By a Newsnet reporter

An independent Scotland could have a thriving and exciting armed force that could evolve to integrate with the existing UK armed forces, according to a former member of the Irish Defence Force.

Declan Power, a Dublin based journalist who served in the Irish Defence Force said that such a force would still be capable of meaningful participation in conflicts around the world and that being part of a smaller force would be no barrier to those seeking promotion to top decision making jobs.

Such a force, said the Irish journalist would almost certainly maintain links with the current UK regiments as happens now with countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Mr Power said there was a still a huge number of Irishmen who still serve in UK armed forces in Irish regiments that still exist, despite Ireland's independence.  He revealed that, far from being drawn to the UK regiments because of their size and theatre of deployment, some Irishmen looked to the larger UK armed forces only after failing in a bid to join their own.

Mr Power was speaking on Newsweek Scotland following an article in the Scotsman newspaper written by MoD advisor Hew Strachan who said of an independent Scotland Armed Force:

“Belonging to an army that goes nowhere, has limited promotion opportunities and is not able to provide the latest equipment is hardly a challenge for those called to a job whose very essence rests on the appetite of young people for adventure and even risk.”

Mr Power acknowledged that the that first five years of any young officer was when they would be most keen to go into battle, but as experience grows he said, officers realise there are more challenges out there that require skills and experiences other than those needed in battle.

He explained that even in the UK Army, many military personnel were administrators who carried out a lot of dreary but essential tasks just to put one soldier into the field.

The ex-soldier challenged the view that smaller armies do not participate in the riskier theatre of war and explained that though relatively small, the Irish Army take part in a great number of overseas operations, including UN, EU and even NATO led missions despite Ireland not being a fully signed up member.

Mr Powers’ comments on NATO are particularly relevant and follow reports that the SNP are planning to debate the party’s stance on whether an independent Scotland should join the organisation - the current SNP position is not to become a full member.

He said that the reason Ireland was not a full member was, like the SNP, partly due to the organisation's nuclear weapons policy but he insisted that Ireland was very much part of the Western block of nations whose forces are configured to operate with NATO forces on a case by case basis – a position similar to France.

Mr Power suggested that an independent Scotland could evolve whatever structure best suited its needs but insisted that having an armed military force was important as an expression of nationhood.

“The Irish armed forces today, their primary role and their most successful role in modern times has been as an expression of Irish State’s foreign policy and we have been well regarded within the international community for that." he said and added:

“We have become specialists in low intensity conflicts, peacekeeping and peace enforcement and Irish and Scottish military tradition is very similar.

“We both have a very blood drenched military history but there is nothing to stop Scotland evolving its own small, potent professional military force who can become experts in this way and learn from Irish lessons, learn from Scandinavian lessons, Belgian and Dutch lessons and indeed Canada, New Zealand and Australia, there are other small militaries that have combined forces, army, navy and air corp.”

He went on:

“You could come to see the day where you would have a Scottish force in the field, maybe not a large force but a pivotal role.  You have Irish officers and NCOs involved at high levels in headquarter appointments around the world, where they are decision makers they are movers and shakers in various missions.”

Mr Power described a scenario that allowed Scottish armed force personnel to participate in exchange schemes, rotating between UK armed forces and Scottish regiments as already happens with other Commonwealth countries.

“You could write your own draft on this and it could be hugely interesting, but the benefit would be you could have a footprint internationally that says 'Scotland' and is indicative of Scottish military professionalism and Scottish foreign policy.”


# Sleekit 2012-05-14 06:54
Very good article.
# hiorta 2012-05-14 07:27
Control of Scottish military deployment by Scots is a major consideration to end generations of cannon-fodder thinking.
# bigbuachaille 2012-05-14 07:40
Imagine - an army, which doesn't need to go invading!
# proudscot 2012-05-14 10:51
Quoting bigbuachaille:
Imagine - an army, which doesn't need to go invading!

Nor would it need to go bombing and strafing another country's troops, eqipment and bases, as in the recent case of Lybia, ostensibly in support of insurgents but in reality in support of our own (and the USA's) oil companies.

And of course, it had absolutely nothing to do with regime change, did it, Wee Willie Warmonger Hague?
# border reiver 2012-05-14 07:42
Sorry to interupt this issue but the BBC proeganda M/C is at it again. On call Kaye this morning she will be saying that under the minimum pricing bill to be anounced by Nicola the price of a bottle of wine will rise to £4.30 but she is also stating that the price of a Litre bottle of whisky will be £20, what she should in fact be saying is the a standard 70cl bottle will be £13.50p she is playing on peoples perception. if anyone manages to get through it may be worth pointing this out
# UpSpake 2012-05-14 07:50
Interesting. My initial post on this article seems to have disappeared - odd ?.
Here it is again.
Searching around for a credible Defence policy for Scotland to counter the asset stripping of Scotland I find the one on the SDA web-site not only credible but workable. Equivalent countries to Scotland's size seem to average a military of around the 22000 - 26000 mark. Scotland, with its unique geographical position and massive coastline perhaps requires a different mix of capabilities than anything we might inherit from a dissolved UK. Fresh thinking as opposed to back of the fag packet thinking is needed, that is why I'm comfortable with the conceptual approach made on this by the SDA. Of-course properly costed it might have even greater resonance.
# Am Fògarrach 2012-05-15 02:38
The SDA Secority & Defense policy described by UpSpake can be easily accessed and downloaded at .../security-and-defence .
# Ard Righ 2012-05-15 20:43
I've moved on from fag packets a long time ago, the back of envelopes are much better.
# alasdairmac 2012-05-14 07:53
We all know the old joke about "where do the irish keep their army?" . answer: "Up their sleevy".

In all seriousness though, the Irish Army is a very highly regarded force, well equipped and trained. It is also possibly the top rated amongst those who serve as UN peacekeepers. We would do well to emulate them.
# breadandcheese 2012-05-14 13:39
I think the original joke is:
Where does the Earl of Cardigan keep his army? ....Up his sleevey.

A very old one. It goes back to at least the Crimean War.
# Seagetagrip 2012-05-14 08:12
Excellent interview on this very matter on Newsweek Scotland on Saturday with Derek Bateman our only friend at Pacific Quay!
# Leswil 2012-05-14 08:19
I think this is a very welcome article.
Scotland would need an adequate defence force which would eventually be a well armed effective force. It could choose it's own theatre to help or defend others in, rather than crazy global conflicts that we do not want to be involved in.
Changing with exceptional times.

A robust home defence system must also apply and all scenario's thought through, to serve the nation first, is the purpose of any army. However, this article points out that although small we can, as we always have, punch above our weight.

Our service men and women are known all over the world, the profile of the country will be raised internationally with their involvement,in causes of value.
# Seagetagrip 2012-05-14 08:31
Sorry, I should have said "one of our FEW friends at Pacific Quay" I know of atleast one other!
# Dundonian West 2012-05-14 10:58
My Gran knows four----two of them family.
# red kite 2012-05-14 09:09
Reminds me of the business adage, for a smaller player when on the field with bigger ones : "get niche or get out".
Strikes me a Scottish Defence Force could become a world leader in oil field defence work. Perfect setup here. Lots of potential for selling the services to other countries.
# ElDee 2012-05-14 10:01
Of course it can be done, but it depends on what the foreign policy will be, international organisations an Idependent Scotland would join, its commitments it has to them and how much it would cost. If an Independent Scotland was to focus on its EEZ only, then it would be much cheaper - but still effective; a bit like Ireland's set up, although a bit bigger as the EEZ would bigger (based on the current one). However if there is a more international policy,such as partnership for peace or NATO, then there would need to be greater investment in equipment. Either way t he whole naval, army and airforce systems would need to be digitally linked up and linked to coastguard, fisheries protection, emergency services, etc. THe problem might be recruitment at the moment.
# border reiver 2012-05-14 10:53
Scotlands contribution to the UK defence budget is £2.8 billion, this is required for an UK offencive force to go gerrymandering around the world. The Republic of Irelands defence budget is around £754 million. They do a decent job and are not heavily involved in World conflicts to which their people do not seem to mind. Should Scotland follow this model their is a potential saving of £2 billion. We then have a choice of an offencive armed force getting involved in colonial wars or providing the country with world class education or better infrastructure projects like or roads the NHS, or job creation schemes etc. Point is it will be our decision not Westminsters.
# xyz 2012-05-14 14:30
got a link for your 2.8 figure? .. I'm sure it's over 3 billion

Although I also read it was 3.5 billion not long ago
# FREEDOM1 2012-05-14 11:08
I am sure that a lot of Scottish Mothers and Wifes/Husbands would sleep easier at night knowing that their sons/partners are members of the Scottish Defence Force doing a credable job instead of being in extreem danger in Afganistan, trying to protect people who don,t want them there anyway. Every other day our troops are being shot by the people they are trying to protect and train. The powers that be are sitting in their posh offices and to them they (our troops) are just more cannon fodder. The ordinary man/woman in the street knows that Afganistan will revert back to the position it was in before the illegal Invasion, after britain has pulled out. What a waste of human life just to keep a bunch of medievil corrupt leaders in power. Get our soldiers out of there A.S.A.P
# Dancemaster 2012-05-14 11:52
Declan who?
# snowthistle 2012-05-14 12:00
Declan Power, - a Dublin based journalist who served in the Irish Defence Force

You can read, can't you?
# Dancemaster 2012-05-14 12:12
It was a rhetorical question. You do know what a rhetorical question is don't you? (BTW that was another rhetorical question).
# doctor_zaius 2012-05-14 18:38
A rhetorical question is one where the questioner does not expect an answer, the implication being that the answer is 'obvious'. It is usually used to emphasise a point.

It can be used as a substitute for argument, requiring no justification of itself. In this context, it is usually belittling the opposite point of view.

Do I get a prize?
# Leswil 2012-05-14 12:08
can one of our more knowledgeable tell me -
There is a reported underspend for defence in Scotland of £6.5 billon
I am sure there are many more underspend's across various areas. Not to mention the disparity of what we put in and what we get out of the "Union".
When Scotland becomes Independent and bartering is entered into, can we reclaim all that we should have got, as opposed to what did get? If we could it would be a rather sizeable chunk of money for rUK to find. Any answers?
# FromTheIsles 2012-05-14 13:53
Check out @AssetScotland on Twitter - posts snippets from the UK National Asset Register from 2007
# zinjanthropus 2012-05-14 12:14
thought you mite like to read this
# FromTheIsles 2012-05-14 13:49
We have the chance to break free above all else from the incompetence of the Westminster MoD, and create well-balanced, properly equipped forces that the nation can sustain.

Mr Strachan's cynical comments divert attention away from the running saga of RAF vs Army vs Navy in-fighting and the civil service's manipulation of the above. The UK spends billions on Cold War fighter planes, scraps useful stuff like Nimrod patrol aircraft and has the farce of aircraft carriers with no aircraft.

Ireland's Air Corps uses Army ranks and is established to support the Army as its primary task. Aviation is the tool of the Army and the Navy, not an end in itself. We will do ourselves a big favour if we eliminate internal politics have an Army & Navy only - the Army to do peacekeeping and a joined-up Navy+Coastguard to do oilfield protection, fisheries and Search & Rescue using aircraft and ships.
# Hamish100 2012-05-14 19:11
For an non-military type like me


1 NUCLEAR WARHEAD COST? v. 1000 armed forces personnel
How many nukes (wmd) does the UK currently have?
1 nuclear sub could build how many schools, hospitals?
Cost of a frigate?
non-nuclear sub? any more comparisons
# tartanfever 2012-05-14 19:32
Hamish, here's one example.

The first three 'Astute' class submarines are projected to cost £4bn (thats the latest prediction, but will probably rise)

The Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh cost £184m (£34m over budget)

So for the price of one submarine you could build 7 major new hospitals.
# FromTheIsles 2012-05-14 20:23
Costs to build ERI was £184m - BUT £60m per year to "maintain", and that's before doctor's salaries.

The Type 45 anti-aircraft destroyers cost £6.7bn for 6 ships (£1.1bn per ship)
But the Type 23 patrol frigates, more relevant for Scotland, cost £110m each

Running costs of a frigate/destroyer are around £20m per year - BUT that is ALL costs, including salaries.

So very simplistically:
ERI over 25 years = £1.5bn + NHS salaries
Type 23 over 25 years = £500m

So 1 hospital costs more than 3 frigates
# tartanfever 2012-05-14 21:58
Can you please provide any links to your figures ?

Of course with the astute class submarines, we also have to pay for arming them - all those lovely tomahwak's anyone at how many millions ?

Then after the lifespan of the submarine, there's the small matter of the nuclear bits to get rid of.

Not to mention that these are being built in England and provide very little in the way of jobs for the Scottish economy, whereas ERI employed how many from the Scottish construction industry ?

And to those NHS salaries you complain about - that'll be the salaries for all those hundreds of people employed in the ERI ? (whats the crew on a British sub ? it's 100 ) - thats why the total cost of salaries is higher in the hospital because far more people work there.

Not to mention all those lovely jobs and all that lovely tax paid by said employees going back into the government.

You were right when you said 'So very simplistically'

And of course the most important point, if we didn't build one of those subs and decided to spend it on a hospital or two, we wouldn't have had to go down the road of PFI's and being paying millions in rental/charges/interest or whatever you want to call it on top of the initial cost.
# dundie 2012-05-14 22:26
Settle down, people. It's a benefit of Union...
# FromTheIsles 2012-05-15 07:56
The intention wasn't to complain about NHS salaries, sorry if that's how it came across. However as an entirely tax-payer funded organisation it's wrong to suggest that taxes paid by doctors somehow add to the money in the Treasury - their salaries were taken out from there in the first place. For a sense of scale, NHS Lothian alone is as big as the Royal Navy (29,000 people).

The article is about the post-independence defence of Scotland - and what's actually required. We must not mix up what the UK forces own today, what Scots forces needs in future, and shipbuilding jobs. They are 3 separate topics. The UK however has tried to run a military and please BAE at the same time and has failed spectacularly - another reason for us to do it ourselves - look at the unit cost of the Type 45 (£1.1bn) vs Type 23 (£110m) - because the UK allowed BAE to try to design and build a new generation air defence destroyer.

Independent Scotland would not have any use for nuclear submarines - and we won't buy any new ones. We won't buy any Type 45 either. What we need are oilfield and fisheries patrol vessels that can fly more than one helicopter off the back. Plus proper maritime patrol aircraft all operated by the Navy-Coastguard.

Some ships can be inherited from the UK Navy, but most are useless for us - we need our share as cash in hand to acquire what we need to protect 10,000 miles of coastline and those who sail in Scottish waters - from Scottish yards/suppliers but only if they can deliver them at or very near a world-competitive price.

Type 45 costs:
Type 23 costs:
Type 23 running costs (£313 for 13 units):
# James 2012-05-15 11:19
Scotland's current PFI/PPP debt burden consists of an annual interest payment of £985 millions on a total debt of £5,076 millions.

That's quite a legacy of debt that Labour have left behind for property that we will never own. For a detailed list of all PFI/PPP projects see: .../SDA_PFI_Contracts_Scotland.pdf
# Islegard 2012-05-15 12:19
UK debt official government figures as £2.5 trillion (173% of GDP). In fact the national debt more accurately estimated by including pension liabilities, and a reasonable estimate of the likely liabilities to be incurred by the government in respect of the banking sector is actually £5.5 trillion (392% of GDP) (1 trillion = 1000 billion), over six times the size of the declared national debt.

In the calender year 2011 the UK recorded government net borrowing or a deficit of £124.6 billion, which was equivalent to 8.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

In the calendar year 2010 the UK recorded general government net borrowing or a deficit of £148.9 billion, which was equivalent to 10.2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

In the calendar year 2009 the UK recorded general government net borrowing or a deficit of £157 billion, which was equivalent to 11.3 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP).

During 2010-2011 Scotland’s deficit including a per capita share of North Sea revenue has a deficit of £10.7 billion (7.4 per cent of GDP) when a geographical share of North Sea revenue is included.
During 2009-10 Scotland’s deficit including a per capita share of North Sea revenue has a deficit of £14.0 billion (10.6 per cent of GDP) when an illustrative geographical share of North Sea revenue is included.

The simple truth is Labour have created the huge crippling debts while running at a huge deficit. Scotland has had a minimal deficit during this period. In the last 3 calender years alone the UK has added £430.5 billion to the national debt almost half a trillion just through deficit. Scotland has added just over an estimated £30 billion. That means if Scotland had been independent for the last 3 years we would be £400 billion better off. They are bleeding us dry.
# Ard Righ 2012-05-15 20:48
Better to create conditions that negate the over dependence on hospitals.
# Taysider 2012-05-14 19:13
This article is most welcome as a very constructive contribution to the debate in this area. Of course the size and structure of any Scottish Defence Force will be driven by Scottish Security and Defence Policy. While I am not proposing seeking to "punch above our weight" at all times if an independent Scotland becomes a well to do society it will I believe have a responsibility for shouldering its share of the burden in the world's trouble spots. This does not always require the deployment of forces ready and prepared for high tempo war fighting.
# James 2012-05-15 20:34
Good point in your last sentence, Taysider. Security nowadays covers a good deal more than the purely military. Possibly the most successful security institution of all time is the 56-member Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is purely diplomatic in nature.

It is the world's largest regional security institution (twice the size of the EU), and in fact was mainly responsible for ending the Cold War and drastically reducing all the military forces in Europe - by diplomatic means with no lives lost in combat.

As a Chapter VIII organisation under the United Nations Charter the OSCE also represents Europe at the United Nations and reports on Europe to the Security Council. It has 16 peace missions settling disputes all over Europe at this moment with no military involvement.

So you see that, in this new globalised age, it is not necessary to be armed to the teeth in order to guarantee peace and security. Force will on occasion be necessary when diplomacy hits the buffers, and for this reason armed forces are not yet redundant, but the occasions where their use may be necessary are becoming fewer.

Membership of the OSCE, and its military counterpart NATO, will be essential for Scotland. This is stressed in the SDA's relevant policy that can be read on its website (.../security-and-defence). Security is now a global issue, and there can be no security for even the largest state in an insecure world.
# Ard Righ 2012-05-15 20:50
There is no security, it delusional paranoia, you have been brain washed.
# mealer 2012-05-14 20:13
A very good article.Before the referendum the YES campaiign will have to publish a fully costed strategy for defence.And they will.
# Dcanmore 2012-05-14 22:28
Even if the SNP come up with an astute, robust and imaginative defence policy and strategy, it will be guaranteed the MSM will debate it on their own terms, and report it as weak, defenceless, incoherent, expensive and unworkable nationalist rubbish. The so-called experts and opinionators will be trotted out to support the Unionist agenda with weeks of 'Salmond accused' and 'SNP attacked' headlines.

And that goes for every other idea or policy the SNP will reveal over the next two years leading up to the referendum.
# K Mackay 2012-05-15 04:16
Fair point, anyone got any rough idea what it would cost to get NNS into print? It would be amazing to have our side go out semi-mainstream, with all the other papers goin down the toilet who knows, maybe it could fill a gap in the market. A pro-independence voice is so desperately needed in the print media. This website is fantastic, I can't thank the folks who keep it running and full of up to the minute articles enough but it's probably not the sort of thing you stumble across unless your already pro-indy.

If full on big-scale printing is out of the question, what's the copyright setup with NNS? could we all print out the articles we find most useful and important and distribute them at work, on the bus, in the chippy etc? All this is too good to be wasted on just us 'cybernats'.

Great article too btw :)
# Dcanmore 2012-05-15 10:23
I think the first port of call is to donate to this website to keep it going and allow it to expand, especially into social media. Perhaps an internet TV channel via You Tube with one on one interviews and discussions.

As a production editor working in publishing a 24 page newspaper, with a weekly circulation of 50,000, costs (with print, circulation and staff) around £7000 per issue.
# Ard Righ 2012-05-15 20:41
"We have become specialists in low intensity conflicts, peacekeeping and peace enforcement"
Hired killer "new speak" for "war with out nuclear weapons"

Trigger happy foreign policy imperialists, no thanks.

One tradition that has remained consistent since the attack of the Romans and latterly the Germans (English). Is that we have been defending our decreasing territories, such defence should be maintained.

I long to see a border with Cymru again.

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