Scotland looks at defence

October 17, 1997

WHEN the Scottish devolution bill is published later this year it will exclude foreign affairs and defence. These will remain in the hands of Westminster as United Kingdom concerns.

But what if devolution leads to independence? The Scottish Centre for War Studies at Glasgow University has dared to think the unthinkable in its publication, Some Thoughts on an Independent Scottish Defence Force, which argues that an independent defence force would be both necessary and feasible.

The paper is written under the pseudonym "Jack Hawthorn", provoking speculation that he is a serving officer sparking off debate.

Hew Strachan, director of the Glasgow centre, said: "One of the problems of the devolution debate was that the knock-on effects, particularly in tax-raising powers, were unclear to people when they cast their votes in the referendum. Only if we open out these issues now can they be explored if independence were ever to become politically realistic."

The paper was not an endorsement of an independent Scotland, he said. But it was an attempt to define what constitutes an adequate defence force for "a comparatively small but developed state without any obvious enemies" and can therefore be seen as a possible template for other nations.

But Scotland has a clear military identity, partly through its infantry regiments such as the Royal Scots, the Black Watch, and the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. It provided many soldiers in both world wars and recruitment is higher than south of the border.

"This paper starts with the idea of an integrated, all-round capability which proportionately reduces the infantry in relation to the rest," said Professor Strachan.

Since any future military operations are likely to involve two or more of the three services, a Scottish defence force should be jointly organised at the top level.

Scotland is unlikely to face any major military threat, although oil and gas installations in the North Sea could attract terrorist attacks and there could be conflicts over fishing areas. Scotland is unlikely to want to retain any part of Britain's nuclear deterrent. But the paper suggests ballistic missiles as a cheap alternative.

It also rules out aircraft carriers for economic reasons, but not attack submarines, frigates for maritime diplomacy, patrol vessels for fishery and oil rig protection, and minehunters to keep shipping routes open.

It envisages about eight squadrons totalling 100 aircraft, compared with the ten squadrons stationed in Scotland. It sets a "realistic minimum" of 12,500 men and women in the Scottish army, based on the six infantry battalions of the Scottish Division, with the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards and two Royal Artillery regiments. It foresees few recruitment difficulties, with 10 per cent of the navy, 13 per cent of the army, and 14 per cent of the air force coming from Scotland.

Some Thoughts On An Independent Scottish Defence Force is available from the Scottish Centre for War Studies, Glasgow University, Glasgow G12 8QQ, Pounds 2.50 including p&p.

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