Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland

Posted on Tuesday 25th June 2013

On Monday 24 June the Scotland Institute published the most comprehensive investigation of the defence implications of Scottish independence ever conducted. Professor Mark Webber, Head of the School of Government and Society was the Chief Researcher on this project. The report – overseen by a panel of experts – concludes that an independent Scotland would be less prepared and less able than the UK to discharge the fundamental responsibility of protecting its citizens.

Mark Webber at the launch of the report 'Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland'

The report focuses on the new facilities Scotland would need to build, the role of a Scottish Defence Force, recruitment and retention in the armed forces in an independent Scotland, intelligence, cybersecurity, NATO membership, and the effect of Scottish independence on the Scottish defence industry. The report finds:

  • An independent Scotland would have to develop its own fleet of ships and open a Ministry of Defence as well as a training academy. This would prove costly and there is no reason to believe it would make Scotland any safer.
  • The SNP’s intended defence spend would be able to deliver a notional Scottish Defence Force (SDF) – but its role would be limited and modest.
  • Scottish independence will lead to difficulties in recruitment and retention in an SDF.
  • A defence industry of some sort will probably survive in an independent Scotland, but it is unlikely to be near its current size. As such, jobs and economic growth are at stake.
  • Independence is likely to pose a risk to defence contractors threatening thousands of jobs and billions of pounds in turnover.
  • An independent Scotland would find it extremely difficult to set up an effective intelligence arm quickly and therefore would find itself much more vulnerable to terrorist and cyber-attack.
  • NATO membership would need to be renegotiated which may prove difficult with the SNP’s commitment to remove trident.

The report was overseen by a panel of experts and chaired by Major-General Andrew Mackay CBE, who commanded the UK Task Force in Afghanistan. The panel also included Generals, Admirals, Air Commodores, former Secretaries of Defence as well as dozens of leading defence academics and senior officials from NATO, UK MOD and the EU.

Executive Chairman of the Scotland Institute and one the report’s authors, Dr Azeem Ibrahim, said:

Today's report is the most comprehensive study of the likely impact of independence on Scotland’s ability to defend its citizens. We find that whilst an independent Scotland would, in some limited form, be able to provide for its defence, the manner of that provision is likely to be less comprehensive and effective had Scotland remained in the UK."

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