It’s one of the more striking aspects of the No campaign that no matter how many panicky editorials appear in right-wing papers bemoaning the fact that their neverending litany of negativity and scaremongering is proving counter-productive (we don’t even bother linking to them any more, there are so many), and no matter how many kickings “Better Together” takes from its own side (the firmly anti-independence Independent columnist Katie Grant was especially scathing on “Headlines” last weekend), the negativity just keeps pouring out.
So of necessity, we try to keep things brief in order to keep up. With that in mind, let’s see how quickly we can deal with today’s media orgy on the subject of defence.
1. Phillip Hammond, the UK Defence Secretary used to insist that an independent Scotland wouldn’t just be handed defence equipment – ships, planes etc – as its “share” of UK forces:
“The UK armed forces are a highly integrated and very sophisticated fighting force. The idea that you can sort of break off a little bit, like a square on a chocolate bar and that would be the bit that went north of the Border, is frankly laughable.”
2. But apparently that’s no longer the case. It seems that now we would, and that that would (surprise!) be a terrible thing for all concerned:
3. Having naval forces permanently based in Scotland would be detrimental to the ability of the UK to contribute to NATO’s defence of the North Atlantic, as well as to Scotland’s own security:
“The UK is deeply respected for its maritime contribution to Nato, with its maritime deterrent through its ships and submarines and marines, and that whole piece is part of Nato’s contribution to security.
While the continuing United Kingdom would eventually adapt and cope, the deeper impact would be felt in Scotland, which would no longer have access of right to the security contribution of one of the finest and most efficient navies in the world.”
4. Except that it’s rather difficult to see how independence could lead to anything but an improvement in that situation, given that no Scottish vessel could ever plausibly be 24 hours away from a foreign incursion:
5. We’re not sure whether or not we’re still expected to believe that given the dangerous hole that would supposedly be created in NATO’s defence screen by an independent Scotland, NATO would nevertheless obstruct and delay Scotland’s membership of the organisation for an untold number of years:
“Senior Nato officials have warned Alex Salmond’s government that an independent Scotland would be barred from joining Nato if there were any disputes over the basing of nuclear weapons on the Clyde.”
6. This seems particularly unlikely in the light of the New York Times report last year that the USA actually wanted the UK to abandon Trident and spend the money on conventional forces instead:
“While the United States would like to be able to rely more on its European allies, many experts doubt that even the strongest among them, Britain and France, could carry out their part of another Libya operation now, and certainly not in a few years. Both are struggling to maintain their own nuclear deterrents as well as mobile, modern armed forces.
So, to recap: an independent Scotland wouldn’t get a share of UK defence equipment, except it would, and that would damage its ability to protect both Scottish and NATO interests, even though it would result in warships being permanently in Scottish waters and therefore able to react to hostile presences much more quickly than UK forces which are no longer adequate for the job, and NATO would block Scottish membership on the grounds of Trident being ejected from Faslane, even though the US doesn’t want the UK to continue to have Trident at all.
That seems to cover the basics quite snappily. Any questions?