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Wings Over Scotland

Heroes of the neighbourhood

Posted on July 03, 2013 by

It’s quite difficult to construct a rational case for why an independent Scotland would need an army at all. A couple of battalions for emergencies can’t hurt, but beyond that level ground forces are something of an affectation for a small country like ours.

Given Scotland’s location, the threat of invasion is essentially zero. Only one nation has attempted to invade Scotland in the last thousand years – the sole country with which we have a land border – and we doubt that even the wildest fringes of the nationalist movement really think England would try it again in the forseeable future.


(And if they did, frankly, the biggest army we could plausibly hope to ever field would have very little chance of stopping them. Ditto Russia, China, North Korea, Guatemala, giant space dinosaurs or whoever the latest Project Fear fantasy bogeyman is.)

Nevertheless, we’re a bit confused by the dire warnings currently being issued by all and sundry regarding the difficulty of recruiting soldiers to such a force.

On numerous occasions this year alone, various old brigadier types and right-wing “think tanks” alike have put forward the notion that life in the Scottish Defence Force would be too boring for the average squaddie, and that most of the troops in the current Scottish regiments would want to stay in the British Army after independence, so they could go to Afghanistan and be excitingly shot at or have their legs blown off in inadequately-armoured Land Rovers.

It’s a strange assertion. We have no figures to hand on what the proportion of army recruits who join up for the thrill of killing and being killed – rather than because they’re short of other employment options or just fancy the camaraderie and learning a trade – is, so we won’t speculate about what it might be.

But for the sake of argument, let’s assume – against our better judgement – that the assertions of the Unionists are true for a moment. Let’s say that current Scottish troops really ARE only interested in combat service, and that they all elect to stay in the British Army after independence. What then?

Firstly, of course, it’s great news for the Scottish economy, with thousands of extra job vacancies suddenly becoming available. The new troops will be inexperienced for a couple of years, but since we’ve established that there’s no military threat to Scotland from anyone that’s not a very big deal.

With a non-interventionist foreign policy minimising the chances of dying thousands of miles from home at the age of 19 or coming back as a traumatised wreck, the Scottish Defence Force would offer all the fun and skills-learning of army life portrayed in all the recruitment ads, but with almost none of the killed-or-horribly-maimed downsides.

It certainly seems to work for Ireland, which has no trouble filling its ranks and seems to offer an obvious model for Scotland to copy. Small nations like the Irish manage to contribute to UN peacekeeping operations and the like, so there’d still be opportunities for seeing the world and for Scotland to play its part in the global community – but at a proportional and appropriate level, eschewing the creepy lingering British imperial fetish for “punching above our weight”.

(It hardly seems worth even pointing out that an honourable peacekeeping role would be considerably less likely to make Scotland the target of terrorist attacks than constantly stomping around the planet sticking our noses into other people’s business uninvited, which would be another boon.)

With oil resources to protect and a globally-strategic position, Scotland would have more need of an air force and (especially) a navy than an army, again providing its young men and women with a more exotic career path as a pilot or sailor than working in a bank or building site, but with minimal risk to life and limb – we’re pretty sure Al-Qaeda doesn’t have any destroyers or a fleet of fighter jets, and we can’t recall the last time we read of terrorists actually attacking an oil rig anywhere in the world.

Today’s Herald reports that the Scottish Government is considering a plan which would offer recruits a job for life, rather than the highly uncertain future of the current UK armed forces, which are being reduced in number by tens of thousands by the coalition government over the coming years. Frankly, a post in the Scottish Defence Force sounds like a pretty attractive deal to us.

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59 to “Heroes of the neighbourhood”

  1. HandandShrimp says:

    In all this kerfuffle it is important bear in mind that Hammond is a pompous, bullying bell end that thinks he can tell the aborigines in Scotland exactly what to do and how many beads they will get for their land.
    Nothing he says is grounded in any sort of reality or anything approaching humility…and they wonder why we don’t vote for them.

  2. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    “We can’t recall the last time we read of terrorists actually attacking an oil rig anywhere in the world”

    It was 2010
    Still, theres a difference between Nigerian seas and the North Sea. But in all honesty its more likely Greenpeace they need to worry about…

  3. Scott Minto (Aka Sneekyboy) says:

    Dont hold back… tell it how it is… 😉

  4. Stevie says:

    Yes, more endless BritNat bunkum.  Thry just go on and on and on and on and on…

    The Scottish electoratemay be sucking it uo, believing the propaganda for the time being but come the referendum campaign run up when people are actually listening, this will all seem like a bucket of bllx.

    The last 6 months is when people will look at the referendum +s and -s and weigh up the score.

    The BritNats are already celebrating their victory — always adding the catch phrase – we’re confident but not complacent; they are totally complacent and arrogant if they think people wil swallow their drivel and then they’ll go mental saying any old garbage in the last month.

  5. HandandShrimp says:

    I dunno – I just have to read a paragraph by him and I go off the deep end.
    In an effort to be un BBC like and balanced I will say he is on a very steep learning curve on all matters military.

  6. Max says:

    An interesting historical parallel is when the Royal Scots Navy, of more than 600 years standing, finally merged with the English Royal Navy after 1707.  Most of the Scottish naval officers left with the bulk taking up positions in Russia’s new navy. Indeed one Commodore Gordon ended up as the commander-in-chief of the Baltic Fleet. 
    I would imagine that many of the men and officers in the current British armed forces would see the setting up of a Scottish Defence Force as an opportunity for further advancement and security of employment. 
    You don’t need to fight wars to be a good soldier. 

  7. You gotta laugh but when it comes to it, it’s none of their feckin business what Scotland does after independence, as for the threat to veto us joining NATO if we don’t keep the nukes, would be nice if that convinces a few more undecided’s to vote yes and at the same time it tells Westminster where they can stick their threats.

  8. Andy-B says:

    Good piece Rev
    As you say even if UK troops didnt want to join  a Scottish armed Forces we’d still be able to fill the positions of a modest armed forces, of course project fear have enlisted The Henry Jackson Society, to try and punch holes in the SNP’s ideas for a Scottish Defence Force, (Source Newsnet Scotland)..However the most senior Royal Navy Officer in Scotland,retired Rear Admiral, Martin Alabaster, says, Scotlands plan for a defence force is feasible, an who are we, or project fear, to argue with a Rear Admiral.

  9. BrianMc says:

    I ‘Joined up’ in 1962. Only place I could get a job. (Eden, McMillan). I wonder how many of today’s Service folk joined for similar reasons?

  10. fittie says:

    under the uk govt Scottish regiments cant get enough Scots to join up ,thats why these regiments have to recruit abroad so its the uk who are short of Scots recruits

  11. Marker Post says:

    Talking of sticking our noses into other people’s business, a must-watch video of Craig Murray talking at Yes Scotland meeting in Morningside, found in a Newsnet article from the weekend:

    The things the UK government does in our name.

  12. scottish_skier says:

    I wonder if Scots soldiers fighting for an rUK army would be entitled to rUK citizenship.

    They might want to consider the problems the Gurkhas have had on this front.

    That and the fact they’ll be considered cannon fodder. Jeez as part of the union Scots soldiers have been considered far more expendable that English ones; imagine the case if they were ‘Johnny Foreigners’. ‘No British soldiers were killed in the battle [only some mercenary jocks]’.

  13. Allan28 says:

    Those arguing that a life in the British army is so exciting that no-one would want to pass it up seldom seem to mention the difficulties which it has had recruiting from Britain in the recent past. Significant numbers of personnel were accordingly recruited from other countries – large numbers from Fiji for example. Although I don’t have accurate figures to hand, I have seen it suggested that approx. 10% of the strength of the standing army are not British nationals.
    I do accept that the recruitment position may have changed or be changing as a consequence of the current economic depression.

  14. Vronsky says:

    That needed said Rev – I’ve usually been afraid to express the same idea myself.  The primary function of armed forces is to protect the elite from its own people (look at Egypt right now).  Threatening foreigners, or responding to their threats is seldom required.  I’m with the All Quiet on the Western Front character who said, ‘if our leaders want to fight, let them go into a field in their underpants’.
    “I wonder how many of today’s Service folk joined for similar reasons?”

    It’s an ancient story.

  15. Andy-B says:

    @marker Post
    Thanks for posting the Craig Murray speech, it was very enjoyable and quite amusing especially the BBC headlines, and in particular, the warning about renewable energy, in which the BBC instigate that after independence somehow the wind will stop forever.

  16. Tattie-boggle says:

    Imagine that being able to move up the ranks despite your accent or education

  17. big_al says:

    I really don’t understand the constant rubbishing of Scotland’s ideas and plans come independence. Defence is yet another topic which is sneered and laughed at.
    I think what riles them and gets up their nose is that we can and will do what we want. We don’t have to follow the ‘british’ blueprint for our armed forces, which was made abundantly clear at yesterdays defence committee q&a’s
    In the recent spending review, most departments etc faced cuts to funding except the intelligence services, where funding increased and the police anti-terrorism budget which stayed the same. Do they know something they’re not telling us?
    How many terrorist attacks have there been in the uk since 1970? I’ve lost count.
    It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out why there have been so many.
    The longer we are tied to the uk establishment the longer we go on being a target.
    Which ties in with some of the other claims of late.
    You wouldn’t be able to have an MI5/6 like we do etc. Well, would we really want to?

  18. It’s handy then that MOD(UK) made a battalion’s worth of soldiers redundant in Scotland last month alone. We’ve already got a fair pool of recruits to pick from.

  19. Vronsky says:

    @Marker Post
    Woops!  Careful with that truth stuff! Morag is going to be on in a minute, tinfoil headscarf clamped firmly over the curlers.  What’s happening is what the BBC tells you is happening.  They wouldn’t lie.  What’s happening is what the BBC tells you is happening. They wouldn’t lie. What’s happening is…

  20. M4rkyboy says:

    To me,all a military installation presents is an expensive target to destroy and a reason to attack.Personally i would like a combination of the Swiss and Icelandic models with a moderate Navy/Coastguard,a moderate standing Army of full-time Professionals to include special forces and a militia system for all suitable adult males.
    Odds of happening-zero.But i can dream 🙂

  21. Tattie-boggle says:

    I’m pretty sure Scotland could come up with some experts in the navy as it’s in the blood . All you have to do is look at Cochrane,_10th_Earl_of_Dundonald
    A navigational genius and a nutcase
    The union turned on him and fed him to the wolves but the man is still a hero in the south America’s

  22. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “Woops! Careful with that truth stuff! Morag is going to be on in a minute, tinfoil headscarf clamped firmly over the curlers.”

    Can the two of you keep this stuff out of normal threads, please? Ta.

  23. Green Giant says:

    Has anyone actually read the Scotland Insitute’s Defence Report?
    It does put forward some pretty compelling arguments from a certain point of view.

    However it is the point of view of a bully, that cannot countenance a passive way of life.

    The core arguments in that document (that I have just finished trawling through) are that r-UK will make life difficult for IS at every conceivable turn and that we will be leaving ourselves open to threat.

    At no point did the document take a step back and acknowledge that the major threat to security in the UK is its adoption of a Neo-Conservative policy of foreign meddling borne from a greedy Neo-Liberal economic basket case that can’t help itself.

    Can someone somewhere set up a think tank that acknowledges peaceful countries don’t get threatened by anyone except big bullies.
    Is bullying rampant at Eton?

  24. big_al says:

    Is bullying rampant at Eton?
    I’ve heard bashing is.

  25. M4rkyboy says:

    OT but you got a little mention in the Daily Mail today Stu.Want sure if you were aware?

  26. The Man in the Jar says:

    I left the army in 1985 after 16 years service so my views will be well out of date. Having said that if I was still serving and the opportunity to serve in a Scottish army arose it would be a case of “Where do I sign and how soon dose it happen?”
    I could list lots of reasons to join a Scottish Defence Force. The main one being not having my cadaver paraded through the streets of Wootton Bassett draped in a butcher’s apron.
    A wee tip for anyone considering joining the SDF. Join the Air Force it is the only branch of the forces where the enlisted men and women stay back in the barracks and send the officers off to fight. You can’t argue with that logic!

  27. The Man in the Jar says:

    Of course Stu got a mention in the Daily Mail after all he is the leader of Scotland’s new biggest party!

  28. The Scottish Air Force would as part of NATO most likely be asked to take part in the Baltic Air Policing:
    (This is neither an argument for or against independence per se, just an example of the duties that would most likely be a result of being part of NATO.)

  29. M4rkyboy says:

    It says the Cybernats are an army, which would make Stu Generalissimo as well as dear Leader of the largest political party in Scotland.King Stu in effect.

  30. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Daily Mail?

  31. M4rkyboy says:

    A small column Stu.
    Rod Stewart has been subjected to offensive abuse from the online army of ‘Cybernats’ after raising concerns over independence.
    The 68yr-old singer was abused by them after he said he would ‘hate to see the union broken after all these years’.
    Twitter user grl@wotanson wrote ‘just for the record rod stewart isn’t really Scottish hes London born and bred but that’s unionists for you’.
    wingsoverscotland@wingsscotland said ‘i shouldn’t comment on independence says clueless tw*t commenting on independence’.
    Scottish Tory chief whip John Lamont said ‘ this is yet another unwarranted attack on someone who is merely expressing an opinion on the biggest decision facing Scotland for 300yrs.It’s high time Alex Salmond came out and properly condemned such offensive language’.
    An SNP spokesman said ‘Rod Stewart also said he would be ‘happy’ if independence is good for Scotland.But denigration of people has no place in the referendum debate,whether those doing it support Yes or No.All debate needs to be a positive one’.

  32. kininvie says:

    In truth, independence also gives us an opportunity to re-think the whole structure of our armed forces. Anyone noticed that conventional forces don’t do too well these days against the chaps with the donkeys and the sandals? And that from about 1260 onwards, we were in the donkey and sandals camp, by and large, and managed not too badly – apart from a lot of bickering? Time to re-learn a few lessons, and go small and sneaky, if you ask me. We can keep a batallion for ceremonial purposes and rent it out to the French to guard their head of state again, as we once did. But other than that, let’s ditch the large-scale stuff and apply some imagination…

  33. Andy-B says:

    According to Radio Scotland news, quite a few TA bases across Scotland are to be closed 26 overall, across the UK are to get the chop, those TA’s that survive will be called the Army Reserves instead of the familiar name TA, the SNP have hit out that, Scotland is suffering disproprtionate defence cuts, Amid farcical scenes, MP’s were not given a list of names of the bases to close, until several minutes afte Phil Hammond had stopped speaking, …the second part was taken from the Herald Newspaper, with Ian Bells stern napper staring right at me…creepy.

  34. orkers says:

    I regret to say it’s one of the reasons that the Unionist love of the armed services turns me off. I’m all for the having a standing army for defence of the homeland and so on, but I can’t for the life of me understand the almost pathological obsession they seem too have regarding the glorious dead in past conflicts. Sometimes we as a Nation have to fight, as we did in 1939 -46, but War isn’t glorious it’s hell on earth. As the Rev knows I’m a Rangers Fan, but it’s one of the gripes I have with a sizeable section of our support who attach Queen, Loyalism/Unionism and the armed forces in an indivisible manner. I can put up with the monarchy if it’s what the majority wants, but I can’t understand the fixation with the UK armed forces and the apparent willingness they have for our young men to fight and die in England’s countless overseas adventures. Say that to them, as I have and the abuse is vitriolic. 

  35. The Man in the Jar says:

    Woo Hoo some of those swivel-eyed comments in the Daily Mail defence article take some beating.

  36. Adrian B says:

    For more on Todays Westminster Defence cuts, have a look at Angus Robertson’s twitter feed :

  37. No you can't says:

    Henry Jackson Society, what a set of dudes.
    Are they like the Jackson 5?
    Faslane is in the South West of Scotland apparently and the oil rigs that need defended against ninja warrior attacks are in the North Sea .  Jings what will we do, how will the boats get to the North Sea? 
    I’m at a loss, could someone tell me if boats can work on water, maybe even sail round to the North Sea?  Could any of them stay at sea for a prolonged period? Would that be possible in an independent Scotland? 
    I’ll stop now

  38. Yesitis says:

    Woo Hoo some of those swivel-eyed comments in the Daily Mail defence article take some beating.
    Yep. You know, being Scottish, I don`t know why we bother getting out of bed in the morning; such is the pointlessness of our existence  🙂

    Oh I nearly forgot – Well done, Andy!

  39. Atypical_Scot says:

    Scotland would have more need of an air force and (especially) a navy than an army
    If God wanted us to fly, we’d have wings, if he’d wanted us to swim, we’d have fins and if he wanted us to have oil, he’d of put it effin closer. 

  40. lumilumi says:

    He he, “Project Fear” scare stories get sillier by the day, week, month, whatever.
    Finland is a small independent country, our neighbour is mighty USSR/Russia and still most Finns don’t even want to be members of NATO (although some of the parties in the right are flirting with the idea). So if, in the modern times, Finland can exist peacefully next to Russia, why couldn’t Scotland exist next to rUK/England – especially as your land border is very short compared to the one we have with Russia. 😀
    OT: Being an Andy Murray fan isn’t very good for the blood pressure! 😀 He’s through to the Wimbledon semi-finals, but losing the first two sets, then taking the third 6-1 and letting sets 4 & 5 go to the wire… But I like his down-to-earth, realistic attitude. Live@Wimbledon radio interviewer asked about playing lower-ranked players and Andy said, it’s you (press) who’re saying that. I know they all are very, very, very good players.

  41. The Man in the Jar says:

    The ones going on about England having to pay for an Independent Scotland’s armed forces show a rather poor grasp on reality. I had to laugh at the Scots marching south to Southwell? where we sold our “king” Charles Edward Stuart to the English.

  42. Yesitis says:

    I loved this bit of Andy Murray Twitter Banter. Spot the apologetic boaktastic Britnats

  43. Erchie says:

    “We can’t recall the last time we read of terrorists actually attacking an oil rig anywhere in the world”
    1979. Luckily Roger Moore was there to save the day

  44. Yesitis says:

    Yes, you could say it is a case of keech central station.

  45. handclapping says:

    The bit I enjoy is that these “experts” are the guys who have brought the British forces to the sorry state that they are in. I’m sure that if they were to refight the Somme the only difference they would make would be to equip us with red coats and have us advance in parade order in slow time.

  46. Westminster Defence Committee: How many soldiers would an independent Scotland have on the border?
    Keith Brown: How many English soldiers will be on the border?

  47. Taranaich says:

    Only one nation has attempted to invade Scotland in the last thousand years
    I’m sure some insufferable pedant like me would bring up the Scottish-Norwegian war, but considering that was more a case of the two countries contesting ownership of the Hebrides, and Haakonsson’s fleet scuppered at Largs wasn’t an invasion force per se, the statement holds true. Certainly the only actual attempts to invade Scotland with the intent to hold and rule are war-happy elites, much like the war-happy elites we’re stick with these days.Why did I bother bringing it up when the statement is essentially correct? Because I’m an insufferable pedant, I already told you that. I don’t have a problem, I can quit any time I want.

  48. lumilumi says:

    But it’s good to have pedants, setting the recod straight. YESsers want truth, transparency and all that. The things the murky Project Fear shy away from. 🙂

  49. velofello says:

    Great article Rev. It needs to be broadcast throughout Scotland.
    i’d jump at the chance to join a Scottish Defence Force with a policy of defence and peace-keeping activities. Trouble is, I’m at the wrong end of the age scale.

  50. lumilumi says:

    Hey, the most surprising people get “drafted”. My female friend, early forties, blind, when she got her radio amatuer licence, she got propositioned by the Finnish defence forces. The long and short of the story is that if Finland ever went to war again, she’d be drafted into the comms department because she can do old-fashioned Morse code and operate a radio. Few of the cyber generation can 😀

  51. velofello says:

    @ lumilumi: i think that is lateral thinking by the Finnish defence forces, or something. A nice wee tale.

  52. Kenny Campbell says:

    If Scotland is so easy to invade and colonize then why does it still exist….. tactically speaking the border is small so invasion across it would actually not be so easy.
    Lots of barriers . e.g rivers, mountains moorland, forest, progress could easily be made very difficult. Not to mention a potentially belligerent population, well more so than usual.
    We need to wire up all the bridges with demolition charges like the Swiss do 🙂

  53. Midgehunter says:

    velofello says:

    “Great article Rev. It needs to be broadcast throughout Scotland.
    i’d jump at the chance to join a Scottish Defence Force with a policy of defence and peace-keeping activities. Trouble is, I’m at the wrong end of the age scale.”
    Wait another couple of years till yur old enough and then try it  ….  😉

  54. Erchie says:

    You forget, the Norwegians had already taken Rothesay, so it was a BIT warlike and Invasiony, despite the landing at Largs being a bit of an accident

  55. HandandShrimp says:

    The Mail story is incredible – absolute drivel but incredible. It so bad I can’t actually work up any enthusiasm to add a comment.

  56. Iain says:

    More worrying is why a Westminster Committee the other day needed to quiz us about what our defence policy might be after we are no longer governed by them.
    Why would they need to know this? If they don’t plan flooding over the border to reclaim our land what business is it of theirs what ANY of our internal policies would be, far less how we defend ourselves.  They won’t tell us what their policies might be if we vote #no so I can only imagine their ‘rabbit caught in the headlights’ stare if we dared ask them how they would run their governent when we have departed.
    Their concern for our safety, and their current spying fettish, is bordering on freaky.

  57. Taranaich says:

    @Erchie: You forget, the Norwegians had already taken Rothesay, so it was a BIT warlike and Invasiony, despite the landing at Largs being a bit of an accident
    True, but at the time the Isles were their own little kingdom, and weren’t fully part of Scotland yet – the war did lead to their integration into the Kingdom of Scotland a few years later. It was a pretty aggressive stance, though, and if the Norwegians kept the isles, it’s entirely possible that they’d later consider taking back Caithness & Sutherland.

  58. Caroline Corfield says:

    sometimes, just sometimes when Westminster does stuff disproportionately in Scotland in the run up to a referendum, where the outcome could be independence; like shutting armed forces bases or remploy factories, or etc.,  one gets the feeling they are pouring concrete in the sewers. (i’ll explain that term- I worked offshore of West Africa and heard the story of how the Portuguese upon having to leave a small island colony because it had gained independence from them, poured concrete into the sewer system so it couldn’t be used effectively by the newly formed country.) I don’t think their ability to seriously undermine the smooth transition to independence should be under-estimated nor their perception they could make some savings for themselves out of doing so. Never mind that it would be a short term false economy because that is after all how they are running the whole shebang at the moment.

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