separate Scotland, if it would operate its own air policing, and if Scotland would be in NATO. The Scottish Government must provide answers to these questions as a matter of urgency. (Paragraph 151)

Special Forces and Royal Marines

43.  The Scottish Government should outline, in the White Paper, its position on the Royal Marines currently stationed in Scotland, and acknowledge the very strong likelihood that if Scotland left the UK then the Royal Marines would leave Scotland. The base at RM Condor, Arbroath would be vacated. (Paragraph 155)

44.  The Scottish Government should make clear what their strategy would be if recruitment to Scottish special forces or marines proved difficult, and they were faced with a vulnerability after Independence Day. (Paragraph 156)


45.  Training facilities would need to be provided in a separate Scottish State. It would be unusual if Scotland did not provide at least basic training for its own army, navy and air force in Scotland. The Scottish Government could request to continue using facilities in the UK during the transition period. Officer training would need to be provided as well as training for specialist roles within its forces. The Scottish Government must clarify whether their proposed budget of £2.5 billion includes the transitional costs of developing basic, specialist and officer training facilities. (Paragraph 159)

NATO and nuclear weapons

46.  In the event of separation, the issue of NATO membership is absolutely crucial to the future defence of Scotland. The Scottish Government should make clear, as a matter of the utmost urgency, in the White Paper on Independence, its position on whether a separate Scottish State would seek NATO membership and sign up to the NATO Strategic Concept. (Paragraph 167)

47.  The White Paper on Independence should clearly set out the Scottish Government's policy on vessels from nuclear powers docking in Scottish ports, whether it would require foreign naval ships from nuclear powers docking in Scottish ports to declare if they are carrying nuclear weapons, and what measures a Scottish Government would use to enforce this prohibition. (Paragraph 171)

48.  There is a fundamental inconsistency in the Scottish Government's potential position in accepting the role of nuclear weapons in NATO's security while demanding their rapid removal from Scotland's own territory. NATO has made it clear that it would expect a new Scottish State to have settled any disputes with other NATO Members before it could apply for membership. This would appear to mean that a solution to Trident basing which was acceptable to the UK would be necessary before the NATO membership of a separate Scotland could be considered. Thus the Scottish Government could not dictate the terms of its application to NATO. (Paragraph 173)


49.  It is clear that the expulsion of Trident from Scotland would constitute the kind of dispute between a separate Scottish State and a NATO Member State that would obstruct Scotland's application to NATO. (Paragraph 176)

50.  We welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has acknowledged the need for sensible discussions about the timetable with the UK Government if, in the event of separation, they would pursue their policy of removing Trident from the Clyde. We welcome the First Minister's acknowledgement that these discussions have a NATO dimension. We re-state our previous recommendation that the Scottish Government must provide more detail on their desired timetable for the speediest safe removal of Trident from the Clyde (Paragraph 179)

51.  Trident is part of the nuclear security umbrella provided by NATO. If Scotland evicted Trident from the Clyde it would greatly damage Scotland's relationship with other NATO countries, and impact upon any application to join NATO. A future Scottish Government may demand Trident is evicted, but that decision would have repercussions. The Independence White Paper should set out the potential implications of such a decision. It should also set out how Scotland would defend itself if evicting Trident on a timetable unacceptable to the UK and NATO meant Scotland's application to NATO was rejected or stalled significantly. (Paragraph 180)

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Prepared 23 November 2013