Defence & Scottish Independence By Steve Coltman
When debate was in full swing for the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, defence and security were barely mentioned. As a second referendum is looking increasingly likely at some point in the next few years, it is vital that the subject of defence is given prominence and serious consideration, both in terms of the security of Scotland itself and of the whole of the British Isles.
The subject has been addressed before, of course. The SNP defence spokesperson wrote in 2012:
‘…it is generally acknowledged that potential military threats to an independent Scotland and its strategic assets and national interests would seem to be very low. The UK government’s 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) stated that the probability of large-scale military attack against the UK by another state was low, and it therefore prioritised counter-terrorism, cyber-attack, natural hazards and preventing international military crises. Whilst several aspects of this document would not apply to an independent Scotland … it is probably reasonably safe to say that the same approach to future defence might be adopted by a Scottish government. Scotland is unlikely to face a major military threat in the foreseeable future; on the other hand, there will always be the possibility of terrorism or economic disputes.’
A great deal depends on whether that threat assessment is still true (assuming it ever was, and not just wishful thinking). Even if a military threat did ‘seem to be low’, that does not mean it can be dismissed out of hand. Risk is a function of probability and consequence, not just how likely is a threat, but how serious might that threat be if it does materialise. In 2012, indeed in 2019, a pandemic such as we have experienced in the last 18 months with COVID-19 would have seemed unlikely. It is sometimes intellectually hard to deal with threats that seem low in probability but are obviously high in consequence. They have to be faced up to, nevertheless.
“Defence UK is an independent pressure group that campaigns for a strong and well-resourced Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force, to ensure the security of the United Kingdom, her Sovereign Territories, trade and commerce, and to protect her citizens wherever they may be.We also call for a greater commitment by the UK Government to the nation's defence industries, and to non-military services such as the Merchant Navy, Coastguard, Border Control and Homeland Security that are essential to the Defence of the Realm.”