I found it quite strange that, as soon as the dust had settled over the recent elections and AV referendum, David Cameron so quickly declared that he would not stand in the way of a Scottish referendum on the question of their independence from the UK.


Either the Prime Minister doesn't care whether Scotland gains independence or he is so sure of his ground that in the end the Scots will vote to stay within the UK.

Just compare his position with that of a referendum on our continued membership of the EU.

Scotland is arguably more tightly bound to the UK than the UK is to the EU. But no-one seems to be using the same arguments against Scotland separating such as 'it will destroy trade' or 'your holidays will be more expensive'. You know, the arguments that Europhiles always use in their defence of ever closer union with Europe.

Somehow it has become acceptable to think about a separate Scotland, but not a separate UK.

But in his quest for a separate state, the SNP leader Alex Salmond wants the best of both worlds. He wants independence but not the full expense of an armed force to defend it. This is one part of a Scottish sovereignty he is prepared to share. He has claimed that Scotland and what remained of the UK could share defence manpower and resources after a separation, but that he would still decide how Scottish servicemen were deployed at the end of the day.

The British Army's former Chief of the General Staff, Sir Mike Jackson, told the Daily Telegraph that this would lead to an 'absolute nightmare' due to the completely different attitudes to the use of the armed forces between Westminster and the more non-interventionist stance of Alex Salmond's SNP.

It does seem that Mr Salmond wants to stand under the UK defence umbrella without helping to hold it.

As Sir Mike also points out, there is the problem of soldiers having two masters, who do they swear allegiance to and where does that leave Scots servicemen already serving in Her Majesty's armed forces? Although one must point out that we have all managed so far with many other countries under joint umbrellas in WW2 as well as in many subsequent UN and NATO operations. Some might even argue that the UK forces are now just an extra few tanks, aeroplanes, ships and men that the USA has on call.

Mr Salmond would also demand the removal of the UK nuclear deterrent from Scottish soil, which would be a hugely expensive project for the UK as the submarines and nuclear weapons are operated and serviced for the most part in Faslane and Coulport to the West of Glasgow.

These sites were chosen as they were the most easily converted to the task as well as the extra benefit of bringing employment to the area. A move south would need completely new facilities. Falmouth maybe?

But at the end of the day all these arguments are probably overstated. Both nations would be in the EU anyway and maybe Scotland would go the whole hog and take on the Euro too. Neither Scotland nor the UK would be able to deploy a single soldier without UN legal backing as well as US and EU support, so these arguments mean little in reality.

The modern truth is that, unless you have a large armed force with a huge arsenal at its disposal and the will to use it unilaterally, your armed forces are controlled by the political needs of other countries as well as your own.

So maybe in the end Alex Salmond is right. He might be able to have his defence cake and eat it too, especially if he strikes a base leasing deal for the continued stationing of the nuclear deterrent in Faslane.

But will he get his dream of full independence following a referendum? Maybe the Scottish people will look at this defence sharing proposal and ask themselves if, at the end of the day, sharing most things might not actually be a bad idea. And apart from the odd minor family spat we seem to be doing that all right at the moment, don't we?


Comment Here!

comments