Report: Towards a Defence & Security strategy for an independent Scotland

Paper looks at the new defence & security institutions an independent Scotland would need and how much they would cost to establish

AN independent Scotland should have a ‘triple-lock’ on going to war, a new paper on defence and security after independence has argued.

‘Towards a Defence & Security Strategy for an independent Scotland’ can be read in full here. 

The paper, authored by defence policy consultant Garry Macdonald, is part of the Common Weal’s White Paper Project to renew the case for Scottish independence case.

‘Towards a Defence & Security strategy for an independent Scotland’ argues that a Scottish constitution should place constraints on the deployment of military forces through a “triple-lock”: a clear mandate under international law; an articulated government strategy of how the use of military force would support a political resolution or prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe; and a vote in the Scottish Parliament to secure democratic approval.

“Together these safeguards would constrain the ability of the Scottish military to be used for national or economic aggrandizement and ensure that they are only deployed when appropriate and necessary,” Macdonald argues.

Other key points in the report include:

  • The ‘threat environment’ for an independent Scotland would in the near future mainly consist of non-state actors such as from illegal trafficking and smuggling along Scotland’s big coastal line and cybercrime. A defence and security strategy should be orientated towards these threats, while having the capability of coping with a territorial threat to Scotland should it arise.
  • Negotiations between an independent Scotland and the rest of UK would determine which Defence assets would be physically transferred and which would be transferred as an asset value instead. Operating on the basis of zero physical assets transferred, the asset value of Scotland’s share would be around £10bn. This could act as a start-up fund from which to constitute the institutions necessary for a Scottish Defence & Security strategy. An annual operating cost would likely be between £1.8-2.5bn.
  • In the interim period following independence, Scotland should pursue ‘associate membership’ in NATO and the EU, allowing for a more flexible foreign policy while allowing integration in specific areas of mutual interest. This would take the form of joining the ‘partnership for peace’ programme in respect to NATO and the European Free Trade Association in respect to the EU, before considering full membership in the future.
  • An independent Scotland should establish a number of institutions to lead its Security & Defence strategy: an integrated Scottish Security & Intelligence Agency; an armed forces comprising an Army, Air Force and Navy; a beefed up Police Scotland; a Scottish Customs Agency; and a Scottish National Security Centre to act as a powerful co-ordinating body to ensure a joined up approach across the institutions.

“An independent Scottish defence strategy would cost us less, leave us substantially more protected and keep us out of illegal wars. These are great opportunities for Scotland.” Robin McAlpine

Garry Macdonald, author of the paper, stated:

"Issues of defence and security received comparatively little coverage during the last independence referendum. Consequently, the argument that an independent Scotland would be capable of defending itself was not as well formed as it could have been. As part of Common Weal’s White Paper Project, this discussion paper is an attempt to put some ideas and suggestions on the table to encourage further debate and ultimately to help refine the case for a Scottish defence and security strategy.

“The intent of the paper is to get people thinking about what we mean by security, what institutions and capabilities Scotland would need and how we go about building them. The hope is that this will encourage more people with experience to contribute to the White Paper’s iterative process and build a stronger case for defence and security in a future bid for Scottish independence."

Robin McAlpine, Common Weal Director, said of the report: “One of the oddest things about Defence from Scotland’s point of view is that we pay a disproportionately high amount for Defence by international comparison and yet the actual defence of Scotland is minimal. Rather than using the money for proper maritime patrols to prevent smuggling, terrorism, people trafficking and to monitor the activities of other nation states, we have virtually no defence around Scotland’s coast and spend all the money on counterproductive foreign wars instead. An independent Scottish defence strategy would cost us less, leave us substantially more protected and keep us out of illegal wars. These are great opportunities for Scotland.”

“We welcome proposals to increase the armed forces recruitment age to 18 to end the abuse and exploitation of working class young people and human rights which are the UK’s shame.” Rory Steel

Rory Steel, a spokesperson for Young Scots for Independence, said:

“This Defence and Security Strategy touches on an often ignored area of an independent Scotland, but an area that would have a great impact abroad and at home.

“Broadly speaking, many of the proposals break away from the typical defence and foreign policy of the British state which has erupted conflict in all corners of the world taking millions of lives and costing billions of pounds. Scotland could be a country of peace and cooperation by enshrining those ideals and safeguards into a constitution.

“We welcome proposals to increase the armed forces recruitment age to 18 to end the abuse and exploitation of working class young people and human rights which are the UK’s shame. Proposals for an independent military justice system are long overdue and would secure real justice for people who have been abused and injured or killed unjustly by the armed forces – particularly young recruits.”