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By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP have accused the anti-independence parties of being in denial as, just a day after the UK Government issued 4,000 redundancy notices to military personnel, Tory and LibDem Defence Ministers used the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee as a platform to scaremonger over Scotland’s defence industrial prospects.

SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP expressed regret that the Scottish Affairs Committee failed to use the opportunity to press the MoD over the longstanding decline in Scotland's defence footprint or ask urgent questions over recent defence job losses.

Over the previous decade, Scotland has witnessed the loss of over 11,000 service or defence related jobs, and suffers a shortfall of over £5.6 billion in defence spending.

Despite UK taxpayers funding one of the most expensive armed services in the world, during 2011 the UK had the fourth largest defence expenditure in the world, Scotland's defence footprint has been successively reduced over the years, leaving Scotland with an impoverished defence capability and fewer professional soldiers than much smaller and poorer nations.    

Instead of taking evidence on whether Scotland can be safe and secure within the UK, the Committee heard from the UK Armed Forces Minister, the Lib Dem MP Nick Harvey, who used the committee to give a repeat airing to claims made recently by Conservative Defence Minister Philip Hammond, who had said that an independent Scotland would be forced to pay the rump-UK to decommission the Trident missile system and contribute to the cost of building a replacement base elsewhere.

Although Mr Hammond's claims were ridiculed by anti-nuclear campaigners and dismissed by independent defence and legal experts, Mr Harvey asserted the claim to the Committee as fact.

For the SNP, Mr Robertson pointed out that the Committee failed to address the very real issue of the decline in Scotland's defences under the UK, which has seen Scotland fall to almost the bottom of the European league table in terms of numbers of members of the armed forces per head of population.  This is despite the fact that recruits to the UK armed forces come disproportionately from Scotland.  

Figures from the National Institute of Strategic Studies show that there are now just over 3,200 army personnel based in Scotland, only slightly more than the personnel strength of the Estonian professional armed forces.

Estonia has a population lower than that of the greater Glasgow area.  The figures for other European countries do not include conscripts in those countries which still have National Service.  Estonia retains compulsory military service and in addition to its regular army the armed forces also dispose of over 2,700 conscripts.

Denmark and Ireland, with population sizes similar to Scotland, each have approximately 8,000 professional army personnel, as does Slovenia which has less than half Scotland's population.  

Only Latvia and Moldova have fewer professional army personnel per head of population than Scotland.  Moldova retains conscription, while in Latvia all government services have been savagely cut in recent years as the post-Soviet state struggles to rebuild its ailing economy.

Even before the latest round of 4000 armed services redundancies has started to bite, Scotland lost 400 service personnel in the period between January and April 2012.  The reduction in numbers comes despite the promise of former Defence Minister Liam Fox, made in July 2011, that the UK Government anticipated the return of up to 7,000 troops returning to Scotland from Germany.

Mr Robertson said:

"There is no surprise that a committee of anti-independence politicians, taking evidence from other anti-independence politicians, will talk down Scotland's prospects. But, just a day after the UK Government made 4,000 military personnel redundant, people in Scotland will not be fooled by their scaremongering.

"Instead of confronting Tory Ministers on redundancies or the threatened cuts to our historic regiments, it is regrettable that this Commons Committee is only focused on talking down Scotland’s prospects. Ian Davidson’s partisan approach will do nothing to help the anti-independence parties.

"The starting point for this debate must be the legacy of decline in Scotland's defence footprint, which has seen the loss of more than 11,000 defence jobs and a £5.6bn underspend in Scotland over the last decade.

"This time last year the MoD claimed Scotland would be benefiting from the return of up to 7,000 personnel currently based in Germany, and investment in new purpose-built barracks at Kirknewton, near Edinburgh.  We now know defence jobs have been cut by almost 700 in just the last three months, and construction of the Kirknewton facility has been abandoned.

"Far from Scotland benefiting from a Union dividend, we have been hit again and again by a UK defence downturn.  Small independent nations across Europe maintain armies much greater than the numbers currently based in Scotland after successive UK cuts – and yet our historic army units continue to face an uncertain future.

"Figures for European nations expose the nonsense of claims that an independent Scotland would not be capable of recruiting and maintaining a defence force. They show the threat to Scotland's defence capabilities comes from successive UK Governments.

"The exact configuration of Scottish Defence Forces will be shaped by the outcome of a strategic defence review, but we can look to our European neighbours of comparable size for an indication of how the defence landscape of an independent Scotland will look.

"Indeed, our northern European neighbours all maintain appropriate military capabilities including fast jets, ocean going vessels and highly trained personnel. There is no question that Scotland could easily match those capabilities."


# hiorta 2012-06-14 07:46
Being nasty, dishonest and mercenary by stealth, while openly misleading whoever and wherever they can, is the Unionist way of life.
# daveniz 2012-06-14 10:32
I was talking to a friend in the Scots guards based in cattrick who just avoided the cut but he is telling me they are cutting more Scottish soldiers in a couple of months and he is expecting to be redundant then and that rumours going round that its because of the independance referendum that these cuts are being made which is making soldiers resent the referendum and some soldiers will be voting no because of it! I had to remind him that's what they want you to believe its westminster making the cuts and if westminster can make an excuse to get away with it they will! its daft to vote for the people who put you out of a job unless your a gluten for punishment also after Scottish independance there will be many a chance to join the Scottish army after westminster have stripped us down to the bare minimum which shouldn't have been done in the first place since Scotland share of the defence budget is higher than what is spent on Scottish soldiers, equipment etc. and reminded him do you really want a British army that cuts soldiers on a whim or a Scottish army that will grow after independance because it will have to rebuild the damage done by westminster! its really disgraceful how Scottish soldiers are getting treated now and blaming it on the referendum is as down right dirty!
# rhymer 2012-06-14 11:05
Harvey and Hammond. - the new coalition comedy double act ?
Their stupid claim is so absurd that it is worthy
of a Monty Python sketch.

( the Ministry of Silly Statements ? )
# UpSpake 2012-06-14 11:23
The UK has the most expensive military in the world simply because it comes under the remit of one of the most inefficient organisations known - the MOD.
Recent cuts in the army suggested a further 20.00 personnel loss bringing the numbers down to 80.000.
Strangely, 80.000 is the last headcount I heard of as civil servants in the MOD.
This is good as each member of the army now has their own dedicated civil servant to hold their hand.
The MOD also have a Navy with 5 Admirals for each ship.
Clearly there are too many Chiefs and not enough Indians. How much more ludicrous can this become ?.
# Dundonian West 2012-06-14 11:42
OT.I've changed my Homepage from BBC Scotland to newsnetscotland .Strongly suggest others do the same.
I have something else spontaneous I wish to say,but due to time constraints,tha t will go to my/newsnetscotland Facebook.
# Hugo 2012-06-14 12:19
"This is despite the fact that recruits to the UK armed forces come disproportionat ely from Scotland." Assuming it is a fact, then the question arises 'After endependence, where are recruits from Scotland more likely to go? The Scottish military or the rUK military?'
# doctor_zaius 2012-06-14 19:25
Their choice. I know where I will serve after the 'yes' vote!
# schawaldowris 2012-06-14 14:41
If this means that fewer young Scots are sent abroad to place their lives on the line, so that a Brtish Prime Minster can strut about a world stage in a delusion of imperial greatness, then so much the better
# Silverytay 2012-06-14 18:24
I think that the m.o.d are due us enough compensation for the contamination at Dalgety Bay , Almondbank , Rosyth , Dumfries & Galloway and other areas of Scotland that they have poisoned with complete disregard for the people of Scotland , without trying to charge us for the removal of trident .
While other nations are stopping using shells with depleted uranium due to the adverse effect they have on their own troops and land ! the m.o.d have decided to start using them again on the ranges in Dumfries & Galloway .
2014 cant come quick enough for me so that we can start rebuilding our own DEFENCE force which would suit the needs of the people of Scotland .
# J Wil 2012-06-14 20:23
I listened to some of the proceedings of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee which met, I think, on 23 May this year.

A defence analyst giving evidence said it was a myth to think that the nuclear submarines could not be moved south and that Faslane was the only place they could operate from. He sited Barrow, the navy bases on the South Coast and number of other suitable places around England. He said that the nuclear missiles could be stored at Aldermaston and moved to the coast when required.

He said the level of debate about defence matters down south was couched in ignorance.

His anecdote about a discussion he had with Navy personnel was quite humorous. When he had pointed out to them that the Scottish Government wanted to move the subs out of Scotland a Rear Admiral retorted, "we won't go".
# expat 2012-06-18 12:20
When it comes to the armed forces, size matter. Armed forces 10,000 strong are less than 1/10th as effective as armed forces 100,000 strong because as you get smaller you end up getting more and more top heavy beacuse there are a lot of jobs you need someone to do whether you are supporting 100 soldiers or 1,000,000.

Although born and brought up in Scotland and consider myself Scottish (if temporarily in England) I would not have been interested in joining a Scottish Army in the same way as I was interested in joining the British Army because I would have wanted to be deployed on effective operations, not restricted to doing garrison work in safe areas because there was not the capacity to support anything more.

I am also very concerned about the costs of setting up a Scottish Army. The MoD may be one of the most inefficient organisations known to man, but how much would it cost to set up a Scottish Sandhurst? Or a Scottish School or Artillery? Or Scottish Schools of Infantry, Engineering, Armour and so on?

And where would the Scottish Army be based? Scotland just does not have an area big enough with the right terrain to compare with somewhere like Salisbury Plain. Or if there are areas, they tend to have awkward features like towns, roads or railways in them or flight paths over them making them unusable.
# Leswil 2012-06-18 15:33
What they are doing is not a scare tactic, it is in fact an age old tactic.
Where there is any possibility of discord with the population, remove any military capability they have!

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