Mike Vickers' Blog

May 30, 2013

RSE Discussion Forum –Enlightening the Constitutional Debate No 3: Defence and International Relations

Filed under: DHI SPIF, Europe, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 9:47 am


Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Crawford (with Richard Marsh)
Phillips O’Brien
Prof William Walker
Lord George Robertson
Chaired by Lieutenant Sir Alistair Irwin

 The points I picked up:

  1. The purpose of having armed forces are
    1. To protect the Democracy
    2. Defend against External Aggression
    3. As a last resort to be called in case of industrial action,   maintain internal stability, eg act as firemen, refuse collectors
  2. An Independent Scotland must keep the armed forces to a minimum
    1. 20-25 ships, 2 brigades, 13,000 to 17,000 personnel
    2. No subs, no aircraft carrier, no fast jets
  3. Cost estimates were around £1.8 billion per annum against the SNP’s £2.5 billion
  4. Faslane is one of the largest employers in the West of Scotland but has got to go in an Independent Scotland – around 6,500 to 8,000 jobs
  5. Naval ship building lost from the Clyde
  6. Primary defence location to move from West to East – one air base eg Lossiemouth
  7. Trident replacement – sacred cow – the debate at the UK level has yet to be taken seriously.  Labour committed in 2007 – continued by the Tories.  But since then Boom to Bust
    1. Talk of downgrading 4 – 2 or even 3 subs not a deterrent and the cost savings not proportional
    2. Real decision after 2016 elections
    3. Alternatives – cruise missiles or just no nuclear
  8. Faslane / Coulport given an Independent Scotland could
    1. Become a sovereign base,
    2. no proliferation treaty, gradual phase out over 10 years till rUK can build another base – yet adding more cost to a replacement Trident
    3. Legal position would be messy but be solvable
  9. Debate so far – consideration as to what if Independence – George Robertson – last speaker just waded in for the No Case
    1. The world is unsafe – terrorists everywhere
    2. independence giving the wrong signals to the rest of Europe
    3. Norway spends 4.5 billion and Denmark 2.8 billion per annum on defence (though figures for Denmark given earlier less than that)
    4. Scotland’s coast is 80% of the UK
    5. Need for separate MI5 etc
    6. Why spend all this extra money in duplication
    7. It took Ukraine 20 years to negotiate the removal of nuclear weapons by Russia from Sebastopol and even then an agreement to allow Russia keep them
  10. International Relations got short shrift with the speakers and only taken up in Questions
    1. Generally not welcomed by other countries in Europe, eg Germany, as it introduces further instability in Europe
    2. More to do with rUK than an Independent Scotland which is reasonably respected by other Europeans
    3. London much more interested in UK and Europe than the break-away with Scotland
    4. rUK and Scotland after an initial stormy period likely to settled done to reasonably friendly relations because so much will remain in common
    5. Would Scotland be neutral – unlikely
    6. All agreed an Independent Scotland would need to be part of NATO but unclear whether other NATO members would accept an Independent Scotland with a constitution which prohibits the acquisition of nuclear weapons within its defence force
  11. Finally George Robertson agreed that Scotland would survive if independent but why impose all the extra costs of separate institutions on it.  Phillips O’Brien said that it is known that people in smaller countries are happier
  12. It is somewhat unfortunate that the only comment in the following day’s Scotsman is George Robertson’s comment that Scotland going independent would start the rot towards a Balkanisation of Europe.

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