Safer Together? Not according to the Prime Minister
Our strength and safety as an independent country will rely on collective defence and cooperation with our neighbours – just like the UK’s defence depends on international cooperation, as well as bilateral agreements with countries such as France and the USA.
But both deliberate UK policy decisions and the incompetence of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has left Scotland less safe than it would be if Scotland’s defence and foreign policy were left for Scotland to decide.
- Prime Minister David Cameron is on record as saying: "We need to recognise that a central element of foreign policy - the intervention in Iraq - has failed in its objectives so badly that the threat to this country is actually greater than it was before it began."
In their foreword to the Strategic Defence and Security Review the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister explain:
“Our Armed Forces – admired across the world – have been overstretched, deployed too often without appropriate planning, with the wrong equipment, in the wrong numbers and without a clear strategy. In the past, unfunded spending pledges created a fundamental mismatch between aspiration and resources.
And there was a failure to face up to the new security realities of the post Cold War world. The Royal Navy was locked into a cycle of ever smaller numbers of ever more expensive ships. We have an Army with scores of tanks in Germany but forced to face the deadly threat of improvised explosive devices in Iraq and Afghanistan in Land Rovers designed for Northern Ireland.
And the Royal Air Force has been hampered in its efforts to support our forces overseas because of an ageing and unreliable strategic airlift fleet. This is the result of the failure to take the bold decisions needed to adjust our defence plans to face the realities of our ever-changing world”.
The misguided policies and incompetence of the MoD have continued under this government just like the last.
Successive Westminster governments have imposed savage cuts on defence personnel in Scotland, and closed bases.
Between 2000 and 2012, the number of defence personnel in Scotland was cut by more than 35% – compared to 20% for the UK overall.
Regular army personnel numbers have been reduced to around 3,300 in Scotland. As a result, Scotland has a far smaller army presence than comparably sized nations such as Slovakia (6,230), Slovenia (7,600) and Denmark (8155). To compound matters, the UK Government has reneged on a commitment to station up to 7,000 troops returning from Germany in Scotland – instead only around 600 will be moved here.
At the same time as imposing these cuts, the UK Government has embarked on the replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent. Scotland’s share of Trident costs is estimated at around £163 million per year - and our share of the replacement costs about £84 million per year for 15 years. This is money which could instead support conventional jobs and the redevelopment of HMNB Clyde – or other public services entirely.
Then we add in:
- the decision by the UK Government to scrap the Nimrod maritime surveillance aircraft programme (after spending £3.8 billion), criticised by former defence chiefs and politicians as leaving a massive capability gap;
- the number of instances where the MoD has been criticised for failing to provide essential equipment to soldiers in action;
- the conclusion of MPs that the effect of the cuts is that theforces may struggle to do all that is asked of them after 2015;
- reports of falling morale in the service;
It becomes clear that Westminster and the MoD do not make for a safer Scotland - nor are they making the best decisions for our defence personnel.
All the Prime Minister has left to offer is soundbites and scare stories.
Scotland’s defence industries have a bright future in an independent Scotland. In fact, the Typhoon project referred to by Mr Cameron highlights one reason why; as Ian Godden recently pointed out to the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, the Typhoon project is a joint venture between France, Germany and the UK. He said:
“In the end with actual contracts there is no such thing as a national contract that means that you get 100 per cent of it in a nation.”
Most importantly, he added:
“Scotland can maintain its position in defence interests because there is an industrial capability and engineering capability that Scotland has got which makes it attractive.”
Defence is an international business.
The Tory chairman of the Westminster Defence Select Committee has questioned whether Trident replacement is “an appropriate use of very scarce resources.”
by Angus Millar
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