The Head of the Royal Navy today has some stern words to say today about how Scottish independence would damage UK maritime security. Here are a few quick and perhaps rather obvious points in response.
First, what happens to UK and Scottish maritime security should Scots vote for independence would depend on extensive political negotiations – the depressingly weak ‘No’ campaign actually makes this point itself. So while the Admiral certainly knows a lot about boats, his opinion on how political negotiations would pan out post-independence is really no more or less valauble than anyone else’s. In other words, his brief sally Forth (and Faslane) is a giant, flopping, red herring.
Second, the SNP has always been obfuscatory, and sometimes actually knowingly daft, about what would happen to defence/security after independence. The simple facts are that post-independence Scottish UK service personnel would continue to be UK service personnel and today’s Scots, who would remain UK citizens if they chose to, would continue to file into the UK armed services for the next 20 years at least – if not actually forever (as nationals from many other states do). In any case, no-one really seriously thinks that the UK and all our other allies would seek to stymie UK and NATO security simply in order to diss Scotland, do they? Notably, as I’ve blogged before, Scotland would have – with RN nuclear assets based in Scotland - the only real ace in any post-indy security poker game. Phillip Hammond, the capable UK Defence Secretary, wants to talk tough about nukes and frankly he’s right to do so – it’s a profoundly serious matter. So, let’s see, a sovereign state would be forced against its will to be guardians of nuclear weapons? That’s going to cost, right?
So, it may seem dull to some, but geopolitical realities would remain the same and Scotland would contribute largely through the present UK armed services set-up. That is to say, people would be big boys and girls about it all, commonsense would prevail across the board and Scottish independence would have a neutral effect on regional and international security.
Third, now that a serving officer has got himself involved in political debate, if I were Alex Salmond I’d be looking for public support from my own senior civil servants in Scotland. And I’d dispatch one to Washington, along with my external affairs minister, to reassure the US that whatever happens to nukes and NATO post-independence, it will all be super-sensible. It really is unimaginable, given what’s going on in the Ukraine, that the US would do anything other than treat such a visit at this time with respect and seriousness. That substantive act would more than counter the silliness of the Naval chief’s comments.