What defence will an Independent Scotland have?

Scotland would have its own Scottish Defence Force (SDF), designed to ensure that Scotland can:

  • Secure its borders, land, air space and sea
  • Deter attacks and protect its citizens and assets
  • Make a contribution to peace keeping under the auspices of the United Nations

The current Scottish Government proposes:

  • A phased build up of personnel to some 15,000 (an increase of 4,000 on current numbers) regular and 5,000 reserve personnel across land, air and maritime forces over ten years.
  • Naval forces would be built up to two squadrons with around 2,400 regular and at least 270 reserve personnel.
  • The army would incorporate an HQ function and an All-Arms brigade, with three infantry/marine units, supported by a number of specialist units and special forces. This would entail around 4,700 regular and at least 1,110 reserve personnel.
  • Air forces will include an Air Force HQ function which would require 3,250 regular personnel and around 300 reserve personnel. This would consist of:
    • Air Command and Control systems
    • Quick Reaction Alert squadron
    • Tactical air transport squadron
    • Flight training and establishment
    • Airborne maritime patrol capability

Land and property inherited by the proposed Scottish Defence Force would include the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, the Leuchars and Lossiemouth RAF bases.

The Scottish Government’s defence plan includes taking two Type 23 frigates, four minesweepers, and 16 Typhoon fighter jets.

There’s a chasm between an independent Scotland’s approach to defence and Westminster’s approach. It is inconceivable that a Scottish Government would take our people into an illegal war.

Can we afford our own defence force?

Yes. Currently £3.3 billion of the UK’s defence budget comes from Scotland’s taxpayers but only £1.9 billion of defence spending comes to Scotland.

The Scottish Government’s proposed defence budget is £2.5 billion which will give us a better defence capability and a saving of £800 million every year.

Furthermore, Westminster plans to replace Trident at enormous cost. Scotland will save £100 billion over the lifetime of this replacement.

Further Reading:

Are we not stronger as part of the UK?

Westminster isn’t working for Scotland’s defence.

As a result of Westminster policy, regular army personnel numbers have been reduced to around 3,300 in Scotland. Between 2000 and 2012, the number of defence personnel in Scotland was cut by more than 27% – compared to 12% for the UK overall.

The Royal Navy does not have one single major surface vessel based in Scottish waters. This is despite the fact that providing protection to offshore oil assets and fishing vessels is of prime importance to Scotland’s defence, security and economic interests.

Protecting Scotland’s seas and all the wealth and assets in them is best done from Scotland not Portsmouth.

Westminster has also left the Royal Navy with more Admirals than ships, and without planes for the launch of the new aircraft carriers. In fact the UK has been forced to pull out of key Nato naval defence groups – a sign of just how stretched the Royal Navy has become.

The Scotsman reported that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has acknowledged it has not provided a frigate or destroyer for Nato’s maritime group defending the North and East Atlantic since 2009. Also, the Royal Navy stopped providing either of the ships for Nato’s second standing maritime group in the Mediterranean since 2010. Having previously supported three of four minesweeper groups, it now provides just one minesweeper.

Will an independent Scotland be a member of NATO?

The current Scottish government has said:

“Following a vote for independence the Scottish Government will formally declare Scotland’s intention to become a member of NATO following normal procedures. Similarly we will also signal our intention to be a member of the United Nations at that time.”

“Given that Scotland, as part of the UK, already meets membership requirements, we do not expect any barriers to Scotland’s timely membership of international organisation

Will McLeod, the Government and World Affairs correspondent for Netroots Radio, says:

“I live in Washington DC and I do policy work. The main thing I wanted to dispel was this myth that somehow if you don’t want Nuclear Weapons in the Clyde, NATO and the US will have a sad, and then will decide to punish Scotland somehow.”

“Let me say that this is complete and utter bullshit.”

“But lets say that Scotland wants to declare itself an official Nuclear-Free Zone. Canada kicked all American nukes off their soil and went Nuclear-Free in 1984. We’re still the best of friends, and they’re still a member of NATO.”

“There is absolutely no reason why Scotland couldn’t make the same decision.”

“One of the USA’s closest allies, Australia, refuses to host nuclear weapons or even allow nuclear weapons into their waters, because it’s declared itself a Nuclear-Free Zone.”

“If Scotland wants to do the same, you’ll get absolutely no pushback from the United States.”

“You’ll pretty much automatically be granted what’s called MNNA status, (Major Non-NATO Ally,) and status as a NATO Partner, which means that you get all of the economic benefits of NATO membership and most of the military ones.”

What would happen to current members of the British Armed Forces after independence?

During the time between the referendum and Independence Day in 24 March 2016, detailed arrangements for the transfer of military posts and personnel to Scottish control will be subject to agreement with the rest of the UK.

In relation to the army, the Scottish Government’s starting point in those negotiations will be the transfer of those units mainly recruited in Scotland.

The most likely scenario is that it will take a number of years to complete the transfer of existing UK Armed Forces to a newly established Scottish Defence Force (SDF).

Personnel will have the full and free choice to join the SDF or remain in their role within the rest of the UK forces. Scotland will not force compulsory redundancy on any military personnel. There are more details on plans for the creation of the SDF here.

A Scottish Defence Force could be attractive to both new recruits, and those that wish to transfer from the UK Armed Forces, balancing improved career opportunities with the chance to put down stronger roots in a community and less disruption to family life. It may be an attractive proposition to the many thousands of service and civilian personnel who have recently been made redundant by the UK coalition government.

BAE bosses say that there will be no more orders from Westminster if Scotland is independent. Are they bluffing?

Govan and Scotstoun have been chosen by BAE as the best best place to make warships, on the grounds of skills and efficiency.

BAE Systems have a contract to build three Offshore Patrol Vehicles; the first one to be delivered in 2017.  No other shipyards in the rUK is currently geared up and ready to build such ships.

The Clyde has also been chosen to build the Type 26 Global Combat ships after next month’s referendum. Portsmouth would require massive investment to develop the capacity needed.

The Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster reported:

  • Scotland has the skills of high complexity builds and platform integration that the UK requires
  • It is not effective to develop the specialist hull construction or complex assembly techniques that are required elsewhere
  • Overall it makes a convincing case of why the UK state would want to retain Scotland and its skilled workforce for its benefit
  • The skills that they require are unavailable outwith Scotland

Refit and Maintenance is currently provided mainly at Rosyth. Such work requires a dry dock and there is no suitable facility currently in existence in rUK. Again it would seem that as a near neighbour and a fellow EU member, Scotland is well placed to win such a contract, which would guarantee work for many years.

If Scotland votes Yes there will be no problem, under EU rules, with the Clyde yards continuing to produce warships for the rest of the UK without needing to put the work out to tender throughout Europe because the contract would be for “military or security” reasons.

There has never been a challenge to the UK state’s use of this tendering opt-out, primarily because no other EU member state has the skills to compete under an open tender.

The UK government could commission BAE to build the Type 26s anywhere it wanted without having to put the deal out to tender, because it’s the hardware that’s exempt, not the location.

If Westminster is willing to work with Australia on design work for the Type 26 ships – and to place an order worth almost half a billion pounds to South Korea for military tankers – it is even more straightforward to build naval vessels in the Clyde yards, which offers the best quality and value for money.


What is the future of defence shipbuilding in an independent Scotland?

There is every reason to be confident that Scotland’s shipyards would have a healthy order book. Scottish shipyards already build ships for countries outside the UK. BAE Systems sold three ships, including two built on the Clyde, to the Brazilian Navy. The last ship was delivered in June 2013.

Scotland’s yards will almost certainly continue to receive orders from the UK’s Royal Navy.

In addition, Scottish yards would receive work as part of the process of building a Scottish Navy.

A new independent Scottish Government will need to invest in ships for our own defence forces. A Scottish defence industrial strategy and procurement plan will not only fill defence capability gaps caused by Westminster, but secure business and jobs here in Scotland.

Shipbuilding is increasingly a matter of international cooperation and joint procurement. The MoD has placed an order for refuelling tankers for the Royal Navy with a South Korean firm and leases ice patrol ships built by the Norwegians.

The key point is that the yards on the Clyde are highly skilled and well placed to compete for orders from rUK and beyond as well as receiving orders for a new Scottish Defence Force.

From The Scottish Government White Paper:

The Scottish Government has carried out an initial assessment of forces levels in the years following independence.

Defence capabilities at the point of independence – Maritime forces

One naval squadron to secure Scotland’s maritime interests and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and contribute to joint capability with partners in Scotland’s geographical neighbourhood, consisting of:

  • Two frigates from the Royal Navy’s current fleet
  • A command platform for naval operations and development of specialist marine capabilities (from the Royal Navy’s current fleet, following adaptation)
  • Four mine counter measure vessels from the Royal Navy’s current fleet
  • Two offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) to provide security for the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, as the Royal Navy only has four OPVs currently, a longer lead time for procurement might be necessary
  • Four to six patrol boats from the Royal Navy’s current fleet, capable of operating in coastal waters, providing fleet protection and also contributing to securing borders
  • Auxiliary support ships (providing support to vessels on operations), which could be secured on a shared basis initially with the rest of the UK

The following elements should be prioritised for delivery as early as possible in the first five years following independence, building on the forces in place at independence:

A second naval squadron to contribute to NATO and other operations outside home waters, incorporating the naval command platform, and a further two frigates with tanker and support ship capacity.

This model envisages increases continuing through the first ten years following independence (due to procurement of new Scottish naval vessels).

A report for Scottish Global Forum, Securing the Nation – Defending an independent Scotland concluded that a Scottish navy (including non-defence) would need:
Naval Combat Force

  • 4 x Multi-purpose Combat Vessels (Frigates) each about 6,500 tonnes
  • 2 x Advanced Diesel Submarines each about 1,500 tonnes

Naval Patrol Force

  • 4 x Ocean Patrol Vessels each about 2,000 tonnes
  • 4 x Coastal Patrol Vessels each about 500 tonnes
  • 8 x Inshore Patrol Craft each about 50 tonnes

Naval Support Force

  • 2 x Mine Counter Measures Vessels each about 750 tonnes
  • 2 x Fleet Auxiliary Vessels each about 10,000 tonnes
  • 1 x Diving Support Vessel
  • 1 x Survey Vessel

Civil Agencies Support Force

  • 2 x Ocean Going Tugs
  • 2 x Pollution Control Vessels

Marine Services Craft

  • 2 x Harbour Tugs
  • 4 x Workboats

Marine Units

  • 1 x Marine Special Forces Unit
  • 1 x Marine Company
  • 3 x Marine Reserve Companies

Total Naval Personnel: 3,000 Full Time and 1,000 Reserve Personnel

Further reading

Securing The Nation: Defending an Independent Scotland – A Report by the Scottish Global Forum

I work in the defence industry, will my job be at risk?

The creation of a Scottish Defence Force coupled with a commitment to place contract within Scotland will protect and create jobs.

Scotland does not get a good procurement deal from Westminster.

A Parliamentary Answer of 3 October 2011 estimated that out of the 6,000 small and medium sized enterprise contracts placed by the Ministry of Defence in 2010/11, only 50 contracts were in Scotland.

That is 0.83% – despite the fact we contribute around 9.5% of the UK’s tax revenue and represent 8.4% of the UK’s population.

In a more recent written answer, defence minister Philip Dunne admitted that just £102 million worth of contracts were awarded to Scottish companies, a mere 38 per cent of what Scotland’s population share of contract values would be worth (which would amount to £264 million).

In contrast, the current Scottish government is committed to:

  • Supporting our defence industries through procurement of equipment and services in Scotland
  • Support for defence-related R&D, innovation and design
  • Support for international marketing of defence SMEs
  • The proposed procurement would include four frigates, two ordered during the first parliamentary term of independence
What is the plan for Faslane?

Scotland will inherit the barracks, air bases and naval bases on its territory, including Faslane. These will form the starting point for a new Scottish Defence Force.

The current Scottish Government has set out proposals for the transition of Faslane from a nuclear submarine base to Scotland’s main naval base and joint force headquarters. The transition would take place over the course of a decade.

The number of military personnel at Faslane will match the numbers that are there currently, supported by a significant number of civilian personnel.

Reconfiguring Faslane as a conventional naval base will involve major construction activity and will create jobs.

Faslane’s excellent deep water facilities and its geographical location makes it ideal for shared arrangements with the rest of the UK and other allies.

What will happen to Trident?

The Scottish Government has said it would remove the UK’s nuclear weapons from an independent Scotland as quickly as possible.

Billions of pounds are squandered every year on the Cold War era Trident weapons system that most Scots don’t want.

Scottish MPs and MSPs have both voted against maintaining nuclear weapons.

Westminster is determined, whatever criticism it receives, to waste billions of pounds on another generation of nuclear weapons. Army generals, defence experts, former Defence Ministers, Scottish MPs and the Scottish Government are all opposed. Even the United States has briefed the media saying the UK would be better scrapping the missiles.

Feargal Dalton was a Nuclear Submarine Commander at Faslane naval base, a senior officer responsible for maintaining the UK’s nuclear weapons deployment. His impression – both of Trident and of UK military policy – is that Scotland would do better as an independent country:

“Trident is not actually a military weapon as such, it is a Strategic Weapon System which gives the UK political leverage on the global stage”

Without an independent defence policy Scottish taxpayers will continue to subsidise weapons of mass destruction that most Scots don’t want and will never use.

Don’t we need a nuclear deterrent?

No. Nuclear weapons are incredibly expensive and almost useless in terms of protecting us against the most significant threats to our national security – such as terrorism.

A recent report from the Nuclear Education Trust has concluded that ‘for now and foreseeable future [there is] no nuclear threat to UK’. The report is based on written submissions and a series of interviews with current and past Defence Secretaries, Ministers, academics, think tanks, campaign groups and other defence policy stakeholders.

“Trident is not actually a military weapon as such, it is a Strategic Weapon System which gives the UK political leverage on the global stage”

Feargal Dalton, former Nuclear Submarine Commander at Faslane Naval Base

Further Reading: