The challenge of separating an independent Scotland (IS) from the rest of the UK (referred to as r-UK from here in) would be a monumental task in general. However, nowhere will this be more challenging than in the area of defence and security. Quite possibly the biggest single challenge will be how to dismantle the UK nuclear infrastructure which is currently based in Scotland. Furthermore, a clear IS foreign policy will have to be fashioned, including what specific defence and security alliances and relationships would be pursued by any nascent Scottish Government.
Once the task of designing an IS foreign policy is achieved, only then can decisions be made with regard to what capabilities will be needed to accomplish this newly-stated foreign policy. Current UK Armed Forces – including personnel, assets and intelligence structures-would also have to be divided. Then a procurement process, either through a distinct Scottish defence industry or by purchasing assets off the shelf, would have to be initiated to compensate for any gaps in those Scottish capabilities that could not be acquired during the separation negotiations. This while many of the defence contractors currently based in Scotland move south attracted by a larger r-UK defence market. Different recruiting regimes and career structures would also have to be constructed.
At its heart, there are fundamental questions facing the Scottish people when making a decision over separation from the United Kingdom and these questions are most stark in the area of foreign affairs and defence because Scotland would be separating from the integrated military structures and alliances that are all organised on a UK-wide basis. For example:
- Are the benefits of self-determination and separation worth the costs that this would incur?
- Can an independent Scotland (IS) reproduce the level of defence and security structures that it citizenry demand in the face of 21st century threats and challenges and on the likely budgets it would be operating under?
- Whether or not to remove the UK’s nuclear deterrent infrastructure that is currently based in Scotland?
- An IS would have to formulate its own foreign and security policy, based on a robust foreign and strategic policy review (and a Scottish SDSR) through which it must determine which alliances and partnerships it would enter into. If NATO membership was not achieved, then collective security relationships with other neighbouring states would have to be considered. What defence and security challenges does this present for an IS?
These are just some of the key choices the Scottish people face. Of course, only they can make these choices on 18 September, 2014. A report entitled Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland (July 2013) will fully divulge all of these complex issues in a comprehensive manner with the aim of further illuminating and informing some of these choices. Topics under investigation include: why independence matters, SNP proposals for defence and security in an independent Scotland, the cost and capability of IS security and defence, forming a Scottish Defence Force, intelligence structures in an IS, implications of independence for the Scottish defence industry, how the future of Trident would impact on UK-Scotland relations, and Scotland’s relationship with NATO and the EU’s CSDP. Please look out for further details.
Simon J. Smith