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Defence force 'less comprehensive and effective' under independence

Scotland would have a limited defence force which would struggle to recruit and retain personnel, says think tank.

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A defence force in an independent Scotland would be "less comprehensive and effective" than if it stayed in the UK, a report has found.

Scotland would have a limited defence force which would struggle to recruit and retain personnel, it would also be smaller than it is now and subsequently have a detrimental impact on jobs and economic growth, according to the report by The Scotland Institute.

This report on Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland is, according to its authors, the most comprehensive review of the likely impact of independence on Scotland's ability to defend its citizens and is due to be launched in Edinburgh on Monday.

The panel of experts that produced the report included senior armed forces personnel, defence academics, former secretaries of defence and senior officials from Nato, UK MOD and the EU.

It was chaired by Major-General Andrew Mackay CBE, who commanded a Task Force in Afghanistan and served in the army for 27 years.

"I cannot see how slicing up a competent and well established military will aid either the United Kingdom or an independent Scotland," Major-General Mackay has written in the report's foreword.

"Indeed I see very real risks to the people of Scotland, be it from the loss of jobs and the local economic impact that the inevitable removal of the Faslane naval base would bring, the huge costs necessary to start building the armed forces from afresh, the loss of access to sensitive intelligence materials and the inevitable dilution in the quality and number of the armed forces of this small island, which to date have had such a profound effect upon the course of world events."

The report also suggests that post-independence Scotland would be more vulnerable to terrorist and cyber attack because it will need time to establish an intelligence body capable of dealing with these threats.

Dr Azeem Ibrahim, executive chairman of the Scotland Institute and one the report's authors, said: "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 than had Scotland remained in the UK."

In a statement included in the report, he said: "Independence would not make Scotland either cheaper or easier to defend. The most likely result would be a very small military force, able to perform a limited number of niche functions such as protecting Scotland's fisheries and oil refineries.

"An independent Scotland would find it difficult to maintain an air force of any consequence and would possess a truncated navy stripped of submarine forces. It would also be at some disadvantage in the gathering of intelligence and in meeting cyber security challenges."

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: "An independent Scotland will have first-class conventional forces which will play a full role in defending the country and cooperating with international partners, but we will not waste billions of pounds on Trident nuclear weapons. Scotland stands to inherit a fair share of existing UK defence assets, and an annual defence and security budget of £2.5bn would represent an increase of more than £500m on recent UK levels of defence spending in Scotland, but would be nearly £1bn less than Scottish taxpayers currently contribute to UK defence spending.

"We have also been clear that we will retain all current defence bases, including Faslane - which will be Scotland's main conventional naval facility - and our long-term commitment will ensure continued support for jobs and local economies in all the communities around Scotland that are home to military bases.

"The Scottish Government is already taking steps to strengthen cyber security in Scotland and this would continue upon independence. Intelligence sharing with the UK would be in the best interests of the people of Scotland and of the rest of the United Kingdom, and an independent Scottish domestic intelligence machinery would work closely with UK counterparts. And an independent and non-nuclear Scotland's membership of Nato would put the country alongside the 25 of the alliance's current 28 members which are non-nuclear powers."

Labour's Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy MP said: “The report shows the SNP’s plans to be fundamentally flawed. The SNP’s plans to set up an entirely new Armed Forces from scratch will be costly and a Scottish Force based on only 7% of the UK defence budget will be insufficient for modern day challenges.

“As a growing army of experts have shown, the SNP’s defence plans would undermine Scotland’s national interest.”

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