By Mark McNaught
In the United States, think tanks litter the post-apocalyptic political landscape.  For every policy debate, there is some group of 'experts' with 'institute' or 'foundation' in their name ready with a statistic tailor-made to sway public opinion.
While some of these conduct valid empirical research, many others are funded by billionaires like the Koch brothers who seek to apply an academic veneer to their fascist neoliberal ideology.

Those who conduct 'research' and write 'reports' for these think tanks are already aware what their conclusions must be.  For example, for any 'study', a CATO Institute 'scholar' will invariably reach the conclusion that government is bad and the free market is good.  If he doesn't, he's out of a job.

Scotland … welcome to the world of millionaire-funded think tanks.  You've made it…baby!

The 'Scotland Institute' was launched by Alistair Darling a year ago, and funded by multi-millionaire Azeem Ibrahim.  Fortunately, 'Better Together' campaign manager Blair McDougall has reassured us that "It's not our vehicle, we are not owners of it, but it's helpful to the cause." 

But to what extent could a 'report' conducted by the 'Scotland Institute' be objective and thereby helpful to 'Better Together', rather than a scare-story howitzer which will backfire.  I invite you to read for yourself Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland

While the number of false assumptions could fill a tipper truck, the equestrian faeces contained within plops into at least three broad thematic heaps.

The first is that if Scotland becomes independent, they will no longer be able to play the global role the UK has played in military affairs.  Scotland is way too weak, too wee, and too poor to project their military might throughout the world as the UK has.

What the report fails to consider is whether an independent Scotland actually wants to play the UK role of 'airstrip one' (Orwell's 1984), sycophantically aiding the US to invade countries around the world, exploit its resources, or simply knock off governments they don't like.  After all, the US learned from the master, who is now their servant. 

Maybe Scots would like to carve out a more benevolent strategic niche commensurate with their values.

The second is that NATO would not forgive Scotland for leaving the UK, to the point where they would not allow Scotland to join, even though they are already members as part of the UK.

The idea that an independent Scotland would be excluded from NATO, as if it were akin to the former Soviet bloc, is preposterous.  Even if it did, Scotland could simply not seek to join, which would enjoy significant Scottish support.  What relevance does NATO have in this day and age, anyway?

Although there is stiff competition, perhaps the most outlandish claim is that Scotland would lose out on billions in military contracts, and that there is "no reason to think that independence would be good for Scotland's defence industry". 

Independence has the strong potential to redefine and reinvigorate its defence industry, and allow Scotland to focus on producing the conventional equipment necessary to assure its new military posture: a non-nuclear responsible global citizen.  Clyde ship building could see a renaissance, not only to supply ships for Scotland's navy but also to pursue contracts with other nations.

In addition, Scotland could redefine military procurement rules and contracts to eliminate the horrendous fraud and cost overruns which are endemic within the UK, i.e. US, defence industry.  Scotland can begin with a blank slate, exert much greater oversight over the procurement process, and have strict anti-corruption rules which will prevent the emergence of a dominant military industrial complex.

Cringingly, the author of the foreword asserts that "Scots are indeed a warrior race".  Yes, Scots have historically been impressed as cannon fodder for British imperial ambitions, but this caricature is hard to square with the most delightful and empathetic people I have ever known.

This 'Scotland Institute' obsession with lobbing scare-stories clearly demonstrate that it is unequipped to meaningfully contribute to an objective debate over independence defence issues.

But that is not its purpose.  Rather, the 'Scotland Institute' seeks to lend military might to the 'Better Together' campaign, well aware that politicians and media outlets like the Scotsman and the BBC will parrot their findings without scrutiny.

'Better Together' and its backers know that few reporters, politicians, or citizens will ever take the trouble to actually read it and judge for themselves.  Calling it a 'leading think tank' confers about as much credibility as the advertising slogan 'as seen on TV'.

Bear this in mind as the 'Scotland Institute' and other hastily contrived think tanks attempt to influence the independence debate.  Shield yourself by knowing exactly what think tanks are, who funds them, and how they operate.

Scots deserve a well-informed debate over its military future post-independence, rather than shills from a scare-story howitzer.

Mark McNaught is a member of the Constitutional Commission and an Associate Professor of US Civilisation at the University of Rennes 2 France. He also teaches US constitutional law at Sciences-Po Paris.


# clootie 2013-06-29 08:22
Good article Mark.

Unfortunately another negative political import from the experts across the pond. It works over there because it is negative against negative. I still think Alex is correct to go with a positive campaign / argument.

I think society suffers when the choice is a selection based upon which is the worst option to reject rather than the best option for our future.

Personal attacks / false accusations / false data / sound bites / Image management etc - no wonder people don't turn out to vote.
# ButeHouse 2013-06-29 12:25
Excellent article but wasted on the majority of readers here most of whom will be pro Independence.

We must find ways of getting articles like these into the mainstream.

The assertion that Scotland would NOT BE ABLE to wage war willy nilly is true but the answer WOULD WE WANT TO? is a match winner, but no use if this game is played behind closed doors.

O/T. Some leading Wimbledon type was being interviewed by Sue Barker when Jamie Baker's retirement came up, the guy referred to him as an 'ANOTHER FORMER SCOT'.

Presumably they have a policy of English-ing the Murray's, Bakers and Flemming's of the tennis world.

PREDICTION: A YES Vote will kill their 2nd roof for at least another 10 years. Without Scottish revenues they couldn't afford it.

We might then be able to bring some Scottish venues up to major competition standard.

VOTE YES in 445 days
# Moridura 2013-06-29 16:16
I was at the press launch, asked the first question (or rather made an observation!) wrote two blogs on it, and a third still to come, Mark

and posted my question and the whole launch on audio on YouTube


Peter Curran
# BraverHeart 2013-06-29 16:39
Don’t ever let the facts get in the way:

1. “The 'Scotland Institute' was launched by Alistair Darling a year ago”

It was also launched by Jim Mather (former SNP MSP and Minister for Enterprise and Energy) who welcomed it. A fact, which you conveniently omitted.
# snowthistle 2013-06-29 20:08
Alistair Darling is listed as the key-note speaker. Certainly gets far higher billing than Jim Mather who is listed behind Jackson Carlaw and Jo Swinson.
# BraverHeart 2013-06-29 18:11
Everyone of these allegations against the report are rebutted in this piece by the reports author:
# snowthistle 2013-06-29 20:13
Suggests that an indy Scotland's negotiating position would be so poor that we would not inherit any defence assets yet Scotland would have to compromise Re Trident. I find that unlikely.

There are quite a few things in the response that I find unlikely.
# BraverHeart 2013-06-29 20:40
Well he does not say that. I know you did not read the report but please do read the full piece.

He says inheritance will not be automatic (as suggested by the SNP) but will be tough as Westminster not likely to give up assets easily. Please show me where in the piece the author says Scotland will get nothing. The word nothing does not appear once in the whole piece.

Also, on the Trident issue he is spot on. You can only get rid of it if it has somewhere to go.

I also noticed you did not address any of the other points but are happy to argue semantics now that the author has destroyed your top arguments with clinical detail.

There is no point attacking the messenger. You need to focus your energy on the SNP leadership who are making a complete mess of this once in a lifetime opportunity with their lies and half baked policies (eg we have EU legal advice)
# snowthistle 2013-06-29 21:53
My point was that if they contend that Scotland cannot get rid of Trident (and it could be disarmed relatively easily) then surely that would considerably strengthen Scotland's negotiating position? Or are they arguing that Scotland would host another country's nuclear weapon without negotiating anything in return?
# Breeks 2013-06-30 03:58
This is a Unionist think tank which presumes itself to be an authority on telling us all what to think. Its the usual sheep in wolves clothing.

Don't shoot the messenger Braverheart? You can call Alex Salmond a liar until you're red white & blue in the face but it still won't make it true.

England, or rUK will not hold all the cards in post YES negotiations. If you believe they will, then you're as deluded as the Scotland Institute without the good sense to keep quiet about it.

The Scotland Institute also has a massive problem with its integrity since it is painfully transparent to everybody why it exists.

There is also a curious phenomenon developing among unionists where everything Alistair Darling touches turns to gold like some King Midas touch. Mr Darling may have the touch alright, but not for turning things to gold.
# Clydebuilt 2013-06-29 21:51
great article

O/T when is John Pilger going to comment on the referendum.
haven't managed to come find anything using google.

Yes we have to get these articles out to a wider audience..

When leafletting I ad in a page of A4 with details of NNS, Wings Over Scotland and Bellacaledonia
# Moridura 2013-06-30 07:21
Dr.Ibrahim has not rebutted a word I have for the simple reason that I have not yet got round to the specifics of the report.
My position, from my direct statement to him at the launch through my two blogs, is to challenge frontally his assertion that he and the Scotland Institute are bi-partisan. They quite patently are not, and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous, as the slightly hysterical tone taken by their supporters such as BraverHeart makes clear
As for Jim Mather's presence on the panel - Azeem Ibrahim is careful to include token representation from the independence side, but the composition of the panel and the choice of keynote speaker left little doubt where the Scotland Institute saw itself.

(Jim Mather, for his own best reasons, pops up in odd company for a former SNP Minister, e.g. he is also on the advisory board of Reform Scotland, a 'think tank' dedicated to advocating devo-plus and opposing full independence.)
# Roll_On_2011 2013-06-30 08:03
The banner for Scotland Institutes website opines:

We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation – Voltaire

After doing a Google I found the following Voltair quotes:

“ It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere “

“ The art of government is to make two-thirds of a nation pay all it possibly can pay for the benefit of the other third. “

And the most appropriate one:

Injustice in the end produces independence.

The UK has an abundance of talking heads think tanks many of which are not worth the money that underpins them and more often than not have a hidden agenda and/or are merely the messenger for the people whom pay them. In the UK money talks…. So to speak (excuse the pun).
# Moridura 2013-06-30 09:14
Despite my earlier comment about Jim Mather (who has always been on the right of the SNP) today's development - his backing of Jimmy Reid Foundation's 'Common Weal' project is fascinating - and welcome.
# Moridura 2013-06-30 16:39
More on Scotland Institute Defence and Security report here



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