Yesterday Phillip Hammond, Westminster’s defence minister, made a rare visit to Scotland to play up fears concerning defence in an independent Scotland. He claimed independence threatens jobs in the military, that an independent Scotland would struggle to defend itself and that Scotland would lose military contracts.
These claims quickly unravelled as his assertions were exposed as a poor substitute for facts. Many of the numbers he quoted in interviews were actually wrong! In response, Business for Scotland can provide facts and figures on defence in Scotland. This evidence demonstrates that an independent Scotland will be secure, economically better off and can play a constructive role in the world – but one more focused on protecting peace rather than Westminster’s focus on projecting power, which is the strategic flaw at the heart of Philip Hammond’s Defence strategy .
Fact 1: Scotland is poorly defended by the UK
Due to Westminster policy, there are very few defence assets left in Scotland. Numbers of troops have been cut to an all time low. There are only 5 MoD helicopters in the whole of Scotland and only 1 conventional naval vessel on the East coast. Scotland does better in terms of air defence cover with typhoon squadrons, which, as airbases are being closed in order to concentrate air defence at Lossiemouth.
Fact 2: The UK has a defence underspend in Scotland
From 2002-2008 there was a £5.622 billion under spend on defence forces in Scotland. Scottish taxpayers put in much more than is spent in Scotland.
Fact 3: Westminster has cut defence jobs
Between 2000 and 2010 Ministry of Defence personnel in Scotland were cut by 27.9%. This is much higher than the equivalent UK cut of 11.6%.
Fact 4: Scotland lacks naval and Arctic capacity
The navy does not have one major surface vessel based in Scottish waters. This limits security operations in the North Sea. The UK has also been left behind in activities in the Arctic Region, which has become of increasing significance to China, Russia and the US, especially in the context of the Arctic ice retreating because of climate change. That retreat opens up shipping lanes which make the region of more strategic importance, especially to an independent Scotland.
Fact 5: An independent Scotland would save money on defence
The 2011-12 Scotland contribution to UK defence spending was £3.4 billion. The SNP propose spending £2.5 billion on defence. Military expert Stuart Crawford proposed a spending range of £1.5-1.8 billion. In these circumstances, Scotland would save towards £1 billion each year on defence. This level of expenditure is of relative comparison with the likes of the Scandinavian countries, all of whom live up to their international responsibilities.
Fact 6: Scotland would get a better defence force
Crawford’s defence model includes a Scottish navy of between 20 and 25 vessels, the building of which Scottish shipyards could compete for in the same way they do for UK contracts. (some of which go overseas) Currently there are 11 vessels in Scotland. Such a model can also include aircraft and helicopters for use in North Sea operations and the Arctic. Angus Robertson’s proposal include an increase in the military footprint for the army in Scotland from around 11,000 troops to 15,000. Business for Scotland set this out in further detail ‘here’.
Fact 7: Defence spending in medium sized countries
Countries of a similar size to Scotland have effective military units which are sustained at far lower cost than the Westminster model. As of 2010, Denmark spent 1.4% of GDP on defence. Norway spent 1.5% and Finland spent 1.6%.
Countries of a similar size to Scotland have effective military units which contribute to global peacekeeping and security. Denmark combats piracy in the Indian ocean and provides security operations in the Arctic. Ireland had contributed to numerous peacekeeping operation through the United Nations, including in Syria last month. Norway currently has forces contributing to the peacekeeping force in Sudan. It was also pivotal to establishing peace in the Balkans during the late 1990s.
Fact 9: Scrapping Trident can increase jobs
The independent Scottish Trade Union Council report ‘Cancelling Trident: The Economic and Employment Consequences for Scotland‘ found that more jobs can be generated from scrapping trident than would be generated by renewing weapons of mass destruction.
Fact 10: Scotland gets a bad deal on defence contracts
Between 2007-08 and 2011-12 Scotland received £1.9 billion less than its population share of defence contracts.
Fact 11: Scotland’s defence assets are worth £7.8 billion
An independent Scotland will be entitled to a population share of UK defence assets. 8.4% of the UK’s total defence assets equals £7.8 billion as of 2007.
The annual cost of operating Trident is between 5-6% of total UK defence costs, according to UK Ministers. This is around £2.5 billion a year. Scotland’s contribution to this is therefore around £200 million a year. Scrapping Trident from the Clyde will make billions of pounds worth of financial savings for people in Scotland.
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Category: Economics of Independence