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27/09/13 09:43

Nuclear-free defence forces will save Scottish taxpayers almost £1 billion

Veterans Minister responds to Defence Committee report.

Veterans Minister Keith Brown today (Friday) commented on the report published by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, following their inquiry on the defence implications of Scottish independence.

Mr Brown highlighted that, by focusing spending more clearly on defence priorities specifically tailored to Scotland’s needs and interests, Scotland’s proposed defence and security budget of £2.5 billion a year would be over £500 million more than the UK Government has spent on defence in Scotland in recent years, while still representing a saving for taxpayers of nearly £1 billion.

Mr Brown also highlighted the ways in which the current UK defence arrangements do not meet Scotland needs – in particular highlighting the way current UK policy has neglected defence around Scotland’s coasts and seas.

Mr Brown, who gave evidence to the Committee, said:

“An independent Scotland will have first-class conventional forces playing a full role in defending the country as well as cooperating with international partners and neighbours, something this report fails to acknowledge by ignoring key pieces of evidence.

“Decisions on Scotland’s defence and security should be made by those with the strongest interest in them – the people of Scotland – and current UK defence policy is letting Scotland down.

“For example, our geographical position and wealth of offshore and other natural assets make it a priority for Scotland to secure and monitor an extensive maritime environment. And yet, under the current arrangements, there is not a single major Royal Navy surface vessel based in Scotland and the RAF has no maritime patrol aircraft since the scrapping of the Nimrod fleet.

“The Committee heard evidence from a senior retired military officer – Air Marshal (rtd) Iain McNicoll – that Denmark, a country of almost identical size to Scotland, which has significant defence capabilities at its disposal, is “a reasonable comparator” with a similar budget to the one proposed for Scotland. The Committee chose not to use that important element of his evidence in their report.

“Currently, jobs are at risk too – our RAF bases are reducing from three to one and we have seen substantially greater reductions of MoD service and civilian personnel in Scotland than in the UK as a whole.

“Without the huge waste of money on Trident nuclear weapons, and by focussing on Scotland’s own needs in relation to military personnel, conventional equipment and bases, an independent Scotland can halt the disproportionate cuts to our defence footprint and deliver the defence jobs, the equipment and the security that Scotland needs.

“Over the last decade, while numbers across the UK have fallen by a fifth, Scotland has seen a cut of over a third in the numbers of military and civilian personnel employed here by the MoD. In contrast I told the Defence Select Committee that Scottish Ministers believe that all service personnel should have the reassurance that they will not be faced with compulsory redundancy during their service contract – a further piece of evidence which the Committee chose to ignore.

“And we will do that by prioritising the defence assets that meet Scotland’s needs. Our proposed defence and security budget of £2.5 billion would be over £500 million more than the UK Government currently spends in Scotland on defence, but nearly £1 billion less than Scottish taxpayers contribute towards UK defence spending.

“We can save Scottish tax payers almost £1 billion and still do a better job of protecting this country.

“Independence will also enable Scotland to play its full part as a good global citizen, and to take a positive approach on wider issues of global security such as economic and social justice, environmental and climate security, and the promotion of human rights. An independent Scotland would work closely and responsibly with the UK Government and with our other partners and allies.

“We would also welcome the opportunity to engage in discussion with the UK Government to prepare for decisions that would need to be made following independence.

“The Scottish Government’s proposals for defence and security in an independent Scotland will be included in the White Paper.”