The wages of Scottish independence – the loss of the military

One of the most complex aspects  of disentangling Scotland from the rest of the UK should  Scotland become independent is defence.   It is complex because of  (1) the siting of the Trident submarines and other major ships at Faslane; (2) the  awarding of MOD research contracts to Scotland  and (3) the fact that the armed forces which  now exist in Scotland would not be suited to Scotland’s defence needs, they being designed to fit into a UK defence strategy not a Scottish one.

Back in 2002 the Scotch Numpty Party (SNP)  had these rather grandiose plans:

“Colin Campbell, the party’s defence spokesman, gave details of a Scottish Defence Service (SDS) which would operate in a nuclear-free Scotland following the removal of Trident.

“Mr Campbell said current estimates showed that a defence programme would cost £600 million a year with an extra £300 million for works.

“The total defence budget of £1.8 billion would be about the same figure as the Ministry of Defence currently spends in Scotland.

“He told the delegates: “We are looking at a maximum establishment of 20,000 regular personnel in Scotland … that is 5,000 extra people being paid in Scotland and spending their money in Scotland. That’s worth about £150 million a year.”

“He reckoned there would be 7,000 more indirect jobs as a result of the SNP’s defence policy.

Apart from 20,000 full-time regular troops, Scotland would also have 20,000 regular reservists and 8,000 part-time  reservists.  (

A more realistic  idea of the armed forces and independent  Scotland could afford  can be gained from those of the Republic of Ireland RoI) which has an estimated  population of  around 4.5 million  to Scotland’s estimated five million.

The RoI  has an army of approximately 8,500, a navy of 1,100 and an airforce of 1,000. (  Total defence expenditure for 2011/12 is EUR725 million (£632 million – (  To put that in context the UK’s defence
expenditure for the same year is £ £33.8bn, or around 53 times that of the RoI. (
The RoI  armed forces could offer little meaningful opposition to an invasion by any serious invader. Their armed forces can  perform a domestic  quasi-police function at best .

An independent Scotland would have  substantial  revenues from oil which the RoI
does not have, although these are very susceptible to violent  fluctuations in the oil price,  something  which  would make planning for the future especially difficult as the oil tax receipts  would form a substantial part of the anticipated revenue an independent Scotland would need.  The oil is also a diminishing resource. (
In addition an  independent Scotland would lose the subsidy they receive from England each year (around £8 billion at present –
and begin their independent life with a large national debt as their share of
the UK national debt. That share would be at least £100 billion  with the UK National Debt as it is now  at around  £1.1 trillion (
, but by  the time a referendum is held on the proposed SNP timetable in 2015 it will probably have grown to £1.5 trillion. This would make Scotland’s proportionate share (based on her proportion of the UK  population)  around £140 billion. In addition there would be large sums of   additional  debt for Scotland arising from the rescue of the Scottish banks RBS and HBOS, PFI projects and the funding of public service pensions.  Scotland would also have to fund a great deal of initial extra expenditure resulting from the setting up their separate public administration.

Taking these financial constraints into account, it is most unlikely that an independent Scotland would be able to support armed forces  substantially  greater than those of the RoI.  If that were  the case,  Scotland would lose out in terms of  the numbers of  servicemen in Scotland,  the number of MOD civilian workers and  the lucrative contracts  (with the jobs attached) for defence which they now receive from the UK Treasury. The MOD website gives a snapshot of  the material benefits which belonging to the UK currently brings  to Scotland via the defence budget:

“Scotland makes a very important contribution to UK Defence. Scottish military links and heritage remain strong and all three Armed Forces continue to have a significant presence at 381 sites across the country.

“There are 5,000 Armed Forces Volunteer Reservists and 10,000 Cadets throughout Scotland, plus ten University Squadrons and Corps. The Army alone has 58 Territorial Army centres, 17 Combined Cadet Force units, four University Officer Training Corps, and 228 Cadet detachments, which are supported by 1,000 adult volunteers.

“The MOD and the Armed Forces employ 20,000 people throughout the country. Each year the MOD spends an average of £600 million in Scotland, and awards over 500 direct contracts, sustaining additional jobs in Defence manufacturing. Scottish industry produces cutting-edge, hi-tech ships and equipment to enable our forces to carry out their operations.

“About 130 Royal Navy and NATO ships visit ports in Scotland every year, bringing money to the local economy.”

“An estimated 11,000 Scottish jobs are directly dependent on Defence contracts, with thousands more jobs supported in Scotland through the presence of the MOD and its spend in local areas. Defence industry varies greatly, from specialists in chemical protective clothing to shipyards that have produced Type 45 destroyers. The new royal Navy Aircraft Carriers will be built at Clyde shipyards in Glasgow and assembled as Rosyth Dockyard in Fife.”


Much of that would go because of the financial constraints described above.    In the case of research and manufacturing , all of it would be removed as soon as alternative arrangements could be made and existing contracts expired.  Without the patronage of the UK Treasury there would be  greatly reduced  opportunities for Scottish defence manufacturers and Scotland would, like most  countries of her size,  buy the bulk of her military equipment from foreign suppliers.

The heaviest  loss would be the submarine base at Faslane which is scheduled to get even  more work than it presently has because during Gordon Brown’s premiership (in 2009) the decision was taken to base all the UK’s  new submarines – including those on which the UK’s nuclear deterrent Trident  is now entirely based – at  Faslane by 2016. It is a substantial facility to say the least viz:

“In May 2009 the then Minister for the Armed Forces announced that three Trafalgar Class submarines will transfer to Clyde by 2017, joining the Vanguard Class submarines and the Royal Navy’s new Astute Class vessels.

The announcement confirmed HM Naval Base Clyde’s future as the home of the UK Submarine Service and paved the way for Faslane to become the country’s submarine centre of specialisation.” (Once the transfer of work to Faslane has happened it will contain: “Four nuclear powered Vanguard Class SSBN submarines – HMS Vanguard, HMS Victorious, HMS Vigilant and HMS Vengeance – which between them maintain a continuous at sea presence of the UK’s Independent Strategic Nuclear Deterrent.

“Eight Sandown Class Single Role Mine Hunters (SRMH)….

“HM Naval Base Clyde can be thought of as a garage for all these vessels – keeping them ready to go to sea – and the hotel for the ship’s crews.  Indeed, with over 2,000 beds, the base is one of the largest hotels in Scotland!…

“In March 2010, the MOD signed a long-term partnering agreement with Babcock, consolidating the company’s relationship with the base until 2025, guaranteeing cash savings for the MOD of at least £1.5 Billion.  The agreement also helped to protect the long-term future of the maritime industry, hlping to preserve capabilities and vital skills neded to carry out future work.

“The Naval Base is the largest single site employer in Scotland, currently employing around 2,500 service and civilian personnel, of whom around 1,500 work for Babcock.  When Fleet staff and other Lodger Units are taken into account, the total number of
people based at HM Naval Base Clyde rises to around 6,500.”

That  gives some idea of the potential  scale of the losses of jobs and expertise  and the complications caused by contracts already completed.

Since the 2011 elections in Scotland which unexpectedly delivered  the SNP a majority in the Scottish parliament, the SNP leader Alec Salmond  has attempted to push an “independence lite” agenda  (
which includes  the suggestion that Scotland would “share” defence facilities with the UK. This would be impractical because of (1) the gross imbalance in the size of the defence resources of  an independent Scotland and the UK and (2) the potential for conflicting foreign policies meaning the UK would want one thing and Scotland another. (
In addition, in the case of the nuclear submarines and deterrent,  the SNP has as a policy of  the removal of these from Scotland. (   The submarines and the deterrent could be  transferred to the facility at Devonport, Plymouth.

A taste of what the re-shaping of the military in Scotland would mean can be gained from the response to the cuts proposed by the Coalition Government in Westminster:

“There are specific parts of Scotland where defence-related employment makes up a  significant proportion of local employment, including Moray which is home to two RAF
bases  (Kinloss and Lossiemouth) and Fife, which is home to RAF Leuchars. Cuts in the defence  budget (made in Westminster) will profoundly affect localities such as these. The UK  Government has confirmed that RAF Kinloss will cease to operate after 31 July 2011 and the  futures of RAF Lossiemouth and RAF Leuchars are still uncertain (an announcement will be  made after the Scottish elections). In response, Moray Council and local businesses and  communities have launched an action plan to stimulate the local economy in response to  fears about the impact of the RAF job cuts and subsequent reductions in local economy  activity and spending (BBC News 18th March 2011)”. (

But even if an independent Scotland was wealthy,   it would not simply be a question of  taking over the Scottish military facilities which presently exist. These exist within the context of  a UK defence strategy.   It is improbable  that an independent Scotland
would wish to get involved in overseas escapades such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Her  military  needs would  be to defend Scottish territory and patrol her
territorial waters.  That alone would mean that much of the military establishment in Scotland would be scrapped and new equipment and training provided., another considerable expense.

The idea that Scotland could  defend its  land and territorial seas  against a determined and  large enemy is in truth nonsensical. Scotland is a relatively  large country  (30,000 sq miles) with a small population (5 million) , most of which is crammed into the lowland stretch from Glasgow to Edinburgh.   Compare that with England, 50,000 sq miles and
a population of 54 million.  Scotland has neither the bodies on the ground or the wealth to present a serious threat to an invader.

Because of  Scotland’s inevitable military weakness,  the rest of the UK (in reality England)  would have to come to her aid if she was invaded by an enemy who was using Scotland as a backdoor to invading England.  Scotland would also shelter under the UK
nuclear deterrent and her general military and diplomatic strength.   Those two things cannot be avoided. However, it would be reasonable to make it a condition of independence that Scotland paid the remainder of the UK for that protection.

This entry was posted in Devolution, Economics, Nationhood and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The wages of Scottish independence – the loss of the military

  1. Junius says:

    ‘Because of Scotland’s inevitable military weakness, the rest of the UK (in reality England) would have to come to her aid if she was invaded by an enemy who was using Scotland as a backdoor to invading England.’

    Which was one of the reasons that the English Parliament believed the union was in the best interests of the Country. The perennial problem then was France- can we trust it would not be again.?

  2. Pingback: The complete “Wages of Scottish independence” | England calling

  3. Pingback: The complete “Wages of Scottish indpendence” « Living In A Madhouse

  4. Pingback: The complete “The wages of Scottish Independence” « Living In A Madhouse

  5. Dave Coull says:

    The aim of a playground level of debate is announced early in this article with the reference to a “Scottish Numpty Party”. I’m not a member of the SNP, and indeed have many disagreements with them, but that is just pathetic. Most of the rest of the article is equally ridiculous. For instance, calling the HALIFAX Bank of Scotland a “Scottish” bank is just daft. The B of S behaved quite cautiously until the merger with that English company introduced far more risky methods. Most of the assets (and debts) of the Halifax-BofS are in England. Banks nowadays are international.and what matters is where their assets are. That’s why, when the president and government of the USA decided on a support package for some banks IN THE INTERESTS OF THE USA , one of the beneficiaries of this was the Royal Bank of Scotland. However, if the British government would like to separate the assets and debts of the HALIFAX from those of the Bank of Scotland, I’m sure Scotland would be quite happy with this deal.

  6. Siôn Jones says:

    The only country likely to attack and invade Scotland is England – so will England defend Scotland against itself? Hardly. The Nordic countries might, though.

  7. James S says:

    After 270 border crossings with the sole aim of killing Scots are you really surprised that at that time the English (whether enslaved and acting on behalf of Normans, Saxons or whatever) were not seen as allies?

  8. Mick Hilton says:

    Give Scotland full independence, withdraw all ENGLISH military, army , navy & air force. Withdraw all military contracts and reissue them to English companys. Put up border barrier and issue passports if visitors want to visit either country. If Scots realy do want Independence then give it to them. From previous coments I don’t think the feelings of the Scots for the English ave changed in 300 yrs

    • Siôn Jones says:

      you don’t have border barrier with Ireland, so why should Scotland be different. As for the military, kicking them out is all part of the plan – and you can take your Trident with you!

  9. Old age many years in spain. Ideas take goal look at the positives and negatives … You listen to the actual lament,”it wouldn’t be permitted within england ” nicely merely take the truth that …emerytura w wielkiej brytanii

  10. Pingback: All you could ever want to know about Scottish independence | England calling

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