Legal, humanitarian and democratic: Common Weal's new model of defence in an independent Scotland

New paper from the pro-independence think tank advocates safeguards to constrain a Scottish military from “national or economic aggrandizement”

AN INDEPENDENT SCOTLAND should have a “triple-lock” on the deployment of its military, a new report from the pro-independence think tank Common Weal has argued.

Published today as part of the Common Weal’s White Paper Project and written by defence consultant Garry Macdonald, ‘Towards a Defence and Security Strategy for an independent Scotland’ proposes that the constitution of an independent Scotland should require the fulfilment of three criteria before the nation’s military forces could be deployed: a clear mandate under international law, an articulated strategy from the Scottish Government explaining how military action would support a political solution or prevent an imminent humanitarian crisis; and a vote in the Scottish Parliament to secure a democratic mandate for any such action.

Much pro-independence discourse over the past 30 years has been framed around opposition by the SNP, Scottish Greens, SSP and other notable pro-independence groups to illegal or unjustified military action. Widespread opposition to the 2003 invasion of Iraq has been credited by some with helping to deliver the SNP’s first Scottish parliamentary election victory in 2007. The SNP also opposed NATO actions in Kosovo in 1999 and British intervention in Syria in 2015.

“It is probable that a progressive foreign policy which avoids illegal wars and overt militarism could reduce the level of terrorist threat in Scotland.” Garry Macdonald, ‘Towards a Defence and Security Strategy for an independent Scotland’

The report further argues that the chief militarily-relevant threats to a newly independent Scotland would be non-state actors, such as terrorism and organised crime, and that a Scottish defence and security strategy should be oriented around such threats.

However, MacDonald writes, “it is probable that a progressive foreign policy which avoids illegal wars and overt militarism could reduce the level of terrorist threat in Scotland. Likewise, domestic policies which reduce socioeconomic disparities and intolerance could deprive home-grown terrorism of the fertile ground it needs in order to thrive.”

Hypothesising that negotiations between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK could be operated on the basis of zero physical assets transferred, the asset value of Scotland’s share is calculated by the report at roughly £10bn. This could be used as a start-up fund with which to establish an equip an independent Scotland’s defence, the annual operating cost of which the report estimates as £1.8-2.5bn.

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Regarding a recurring debate within left-wing Scottish nationalism, the report argues that, during an interim period following independence, Scotland should pursue ‘associate membership’ in NATO and the EU in order to accommodate specific arenas of mutual interest with those international organisations, while at the same time allowing for flexibility in foreign policy and the possibility of full membership in future.

Both NATO and EU membership have been sources of continuing disagreement within the independence movement: former SNP leader Gordon Wilson has argued that as many as 30-34 per cent of SNP voters also voted leave in the EU referendum, meaning the party’s generally pro-EU approach to independence does not reflect all of its supporters.

The SNP also voted to end their 30-year opposition to NATO membership in 2012, a decision which met with significant opposition from the party’s leftwing. Macdonald’s proposal could deliver a temporary compromise, but may not settle the issues entirely. MacDonald goes on to suggest that these matters would ultimately need to be decided democratically.

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“Both NATO and the EU have articles in their treaties which provide for collective defence,” Macdonald continues. “The international treaties to which Scotland would need to accede for membership in these organisations would confer demands and expectations on Scotland that might be viewed as contrary to its national interest. While providing access to resources and greater protection the responsibilities of membership would constrain national policymaking options. Therefore, given the implications, membership in such organisations should be subject to significant democratic debate and vote.”

Commenting on the report’s release, MacDonald said: "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.

“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." Garry Macdonald

“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."

Common Weal director Robin McAlpine also 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.”

Picture courtesy of Defence Images

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Comments

MauriceBishop

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 16:45

"Hypothesising that negotiations between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK could be operated on the basis of zero physical assets transferred, the asset value of Scotland’s share is calculated by the report at roughly £10bn. This could be used as a start-up fund with which to establish an equip an independent Scotland’s defence, the annual operating cost of which the report estimates as £1.8-2.5bn."

So much delusion encapsulated in these two tortured sentences. Independence supporters believe that everything that is physically in Scotland will automatically be the property of independence Scotland. But it is obvious that they are going to need piles of cash as well to make the sums work. So they have invented this nonsense theory that says that for everything that is NOT physically in Scotland, we are entitled to a population share, which the UK will happily convert to cash.

It is, in a word, risible.

A bill authorizing such a settlement would never, ever pass through Westminster.

Furthermore, if independent Scotland is entitled to a population share of everything that is not in Scotland, then the rUK is entitled to a population share of everything in Scotland.

Oh dear.

Jon Dess

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 19:01

If the rUK government chose to refuse to share the value of assets then the Scottish government could refuse to take a share of the UK debt. Seems a pretty fair deal to me.

MauriceBishop

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 19:33

If you genuinely think that "sharing the value of assets" is a legitimate position that is defensible in law, logic, and general fairness, then you have to also agree that the rUK is entitled to a population share of "the value of assets" WITHIN Scotland.

If you genuinely think that refusing to take a share of the UK debt is a real option, then you haven't been paying attention.

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 02:15

I was expecting some CND peacenik nonsense about banning nuclear weapons from the Clyde but was pleasantly surprised not to find anything about that here.

However, an independent Scotland should remain in NATO, a full member with no ifs and no buts.

It is all very well Russia Today giving Alex Salmond a TV show but Scotland ought to know where our security bread is buttered by now and that is with NATO.

Scotland should agree a British sovereign military base deal for the nuclear bases on the Clyde, similar to the British military bases on Gibraltar and Cyprus but with certain differences.

As a republican, I would not want the UK or its monarchy per se to exercise command and control over the British independent nuclear deterrent but for Scotland and rUK to agree a non-royalist British command which would also involve a nameplate change, a re-branding exercise, and a cap badge change for the staff.

For example -
* no longer "HMNB Clyde" but "British Naval Base Clyde"
* no longer "RNAD Coulport" but "British Naval Armaments Depot Coulport"

But aside from the make-over, in practical terms it would be business as usual for the independent British nuclear deterrent.

Constructing a credible and workable policy and arrangements for the British nuclear deterrent after Scottish independence is critical for building support for independence now, especially with those Scots with experience in defence matters.

For example, I would like to agree a defence policy for Scottish independence with someone with the standing of George Robertson, the former NATO Secretary General. ("The Right Honourable, The Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, KT GCMG PC FRSA FRSE", LOL)

Robertson may never be won over to Scottish independence but if we could build a defence policy that the likes of George Robertson could at least admit was workable that would be a massive boost for the independence campaign, without any doubt whatsoever.

Peter Dow, Science and Politics http://scot.tk

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 02:16

"illegal wars" Garry, Robin? What "illegal wars" would that be?

Iraq: the Mother of all FOOTWEAR battles!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhdHw4zgNys

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 02:17

The rise of Daesh (ISIS / so-called "Islamic State") was more to do with -
* the sponsorship which insurgents against Iraq and Syria got from the Gulf kingdoms,
* the unitary constitution of Iraq which allowed for Sunnis to be oppressed by the central state. Better would have been a federal or confederal 3-state constitution (broadly Sunnis, Shias and Kurds states) which would not have oppressed groups like the Sunnis and who therefore would not have turned to terrorists sponsored by external states to defend them
* Obama ordering the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq with such a precarious unitary state was asking for trouble.

There have been long-term security dangers arising from the Middle East which ultimately are more to do with no-strings trading of oil with undemocratic and dictatorial regimes which like to empire build, sponsor terrorism and generally misuse the huge bounty of oil wealth.

These dangers have been stoked by greedy and short-sighted politicians from Thatcher & Reagan to May & Trump whose main interest in the Middle East was what weapons systems we can sell them.

Also greedy and short-sighted European politicians who have also sold Satellite TV broadcasting facilities to the Middle East and North Africa, which has been used to incite terrorism.

Also there is a sense in which at a strategic level, Saudi Arabia / Pakistan and Iran have grown their own nuclear, conventional and terrorist proxy power by gaining sponsorship from the great powers - US and allies, Russia and China.

At the lower level the proxy wars are real enough but note carefully how Saudi Arabia - Pakistan and Iran do not go to war with each other, for all the Punch and Judy show they put on for the entertainment of their great power sponsors.

If truth be told, the great powers, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have been played for fools by the Islamic world, whose people have suffered greatly in wars but whose rulers have risen in power as the people of the region suffered.

The only solution to this would be for the Security Council to make the same example of the Saudi Royals, the Pakistani military generals and the Iranian Ayatollahs as was made of Saddam Hussein.

This could be done quite simply by seizing control of oil tanker shipments and satellite TV and promoting democratic revolution.

Captain Clarky

Wed, 12/20/2017 - 08:22

I think the article was meaning that Scotland would get to keep it's involvement in the British Armed Forces to form its own defence force. This makes perfect sense, although I do agree it is very unlikely to get through Westminster.

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