Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Pressure mounts for Commons defence inquiry

soldiers with guns
Image caption MPs believe an inquiry is needed into defence issues in an independent Scotland

Pressure is mounting for Westminster to hold an inquiry into what Scottish independence would mean for defence.

Some MPs want the Commons Defence Select Committee to investigate.

Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has said a Scottish Defence Force would consist of one naval base, one air base and one mobile armed brigade.

However, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond expressed worries saying the UK's defence was a highly integrated and very sophisticated fighting force.

If an inquiry were to be called it has been envisaged it would investigate all aspects of defence and would run for a couple of years.

Mr Salmond could also be invited to give evidence.

Earlier this month the SNP leader said the UK defence review, which has produced cuts to plug a £38m budget shortfall, had developed a template of how armed forces would look in an independent Scotland.

He said the set-up of one naval base, one air base and one mobile armed brigade was "exactly the configuration" required for a Scottish Defence Force.

But that idea was flatly rejected by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who said: "The UK armed forces are a highly integrated and very sophisticated fighting force.

"The idea that you could break off a little bit like a square on a chocolate bar - and that would be the bit that went north of the border - is frankly laughable."

The defence question also involves what would happen to the UK's nuclear weapons system, which is made up of four submarines and based at the Faslane naval base.

Westminster ministers have committed to replacing Trident - however, if Scotland became independent, the SNP would seek to see the removal of nuclear weapons from the Clyde.

The timescale for such a move is unknown, and would involve having to search for a suitable, alternative location for the nuclear deterrent.

Mr Hammond had insisted Scotland would need to bear some of the relocation costs.

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