Scottish independence: Defence jobs depend on UK, says Hammond

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says the SNP's defence plans for an independent Scotland are "insultingly vague"

UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said thousands of Scottish defence jobs depended on the UK remaining together.

The claim was made to coincide with the latest Coalition paper on independence, titled Scotland analysis: Defence

The Scottish government proposes a £2.5bn defence force if there is a "yes" in next September's referendum.

Scotland's Veterans' Minister Keith Brown said the plan was for a defence force in Scotland growing from 11,000 personnel to 15,000.

In a speech to a gathering in Edinburgh, Mr Hammond said the nationalists had created a "high degree of uncertainty with their plans, blighting the futures of thousands of families across Scotland".

Analysis

"We have seen a restricted briefing document from the MoD, from the team that's been charged with preparing and putting out the Scotland analysis paper on the issue of Scottish independence.

"It offers us some insight into thinking within the MoD, within Whitehall, about the issue of Scottish independence.

"In a section marked 'Why this matters' it points to implications for the rest of the UK. It says 'our economy, our standing, our politics' with 'our' in that context referring to England, Northern Ireland and Wales.

"That's interesting if we focus on that issue of 'our standing', the standing of the rest of the UK in the event of Scottish independence.

"Up until now the focus has been on the effect that a 'yes' vote might have on Scotland, on Scotland's defence, on Scotland's profile internationally and the UK government has defended the position of the UK, for example on the UN Security Council.

"This document from within the MoD, though, does suggest that the MoD themselves are raising the question of the 'standing' of what would be left of the UK in the world in the event of Scottish independence.

"They also believe that roughly 500,000 voters could swing the result either way, showing how seriously this is being taken within the MoD."

He added: "By their unwillingness to publish detailed defence proposals, they are doing nothing to dispel those concerns or allay the fears they cause."

The Tory minister believed that by taking Scotland out of the integrated British armed forces all parts of the UK would be harmed.

Mr Hammond said: "What little the SNP have published of their plans for the defence of an independent Scotland doesn't add up.

"And it does nothing to suggest that the Scottish people would benefit from anything like the level of security the UK armed forces currently provide, or the level of prosperity that Scotland's defence industry currently delivers.

"My message to the Scottish Government is simple. The debate on the future of defence in Scotland is too important to be ignored, or brushed under the carpet, or fobbed off with half-baked soundbite policies which are financially and strategically incoherent. The Scottish people deserve facts and answers."

The SNP administration at Holyrood is expected to give further details on its defence plans when it publishes a White Paper in November.

On Thursday, 18 September next year, the electorate in Scotland will be asked the straight "yes/no" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

In response the UK government's analysis paper, Mr Brown said Scotland's defence personnel numbers were at an all-time low and that an independent Scotland should have 15,000 regular armed forces with 5,000 reservists.

He added: "Some of the people will be employed doing different things. We have a different set of needs, for example we have no capability now in terms of the maritime patrols, we don't have a major Royal Navy surface vessel in Scotland any more.

"We no longer have the patrol that we should have for Nato purposes and otherwise on the northern flank of Scotland or in the air, so we would have different requirements, there is no doubt about that."

PowerPoint seen by the BBC A slide from a Ministry of Defence briefing, seen by the BBC, illustrates the implications of Scottish independence on the rest of the UK
PowerPoint seen by the BBC A further slide from the briefing says that Scotland as part of the UK has greater security and protection through "integrated defence posture"

The UK government's 86-page analysis paper was published after MPs on the Commons Defence Committee said it would be "remiss" of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) not to consider the implications of independence, including the future of Trident at the Faslane base.

The document focussed on funding, jobs and the problems involved in splitting up an integrated military.

The report concluded that the transition to an independent force would be complex.

One extract from the analysis says: "Adapting the functions of Scotland's defence footprint would result in a substantial burden on the public finances of an independent Scottish state during establishment, and duplication of costs thereafter for the essential services currently provided on a UK-wide basis.

"It is difficult to predict how long the establishment phase would last, but given the complex, integrated nature of the UK armed forces and the absence of command and control structures and other essential components in Scotland, this would not be an easy process.

"Even basic re-design of military bases is a costly undertaking requiring substantial investment to cater for different operational needs."

Scottish Government minister Keith Brown says the UK Government is "concerned with international prestige rather than the proper defence forces"

It added that negotiations over assets and liabilities such as equipment, basing and other infrastructure "would be difficult".

The report also said that the issue of personnel would present an "extremely difficult challenge to overcome".

However, the MoD said picking the UK military apart "would not be impossible".

A Scottish government spokesman said he welcomed the "important acknowledgement" from the UK government that an independent Scotland would stand to "inherit a fair share of current UK defence assets".

'Our politics'

He added: "An independent Scotland will have first-class conventional forces which will play a full role in defending the country and co-operating with international partners - but we will not waste billions of pounds on Trident nuclear weapons.

"We have also been clear that we will retain all current defence bases, including Faslane, which will be Scotland's main conventional naval facility, and our long-term commitment will ensure continued support for jobs and local economies in all the communities around Scotland that are home to military bases."

Meanwhile, the BBC has seen an internal Ministry of Defence (MoD) briefing document on Scottish independence.

It raised concerns about the effect a "yes" vote would have on England, Wales and Northern Ireland, saying the debate matters because of the potential effect of Scottish independence on "our politics, our economy, our standing" - referring to the rest of UK.

The document also suggested that about 500,000 votes could "swing the result" of the referendum "either way".

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