Defence Committee - Minutes of Evidence HC 198
Taken before the Defence Committee
on Tuesday 3 July 2012
Mr James Arbuthnot (Chair)
Mr Julian Brazier
Rt Hon Jeffrey M. Donaldson
Mr Dai Havard
Mrs Madeleine Moon
Sir Bob Russell
Ms Gisela Stuart
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Royal United Services Institute, and Lieutenant Colonel (Retd) Stuart Crawford, Royal Tank Regiment, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Sorry to have kept you waiting for a few moments. You are both most welcome to this, the first session of our rather extended inquiry into the defence implications of possible Scottish independence. I wonder whether you could possibly introduce yourselves, please.
Professor Chalmers: I am Malcolm Chalmers, and I am Director of Research at the Royal United Services Institute.
Colonel Crawford: I am Stuart Crawford. I am a former Army officer, and I now work as a political, media and defence consultant in Edinburgh.
Q2 Chair: Thank you very much. May we begin by asking about the possibility of Scottish independence? Would you expect the UK Government to be making contingency plans against such a possibility?
Colonel Crawford: Yes-if I may lead off-I would think that certainly from a military and strategic point of view, it would make some sense to prepare for the unexpected. I do not think we need to go into the known knowns, the known unknowns and the unknown unknowns, but I would think that at least some forward planning should be done, as indeed the UK Government do for a number of potential operations and contingencies both at home and overseas. The question about what political signal that might send is another matter altogether for the Scottish Government and those who would seek Scotland to be independent.
Professor Chalmers: Certainly in my experience there are people in the Ministry of Defence who are thinking about these things and talking about them. It is much harder to go the extra stage and ask the Armed Forces to make detailed plans for contingencies that would only be relevant in the case of Scottish independence. As far as I know, they are not making that sort of detailed planning. Clearly, some aspects of Scottish independence would overlap with other sorts of emergencies. For example, if there were to be some sort of terrorist attack that closed Faslane for a period of months, that sort of contingency planning-which I presume exists-would be relevant to this scenario, but there are other aspects of Scottish independence that are unique.
Colonel Crawford: I understand that some work is being undertaken in the Scottish Government at this point, but I do not know to what extent. I do understand that it is being done, however.
Q3 Chair: As I understand it, there isn’t any dialogue between the Scottish Government and the United Kingdom Government. Is that right?
Professor Chalmers: There is dialogue in terms of those aspects of Scottish Government that are already devolved that are relevant to defence. There are issues of policing defence facilities, for example.
Q4 Chair: But what about the possibility of what might come out of Scottish independence?
Professor Chalmers: Not as far as I know.
Q5 Chair: So if there is not that dialogue, do you think the United Kingdom Government is in a position to make the sort of contingency plans that we have been talking about?
Professor Chalmers: It is very difficult to make contingency plans unless you have some idea of what the scenarios are. As an analyst, looking at it without access to any classified information, it is possible to map out in broad terms what sort of issues would arise. If we get nearer to the referendum and there seems to be a possibility that there will be a yes vote, clearly the pressure for people to think about what to do the day after will increase. My perception is that the Government have not yet done more than to get itself in a position of mapping the case against a yes vote in the defence field. I suspect they will come to the view that they have to do that more rigorously.
Colonel Crawford: It would be easier for the UK Government to go through that exercise if it had an idea of how an independent Scotland might go about organising its own defence forces, and what proportion of the assets and current matériel it might seek to negotiate away from the rest of the UK. But there is not a great deal of work being done on that at the moment, apart from comments that Malcolm and I have made on it.
Q6 Chair: It is a bit strange, isn’t it, that that work is not being done?
Colonel Crawford: It may well be being done, but I do not know about it. People tell me that work is going on and lots of plans are being drawn up, and possibly they will be more obvious and made public by the time of the referendum in autumn 2014, but I have not seen any other firm plans.
Professor Chalmers: The added point to make, of course, is that if there were a yes vote in the referendum, that would only be the start of the process. We would immediately be plunged into negotiations between the Scottish Government and the UK Government, and defence would be a big part of those negotiations. There may be an understandable reluctance in London to reveal negotiating cards prematurely, as it were.
Q7Sandra Osborne: Professor Chalmers, you said that if it looked as though there might be a yes vote, the UK Government might start looking at it. Don’t you think that the people of Scotland, and indeed the people of the UK, need that information before they decide how they will vote in a referendum?
Professor Chalmers: One needs to distinguish two things here. One is contingency planning, thinking about which unit would move where and so on. There are a lot of options and there is no need to make decisions in advance. There is also the issue which, quite rightly, you are raising about providing enough information to the Scottish people so that they make an informed decision about the implications of independence. Independence would mean separate Armed Forces under separate chains of command. The basics are pretty clear: it is an inherent part of being an independent state in our world order that you have control of your own Armed Forces, you have the ability to send them somewhere and an ability to refuse to send them somewhere.
From that simple fact flow lots of other possibilities, so it is a radical choice and one of the most important things that distinguishes independence from any form of devolution, even devolution max or whatever other formulae. So you are absolutely right. My personal view is that over the next couple of years defence will be one of the major issues in a referendum. It is one of the things that distinguishes independence from anything else.
Q8Thomas Docherty: In a written answer on 21 June, the Secretary of State for Defence told Margaret Curran that there had not been a single phone call, e-mail or face-to-face discussion between Scottish Government Ministers or officials and their counterparts in the Ministry of Defence. Are you surprised that the Scottish Government do not seem to want to pick up the phone and have any discussion at all with the MoD about the implications?
Colonel Crawford: It appears to be the sensible thing to do, but-.
Q9Thomas Docherty: To do or not to do?
Colonel Crawford: To do that. One could also ask the same question about the UK Government.
Q10Thomas Docherty: If you take the premise-I am not saying that I agree with it-that the UK Government’s position is that they do not wish separation and therefore have no desire to start countenancing what will happen, one could perhaps understand why the MoD was not prepared to engage.
Colonel Crawford: Yes.
Q11Thomas Docherty: But if you were of the view, as I think the SNP are-though I am not sure after Mr Salmond’s comments at the weekend-that they want separation, surely they would want to pick up the phone and start a discussion about what the impact may be?
Colonel Crawford: Yes, I think they would. Perhaps they are not quite ready for that. I am not that close to the SNP, so I do not know whether they have started their planning to that detail yet.
Q12Mr Havard: Let us assume that this work is going on somewhere and that somebody is doing it, who are they consulting? Who is informing that debate-industry or academia? Who are they canvassing opinion from to inform this work that they might be doing? You seem to have no evidence that you or any of your extended community are being asked to participate in any way.
Professor Chalmers: I have not been asked by members of the Scottish Government.
Q13Mr Havard: They have a monopoly of understanding that they can talk to one another about it and come out with a resolution, presumably.
Professor Chalmers: You will have to ask members of the Scottish Government who they have consulted.
Q14Mr Havard: But are they not consulting across the piece to inform their discussion in any way in any visible fashion?
Professor Chalmers: Not to my knowledge.
Colonel Crawford: I have not been asked either.
Q15Mrs Moon: I am just wondering how interconnected the contribution of each of the four nations is to the defence of the UK. Is it a four-legged stool that really needs all four legs? What would happen if you take one of those legs away? Is it totally unified, is there a complete and unique contribution from Scotland that would be of damage to the defence of the rest of the UK? Could you say something about that?
Professor Chalmers: I do not think a four-legged stool quite describes it because that suggests a degree of autonomy of the four units, which I do not think exists. These are unified Armed Forces which have been built up over centuries to fulfil the orders of a commander in chief in London. There is no sense that there is a particular dimension which is uniquely Scottish. Even Scottish-badged regiments, which were created after the union with England, are an integral part of the British Army. Therefore in the event of independence, there would be an issue about what to do with defence assets, personnel and so on, which could be determined only once both Governments had mapped out what their defence policy would be. I suspect it would be significantly easier for the UK because, in my judgment, the UK would want to maintain a defence posture very similar to the one it has now. It may have to do with rather less resources, but basically very similar to what it is now. Scotland, of course, would be another matter, and I am sure you will ask more questions about that. There is a very wide range of choice.
Where I think Scotland clearly has a unique contribution is that it provides bases on its territory. You would either have to have foreign bases in Scotland in the event of independence, or some of those assets would have to be relocated elsewhere. Some of those assets would be easier to relocate than others. As I am sure you know, there is a particular issue about the nuclear deterrent base at Faslane and Coulport and the difficulty of relocating that.
Chair: We will come on to that later.
Colonel Crawford: Can I add to what Malcolm said? I think there is considerable evidence that the contribution from Scotland in terms of personnel to all three Armed Services has been in excess of its proportional representation within the UK population as a whole. I do not have the exact figures now, but I think in this century it is about 10% of the Army and as much as 13% of the RAF. While Malcolm is absolutely right that the UK forces are completely and utterly integrated, the contribution of Scotland taken per head of population is slightly larger than its proportion of the UK population as a whole.
Q16Mrs Moon: What would be the costs and risks of an independent Scotland to the viability of the UK’s defence in terms of access to each other’s airspace and territorial waters? Are there implications that we need to look at?
Professor Chalmers: There clearly are possible implications, because that would have to be negotiated between two separate sovereign authorities. Other European countries, particularly those that are members of NATO, have those arrangements, so templates for such arrangements between sovereign states are in existence.
One possible-I think most likely-scenario is that an independent Scotland, after some transition period, would also become a member of the same international organisations that the UK is in, including NATO. You would use that as a general framework, so it would not simply be a case of Scottish co-operation and access to its territory by UK forces, but it would also be US or Norwegian forces, or whoever was most appropriate for collective defence.
Certainly, small states in Europe today are dependent on their larger neighbours for their security and prosperity. I do not know what would happen in the case of independence, but to me, that would be the easier route for Scotland to take. If it were to take a route that involved not being a member of NATO and refusing military co-operation with its neighbours, it would be more vulnerable and perhaps less likely to be able to call on its neighbours for assistance.
Q17Mrs Moon: Forgive me, Professor Chalmers, can I ask you to look at the question the other way round? What are the implications for rUK? If planes are coming in over Scotland-for example, transatlantic flights-and if any potential attacks come from the High North, would there be implications in terms of the rest of the UK for our defence of an independent Scotland and access to airspace and territorial waters?
Professor Chalmers: There would only be implications if the new Scottish Government were to refuse access to airspace and so on, which it would have the sovereign right to do. But that would be a pretty strong act from a country that was trying to establish itself as a respectable member of the international community. Of course it is a possibility, because it would be a sovereign state, but I do not think that it is very likely.
Colonel Crawford: My personal view is that it is almost inconceivable that an independent Scotland would have a completely separate defence policy. At the very least, there would have to be some alliance with the rest of the UK, particularly as the rest of the UK’s northern boundary will be with a foreign country, in those circumstances.
Q18John Glen: When you say alliance, what do you mean in that respect? What sort of dependency would there need to be for it to work?
Colonel Crawford: The whole gamut, from collective defence, which is best represented by NATO, right down to perhaps a more simplistic arrangement with the rest of the UK on the sharing of bases and permission to enter airspace, or some sort of joint task force to protect sea routes, oil rigs and fishing grounds. I cannot see really that it would be sensible for both constituent parts of the UK, if you like, to try to do that separately if independence happens. I don’t think it makes any sense.
Q19Mrs Moon: Could a future independent Scotland meet its own needs in terms of infrastructure? You have talked a lot about bases, Professor Chalmers, but what about infrastructure, such as training, intelligence and logistics? Would there be the capacity for an independent Scotland to meet those needs as well?
Professor Chalmers: Those capacities do not exist in total in Scotland today, so many of those capabilities, including headquarter capabilities and a Ministry of Defence, would have to be created from scratch. Whether Scotland has the capability for doing so over time is more a question of resources than of anything else. How much would an independent Scotland be prepared to spend on a Ministry of Defence, given its geo-strategic situation and-importantly, also-the economic situation that it might face after a referendum?
One of the papers that I have written recently suggests that one possible yardstick might be what other NATO European countries-smaller NATO European countries-spend on defence, which tends to average at about 1.5% of GDP. I would be surprised if an independent Scotland spent more than that. It might decide to spend significantly less, since it would face this very difficult transition period of starting with very little and having to buy new kit, build new infrastructure and so on. In the scenarios that we are talking about, unless there were some new security threat that faced Scotland at that time-that is possible but unlikely-would it really be prepared to go into that big build-up process?
There are some who draw comparisons between an independent Scotland, on the one hand, and Norway and Denmark, on the other. But Norway and Denmark have built up their current capabilities over many years and they built them up mostly during the cold war. And Norway had a border with the Soviet Union, and now has one with Russia, so it was in rather a different situation than an independent Scotland would be in the sort of Europe we have today.
Colonel Crawford: A classic example of that would be officer training. There are no officer training schools in Scotland and in the model that I have been working on I have just had to assume that, until such time as an independent Scotland created and built its own resources, army officers would be sent to Sandhurst, for example, or similar European officer training colleges.
Q20Thomas Docherty: That is a good point. I think I recall that in The House magazine-I could be wrong-Nick Harvey said that this assumption that Sandhurst could take all the officer cadre needed is unlikely, as Sandhurst is a hugely oversubscribed institution.
Colonel Crawford: Yes, I think that is absolutely right. I suppose that one would assume that there would be a certain benevolence shown towards the near neighbours in Scotland, but perhaps not; I suppose it depends on how independence and the secession might happen.
Q21Thomas Docherty: But even if there was benevolence-I will not comment on that-do you not accept Nick Harvey’s point that Sandhurst would not have the capacity?
Colonel Crawford: It might not have the capacity. It depends, of course, what size an independent Scotland’s Armed Forces might be and there is not a great deal of firm evidence about what size they might be.
Q22Mrs Moon: Can I go back to a comment that was made about costs? Professor Chalmers, you talked about start-up. Colonel Crawford, you have said that Scotland could run defence on a budget of about £1.3 billion a year. Does that include all these start-up costs that we have talked about, and does it involve holding reserves in case of a potential conflict? What was included in that global figure of £1.3 billion?
Colonel Crawford: The figure of £1.3 billion was arrived at by my colleague Richard Marsh, who is an economist and who recently appeared with me before the Scottish Affairs Committee. I have never claimed to be a defence economist and in fact in my original pamphlet, which was published in 1998, the major omission was that there was no costing in it at all; it was a wish list. What I basically have done in the recent rewrite and update, which is still a work in progress, is that I have come up with a model of how an independent Scotland might organise and design its Armed Forces, and I then asked Richard Marsh to cost it for me. He has come up with that figure of about £1.3 billion, which is slightly less-in fact, I think he came up with a figure just short of £2 billion, if my memory serves me correctly. That leaves a nominal saving, if you like, on the current percentage of UK military spend of £3.3 billion or £3.5 billion. It leaves a surplus of £1.3 billion that a Scottish Government, of whichever political hue it might be, could decide to spend on enhancing the rather modest model that I have come up with or on something else more demanding. That is a long-winded way of saying that I am not really an expert on the costs.
Q23Bob Stewart: There are lots of "what ifs" in this debate, so I will give another one. What if, Stuart, there were Scottish battalions, would the officers and warrant officers of Scottish battalions necessarily want to be in a Scottish regiment rather than staying in the British Army? Of course, there are Scots of the dispersion who serve in English regiments, such as myself. It is something that might well come up. I wonder whether you, with your Scottish regimental connections, would like to ponder that and answer it.
Colonel Crawford: It is a very good question, and it has been asked several times before, but the answer is that I do not know whether there is an assumption that, on the establishment of an independent state, the Scottish Army in particular would be constituted by the transfer of Scotsmen and women serving in the UK regiments and battalions. The only answer to that is that someone needs to ask them. It is the sort of thing that, possibly, Defence Analytical Services and Advice would do.
Chair: We will be coming back to this issue when Bob Russell asks some questions in a few moments, so I want to move on to another question.
Q24Sandra Osborne: Has Scotland suffered disproportionately from recent changes in defence expenditure?
Colonel Crawford: I do not know the answer to that. I suspect that, with the closure of the air bases and, potentially, some of the Scottish-recruited and Scottish-identified regiments-to be announced later on this week-that argument might well be made, but I do not have a firm handle on whether it has suffered disproportionately. I know that there are officers serving with English regiments who think that Scotland always gets off a bit lightly.
Professor Chalmers: I looked at some of the figures on this and, back in 1995, 9.3% of the service personnel based in the UK were based in Scotland; in 2011 that figure had fallen slightly to 7.5% of the service personnel based in the UK-that is, excluding those in Germany. However, looking forward, it is less clear to me that that proportion will fall further, and it may even rise-the total, of course, is falling, so that does not mean that the absolute numbers will rise-in part because the withdrawal of the Army from Germany will mean that the size of the UK Army in the UK will not fall much, and in part because Scotland will be the headquarters of one of the multi-role brigades. There could well even be rather more Army personnel in Scotland than there are now which, if so, might offset somewhat the other parts. Of course there is not going to be a significant reduction in Navy personnel at Faslane-again, it is other parts of the Navy that are being cut. I would be surprised if the proportion of service personnel fell more.
In terms of defence industry spending, it is much more difficult to say. The MoD stopped publishing data on this-I was involved in writing a report for the MoD that concluded that the data were very dodgy in any case. It stopped publishing the data because it is very difficult to work out all the subcontractor chains and so on. Certainly some of the figures that industry groups publish on this suggest that Scotland has a share of around 10% of industry spend, which is a little bit above the population share.
So I think that this issue can be overblown. In terms of both the military side and the industry side, the figures are more or less comparable with population shares.
Colonel Crawford: My understanding is that currently there are about 3,500 regular serving Army personnel based in Scotland and, on withdrawal from Germany and assuming that the military units do come and occupy the vacated RAF sites at Leuchars etc., that figure will rise to in excess of 6,000.
Q25Sandra Osborne: Does it depend on what baseline you start from? You are talking about personnel; you are talking about the defence industry. What about civilians who are employed by the MoD and other expenditures in Scotland? Are you taking that into account or are you talking just about personnel and the defence industry?
Professor Chalmers: If you look at the civilian numbers, the position is not very different in terms of the total proportion. I do not have the figures to hand, but as I recall, the proportion of civilian personnel in Scotland is not that far from population share.
Q26Sandra Osborne: Are there areas where Scotland benefits disproportionately from defence expenditure-where it is at an advantage?
Colonel Crawford: Faslane, on the Clyde.
Q27Sandra Osborne: Is there any way you feel that expenditure should be distributed other than what happens at the moment, based on defence needs?
Professor Chalmers: No, I do not think so. There is clearly a domestic political aspect to the distribution of military spending and, indeed, military bases. In the UK, as in many countries-France, the US and others-there is a domestic political component, so the distribution is not based purely on operational military grounds. But putting the question of possible Scottish independence to one side-perhaps one shouldn’t-I do not see a particular military operational argument for moving large units from Scotland to England or vice versa.
Q28Thomas Docherty: On the practical thinking about how assets may be divided, can either of you draw on any examples from around the world or even, for argument’s sake, in Europe where such a process has taken place before?
Professor Chalmers: Yes. To me, there are two possible models for carrying this out. One is the model that was used, for example, in the Soviet Union whereby countries inherit what is on their territory. One possibility would be that countries, on break-up, inherit the assets that are on their territory. In the Soviet Union, for example, Ukraine, because it had the forward bases against NATO, had most of the modern tanks and artillery in its territory. It also had a significant number of nuclear-armed long-range ballistic missiles. There was a deal eventually to return them to Russia, of course, but only after a negotiation. The starting point was that those were inherited by Ukraine. Indeed, Ukraine did inherit a lot of conventional equipment, much of which it could not use because it could not afford to maintain and man it. Nevertheless, it inherited that. That is one model.
Another model, which I suspect is more relevant to this case, in part because of the enormous asymmetry of size between the two units-we are talking about very different defence postures because of the asymmetry of size between Scotland and rUK-would be to have some sort of rough-and-ready valuation of the total value of the assets that are held by the MoD and then to apply some sort of metric. The obvious metric would be population size. The Government have published the book value of UK defence assets at about £88 billion, so you could take 8% population share times £88 billion as what Scotland would be entitled to. That would be the starting point for a negotiation about which assets Scotland could have and which assets rUK could have.
My estimate is that if Scotland went for a defence budget that was significantly lower, in proportional terms, than the UK’s current budget-the sort of thing that Stuart is talking about; a budget of about £2 billion or so-8% would probably be too high a share of that £88 billion and Scotland might, in negotiations, trade that for some other compensation, whether financial compensation, compensation on the issue of North sea oil or whatever.
Colonel Crawford: There are things that obviously Scotland would not seem to wish to have post independence. I am talking primarily about the Trident boats on the Clyde. But there is also a lack of a lot of other equipment in Scotland that an independent Scottish Government might wish to have, and that is located elsewhere in the UK. Therefore, a valuation and bartering idea is the sort of model that I would see as most likely.
Q29Sir Bob Russell: Such as?
Colonel Crawford: Aircraft. Transport aircraft. Transport helicopters. Would there be any submarines? That sort of thing. Engineer equipment.
Q30Thomas Docherty: Do you both think that Czechoslovakia is a model that has merit when looking at force separation?
Professor Chalmers: The reason why I am doubtful of that is, again, that it is more symmetric. These countries are not exactly the same size-they have different capabilities and different territories-but in the UK case, it all goes back to what the countries want from their defence forces after independence. My supposition would be that the UK wants to continue as closely as possible to what it had, and Scotland would want to have some sort of defence force that is appropriate to a small country in a relatively secure part of Europe. You divide assets on that basis. It would not make any sense to have a situation in which Scotland inherited Trident submarines, Astute class submarines, advanced fighter aircraft and all the other assets that are in Scotland, because Scotland simply could not afford to maintain them.
Q31Thomas Docherty: Just on fighter aircraft-the submarines are well documented-do you both agree that it is unlikely that you would want a tranche of Typhoons and Tornadoes?
Colonel Crawford: That is the position I have always taken. My original thought 15 years ago, when I was first thinking about this, was that, rather than going down the route of Tornado and Typhoon, an independent Scotland might prefer to look at something off the shelf, such as the American F-16, which has been bought extensively by other smaller NATO nations in Europe-Denmark, Norway and, I think, Belgium have some. The more I have thought about it, the more I think that that is not required for a small, independent country that, presumably, will have a regional focus, rather than a global focus. Something much less capable than a Typhoon would be appropriate, certainly in the initial years, and I have always suggested that a share of the Royal Air Force’s Hawk advanced trainer, albeit with an operational capability, might be more appropriate post-independence.
Professor Chalmers: I agree with Stuart on the Hawk point, which is a possible scenario in the bigger scenario. Some of the other smaller NATO countries in north-west Europe made a significant contribution to the operation in Libya with fighter aircraft.
Q32Thomas Docherty: I am sorry to interrupt you, but-I will come on to NATO-could you assume that they are not in NATO?
Professor Chalmers: I am not assuming they are not in NATO. I am assuming they are.
Q33Thomas Docherty: But if you assume they are not for a second-I will come on to NATO-and you assume your model is what the SNP has said, which is not in NATO, would you then need fast jets?
Professor Chalmers: That would depend on the threat you are seeking to defend against, I guess. There is a multitude of scenarios. At one end of the spectrum Scotland could decide to adopt an Icelandic defence policy and have no defence forces whatsoever, or it could adopt an Irish defence policy of not being in NATO but having some basic constabulary forces and no high-tech forces, or you could have a Norwegian or Danish model. In a sense, there is no one default model we can have here.
Colonel Crawford: The great problem of all of this-certainly when I have been trying to do it-is that we are doing it in a vacuum, in that there is no foreign policy for an independent Scotland that I am aware of. Without that, it is very difficult to decide what you would want your Armed Forces to do. And if you do not know what you want your Armed Forces to do, you don’t know how to configure them. And if you don’t know how to configure them, you don’t know how much they are going to cost. So what I have been trying to do, and I am sure Malcolm has been trying to do this, too, is not to speculate but to take an educated working guess of how that might pan out and what an independent Scotland might see as its place in the world. Of course, there is no guarantee that, if Scotland does become independent, the Scottish Government or Administration would be formed post-independence by the Scottish National party.
Professor Chalmers: The only thing I would add is that, having said all that about the uncertainty of the nature of the defence policy, we know what Scottish GDP would be and we know what levels of spending the other European countries devote to defence, and I think that is a reasonable guideline to the range of possible Scottish defence budgets. Given a post-independent Scottish defence budget of the order of £1.5 billion to £2 billion per year, that is a clear indication of whether you can afford even a small fleet of the most advanced fighter aircraft. I do not think that you can, unless you have a force structure biased towards air power at the expense of other components.
Q34Thomas Docherty: My final question, I promise. You said that the total defence spend was about £80 billion. Is that correct?
Professor Chalmers: The UK assets, not the defence spending.
Q35Thomas Docherty: So what is the UK’s defence spend?
Professor Chalmers: If you count operational spending-
Thomas Docherty: You are saying it is £1 billion to £2 billion. What is the UK’s equivalent of that £1 billion to £2 billion?
Professor Chalmers: £35 billion.
Q36Thomas Docherty: So we would spend less per head on defence in Scotland.
Professor Chalmers: I would assume that-I might be wrong-but the UK proportionally is one of only two countries in NATO Europe that now meet the NATO 2% target. Most fall well short of that. It is possible to assume that an independent Scotland would join the UK as being one of the only high spenders. I think it is more likely that Scotland would do what countries such as Denmark and Norway and other small countries do, which is spend around 1.5%. On that assumption, the Scottish defence budget would be around £2 billion, which of course is less than 8% of the UK budget.
Q37Mrs Moon: I am getting confused here. We do not know what the Scottish defence policy will be. We do not know whether they will be in or out of NATO. We do not know whether they will have fast jets. We know what the budget could be, but it might be that defence policy is worked out later on, so there are huge start-up costs and implications. There are huge implications in terms of applications to join an organisation such as NATO. How critical is defence policy and having a clear idea of your defence policy before you make a decision about independence? If I were a voter in Scotland, should I be worried that I would not know what I was voting for in terms of the defence of my nation, which is the picture that I am beginning to pick up here?
Professor Chalmers: As Stuart is a voter in Scotland and I am not, perhaps he could answer that.
Colonel Crawford: That is a very fair point, but I think that as we move towards the projected date of the independence referendum, which is October 2014, subject to consultation, and we understand that the SNP will publish its manifesto for the independence referendum in November 2013, by the time the Scottish electorate comes to vote, people should have a much better idea of what they are voting for.
Chair: That is one of the purposes of this inquiry, to tease out the issues that people need to address.
Q38Sandra Osborne: Colonel Crawford, I admire your optimism, if I can put it that way, speaking as a Scottish voter. Can I take you back to what you were talking about earlier in relation to fast jets and what an independent Scotland’s defence requirements would be in that regard? People keep talking about how we would be like one of these other small European countries-relatively safe; not the same threats-but we would still be attached to the rest of the UK, which surely has defence implications as well. In terms of threats from terrorism, for example, surely the risk would be far higher than in other European countries? A lot of air traffic from the rest of the UK goes via Scotland across the Atlantic. Currently, air traffic control is in Prestwick in Scotland. Are there not implications if we do not have fast jets? How would that all happen along with Scotland? How would we maintain our security from that point of view? We would still be a part, physically, of Great Britain.
Colonel Crawford: Again, this came up at the Scottish Affairs Committee. I was not being in any way cheeky, but my answer was that with a Hawk jet, instead of a Typhoon, you would still have the capability to intercept aircraft going through an independent Scotland’s airspace, but you would just not be able to do it quite as quickly or in such a sophisticated manner. I don’t think we should see that sort of scenario-control of airspace, Prestwick and all that stuff-being done by a Scotland in isolation. Arrangements would have to be made to ensure the correct handover and that the correct procedures were followed.
Professor Chalmers: To add to that, we can imagine any scenario we like, so let me give you another one: the Baltic example. We had three newly independent states, which joined NATO. There was a possibility of them spending an awful lot of their own money to build Estonian fast jets, Latvian fast jets, and so on, but in the NATO context, rather than going down that expensive route, we have the Baltic Air Patrol, in which other NATO member states, and indeed non-NATO states, help with air patrolling those states. Is that a possibility with Scotland? Of course, it is. Is that the route it would go down? I don’t know. I suspect that if Scotland was a member of NATO, there would be all sorts of ways in which defence would be provided collectively.
May I add something on your point about terrorism, because this is a very important point? Some of the most difficult issues in a negotiation would be on the intelligence services and counter-terrorism co-operation. The UK, due to its unique intelligence-sharing arrangements with the US, gets access to intelligence that not every European country gets, and that enhances our own security and counter-terrorist capabilities. As you rightly point out, there will still be an open border, presumably, between Scotland and the rest of the UK. There will still be a lot of movement of people. People in the UK will want assurance that Scotland is not a weak link in their counter-terrorism capability.
There will also be issues about Scotland’s operational competence and ability to co-operate and share intelligence that may have come from quite sensitive sources on the UK side. That whole area will be a really difficult one to sort out, and I think, in many ways, that it is even more difficult than the military side.
Q39Sandra Osborne: What do you think would happen about special forces?
Colonel Crawford: There has been some discussion on special forces, which has been really driven by a chap called Clive Fairweather, who is ex-Special Air Service and the former HM Inspector of Prisons for Scotland. He has done considerable work on that. I think he is the man to ask about special forces, and about cyber-warfare and intelligence, because he has also done a lot of work on that side. However, he spoke at the conference that Malcolm and I were present at in Edinburgh last month. His model was that there would need to be an independent Scottish special forces contingent-possibly somewhere between 75 and 100 strong-which would have all the normal anti-terrorist tasks, with particular reference to protection of the North sea gas and oil rigs.
Q40Sir Bob Russell: Leading on from previous questions, up to the line of questioning that I am going to put, under current plans, Kinloss and Leuchars will transfer to the Army and accommodate personnel relocating from elsewhere in the UK and possibly from Germany. If an independent Scotland had a Scandinavian country as a defence role model, would the numbers currently there and envisaged by relocating the Army units from elsewhere in the UK and Germany to Kinloss and Leuchars be required by an independent Scotland?
Colonel Crawford: In terms of Army troops, the model I have drawn comes up with an independent Scottish Army that consists of two brigades, both regular and reservist, and total numbers of about 12,500. I think that the total number of Army personnel in Scotland would increase, perhaps even double.
Sir Bob Russell: In an independent Scotland?
Colonel Crawford: In an independent Scotland, yes, if that model was adopted, but I think that the number of naval and Air Force personnel would reduce.
Q41Sir Bob Russell: We have been given figures from Defence Analytical Services and Advice-DESA-at the Ministry of Defence, which give the size of the Army in Scotland as of 1 October as 3,190.
Colonel Crawford: I have always worked to the principle that it is about 3,500. When the units return from Germany-if indeed they do-that will probably go up to in excess of 6,000, I would think, and the model that I have been working on, and am still working on, for an independent Scottish army, would see that rising to about 12,500, if that is the model that is adopted.
Professor Chalmers: Could I add to Stuart’s comments? One thing that will not change in an independent Scotland is that there will still be inter-service rivalry. There will still be those who think that the Army should be given the biggest priority and those who say that it should be a more maritime focus. As in the UK there will have to be difficult trade-offs. You cannot afford everything. My judgment would be that in this hypothetical scenario a Scotland that did not face any land threats would not want to give an overwhelming priority to its ground forces, just because the Scottish-badged forces we have right now are there. Their main role continues to be an expeditionary one. There will be a question, I think: one of the key questions for a Scotland in NATO would be what sort of contribution Scotland made to NATO expeditionary operations in future. Whether that would be primarily a ground one, I am less sure.
Q42Sir Bob Russell: Obviously that would be for the Government of an independent Scotland to determine, but, Chairman, our two expert witnesses have given contradictory expert advice.
Colonel Crawford: I think complementary expert advice, in so far as I totally agree with Malcolm that the threat of conventional land attack against an independent Scotland would be the same as it is against the UK at the moment-close to zero. But in terms of how an independent Scotland might want to arrange and design its Armed Forces so that it can contribute, if the Scottish Government so decide, to operations-whether they be in general conflict, whether they be peacekeeping operations, whether they be stabilisation organisations-it would be enhanced by the ability to deploy ground troops.
Q43Sir Bob Russell: I will let the Scottish electorate determine what the outcome of your respective contributions is.
The UK Minister of Defence Procurement, giving evidence to the Scottish Affairs Committee, said that some 10% of the jobs in defence are in Scotland, which has a population share of just over 8%. Scotland, according to him, has a bigger percentage of defence jobs than its population share. So, do you think an independent Scotland would maintain a higher ratio of defence jobs to its population?
Professor Chalmers: If I am not mistaken-and I could be-that was a reference to defence industrial jobs: jobs to do with defence procurement, not service and civilian personnel.
Sir Bob Russell: Yes. This is defence jobs.
Professor Chalmers: We know from Government statistics exactly what proportion of service and civilian personnel jobs are in Scotland. That is not 10%. It is around 7% or 8%, which is less than population share.
Q44Sir Bob Russell: So the Minister was wrong.
Professor Chalmers: I am not saying the Minister was wrong-God forbid; heaven forfend!-but what I would do is repeat what I said earlier: that figures on the geographical location of private sector jobs in the defence industry are very difficult to gather. The MoD stopped gathering those figures in the past, because they look at the address to which they send the invoice to determine the geographical location, but, of course, the prime contractor is not always-not all jobs are at headquarters.
Q45Sir Bob Russell: If I can move on to the line of questioning that my colleague Bob Stewart started, I will come straight to the point. The 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland is based in Canterbury. What happens to that if we have an independent Scotland?
Colonel Crawford: Realistically, the 5th Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland is the former Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders battalion, and it is going to be converted to TA on Thursday, I think. The answer is that it will become a TA battalion, which could be raised from the population of an independent Scotland.
Mrs Moon: Do you need them more than we do?
Q46Sir Bob Russell: The rumours are-
Colonel Crawford: I have heard it said that-
Q47Sir Bob Russell: -that you do not envisage Scottish battalions being based in England, Wales or Northern Ireland.
Colonel Crawford: Not unless there was an arrangement agreed between Governments to do so.
Q48Sir Bob Russell: So what about the personnel in Scottish regiments, or, indeed, Scottish people serving in other parts of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. What do you think is going to happen to them?
Colonel Crawford: I think some would choose to stay in the UK Armed Forces, and some would choose to transfer to Scottish defence forces, but in what proportion I know not. I come back to my previous answer-perhaps someone should ask.
Q49Sir Bob Russell: Perhaps if rUK is making reductions in its strength it will not want people from a foreign country serving in its ranks.
Colonel Crawford: That could well be true. Yes.
Q50Sir Bob Russell: So we could have the scenario of an independent Scotland and people with Scottish passports being required to leave the Armed Forces of the remaining UK.
Colonel Crawford: It is possible, but the UK Armed Forces of course recruit and attract a large number of people from many countries, mainly former Commonwealth countries.
Q51Sir Bob Russell: I recognise that 10%-that was the percentage last time I asked a parliamentary question-of the British Army is not British, but if we are reducing the size of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces-rUK-there are those who feel that the former Commonwealth countries would be the first whence not to recruit. An independent Scotland would be an independent country and not part of rUK, so why would they have special preference?
Colonel Crawford: I don’t think they would necessarily.
Professor Chalmers: We do not know the answer to this question of course, but there is a precedent with the separation of Ireland from the UK. Irish citizens continue to serve in significant numbers, as I understand it, in the UK Armed Forces. One scenario is that you would not have any recruitment from Scotland or Ireland in future, but if you applied that only to Scotland, you would be putting Scotland on a lower tier of interdependence than the Republic of Ireland. It all depends on the scenario. Inevitably, it is important in the run-up to a referendum to think about worst-case scenarios of total separation and antagonism, and back to the 15th century, but it is also just as likely, and probably more likely, that they will find some way of getting along.
The other thing I would raise, which isn’t a matter for a defence Committee, is that one of the big issues will be working out who has a Scottish passport, and who has a British passport, and whether there is dual citizenship. That is one of the other issues that are beyond my purview.
Q52Sir Bob Russell: The population of the recruitment area of the Royal Anglian Regiment is greater than the population of Scotland, so why should my young men and young ladies be discriminated against because places in the Royal Anglian Regiment will be filled by Scots?
Professor Chalmers: It is a very good question.
Colonel Crawford: I think that any Armed Forces would seek to recruit the very best recruits they can attract, notwithstanding, within reason, where they hail from.
Q53Sir Bob Russell: But if a country chooses to break away, surely its citizens should be treated as foreigners. I am just asking the questions, because I think they have perhaps not been put or answered. I will leave that one hanging in the air. In an independent Scotland, its citizens would be foreigners.
Finally, what about the personal equipment of our sailors, soldiers and airmen from Scotland-their personal uniforms, and so on.
Colonel Crawford: I assume that that would be part of the divvy up of the assets.
Q54Sandra Osborne: Professor Chalmers, you started by emphasising how integrated UK forces have been following the Act of Union and so on. A big part of that psychologically is that all UK Forces swear an oath of loyalty to the Queen. Do you perceive any possible problem with that in an independent Scotland, and if not, why not?
Professor Chalmers: That would rather depend on the constitutional status of the Queen in an independent Scotland. Up to now, we have been rather sceptical about taking SNP policy as a definitive guideline to what would happen after independence. That is also true in this case. As far as my very basic reading of Scottish politics is concerned, I do not think that many are arguing that an independent Scotland should be a republic. If an independent Scotland were a member of the Commonwealth and continued to have the Queen as Head of State, clearly there would be less of an issue. I think there would still be some issues, however. The role of the monarch in relation to the Armed Forces is a particular one. The oath of loyalty is the surface manifestation, but it is a lot more about the limits on political control of the Armed Forces, which is a very sensitive issue. Scotland would have to think through those issues separately, perhaps even in terms of codifying that relationship in some way in Scottish law rather than English law.
There would be a number of complex issues, which I am certainly not expert enough to answer. I do not think it would be simple. The Scottish Government would have to answer questions rather quickly, perhaps drawing on the constitutional arrangements of Australia or Canada. Those are the precedents. It would not be a simple manner.
Colonel Crawford: As far as I understand it, from my reading of what is going on in Scotland at the moment, there is no appetite to abandon the monarchy if Scotland becomes an independent nation. I think the SNP line is that it is a decision for the Scottish people, to be taken by referendum in due course if they so choose.
Q55Thomas Docherty: Can I take you back to the earlier issues about fast jets and the suggestion of Hawks? My understanding-I checked on Wikipedia-is that it is not actually a supersonic aircraft. I think it does Mach 0.8, and it doesn’t have any radar. I am a huge fan of the Hawk-it plays an important role, and the more we can sell to people, the better-but even during those two or three years when it was temporarily used as an interceptor aircraft, it had to buddy with the Tornado, because it didn’t have radar. The Tornado had to fly up and acquire the target, and only then was the Hawk notionally able to launch. Given that we all accept that premise, how can it be used as an interceptor?
Colonel Crawford: It is an option for a small nation with a limited budget to equip its air force with. The attraction is that it is, of course, dual-role as an advanced trainer, so it covers that as well. It does have a limited operational capability. It is a significant part of the RAF’s current inventory, which also makes it attractive, in that a share could be negotiated. I only offered it up as an alternative to going for something much more sophisticated and much more expensive. Not being an RAF man, I have no answer for how it could intercept, apart from visually or being directed by some sort of ground control system.
Q56Thomas Docherty: But isn’t that the problem-that it’s absolutely fine until the application? Without radar, the Sidewinder cannot acquire.
Professor Chalmers: It reinforces a point I made earlier. This is not going to be a matter of simply inheriting some assets and putting them straight out into the field. I imagine that in this scenario, an independent Scotland would be begging, borrowing and leasing assets all over the place, but fitting them-they might find a Hawk aircraft the best deal, but then they would have to fit radar, missiles or whatever it might be to make something which works as an interim solution. It would not be satisfactory and it would not work very well, but I don’t think the option of trying to maintain even a tiny number of force elements at readiness with high-tech and very expensive aircraft such as Typhoon and Tornado would be affordable, so they would be looking at second best. Would that be Hawk? I think it is too early to make that judgment.
Q57Thomas Docherty: Let us tease out what Sir Bob said earlier about personnel. In your experience, gentlemen, if you are a Royal Air Force fast jet pilot who has flown Typhoons, Tornadoes or strike fighters, and you are given a choice between flying Typhoons, Tornadoes or strike fighters-you know where I am going with this.
Colonel Crawford: Of course you would, but not everybody in the Royal Air Force, sadly, has the capabilities, the temperament, the reflexes or the physiology to fly fast jets. I do not know what the proportion is, but something like only 20% of those who enter the RAF to undertake flying duty actually end up on fast jets, because it is hugely competitive. So there will be a whole cohort of people who would love to fly Typhoons, joint strike fighters and so on, who are not able to for various reasons and who might be suitable to fly something which is understandably and recognisably less capable.
Q58Thomas Docherty: But you would accept that if you are the best of the best-
Colonel Crawford: If you are the best of the best, you want to fly a new toy.
Q59Thomas Docherty: And you would not want to join the Scottish air force.
Colonel Crawford: Oh no, I did not say that. There is a whole host of other reasons why the best of the best might want to join.
Q60Thomas Docherty: If you were the best of the best fast jet pilots-let me put it that way-you would not leave.
Colonel Crawford: You might have to get your experience on exchange with another air force.
Q61Thomas Docherty: Right. And then you would come back and fly Supermarine Spitfires.
Colonel Crawford: Or teach-be an instructor.
Q62 Chair: On this issue of intercepting passenger airlines, their normal speed is about 600 knots, isn’t it? And the top speed of a Hawk about 350. So, when you say that it would be a second best, would it actually? You would have to be very good.
Professor Chalmers: You make a very good point, Mr Chairman. I find it hard to imagine a situation in which an independent Scotland took sole responsibility for patrolling its own air space. Given its economic resources and the difficulty-the expense-of maintaining a high-level capability, some co-operative arrangement with NATO allies seems much more likely.
Q63Mr Havard: I think that’s right, and it comes into my question, in part. I want to go back to this thing about costs. It is almost an impossible question that I am going to ask, because we are all struggling with the same thing. It depends on what you are going to involve and not involve in the separation. But there are costs, and there would be significant costs of separation. Can I ask you about the estimates? Are any reliable estimates currently available to us, or anyone else, of the costs of separation, based on different scenarios? Is anything available?
Colonel Crawford: You are talking not about the costs of actually running an independent air force-
Mr Havard: No, I just mean the costs of separation.
Colonel Crawford: I see-dividing everything up and trading it off.
Mr Havard: Yes.
Colonel Crawford: I would not work on that sort of thing normally. There must be some statistics somewhere.
Professor Chalmers: No, I would be very surprised if there were such statistics, because we are not even at the stage of defining exactly what the issue is. In a scenario in which the UK could maintain all its existing bases in Scotland as foreign bases, the costs of relocation would clearly be much less. The more you had movement of infrastructure and had to build new infrastructure, in England and Wales for example, for that which is currently in Scotland, the more the costs would go up.
The biggest cost would be for Scotland, because the UK would be inheriting more or less 95% of the existing UK defence structure. It would have extra costs mainly in so far as it lost access to bases in Scotland, and there is a question mark over whether it would, and in which cases. Scotland, on the other hand, would be building infrastructure more or less from scratch, and there would be substantial capital costs across the whole range of defence capability. How much would that be? Because it is so difficult to come to a real answer on that, I would work out the problem top down and say, "This is how much I think Scotland could realistically spend on this." Out of that, say, £2 billion a year, in the first year an awful lot of it would have to be capital costs, which would restrict how much you had available for running those forces.
Colonel Crawford: The biggest cost would obviously be relocating the independent nuclear deterrent. That would take a long time and an awful lot of money.
Chair: But, as I say, we are just about to come on to that.
Q64Mr Havard: This is a bit like wrestling jelly, at the moment. It is a matter of trying to get an idea though. What would be your estimate of the time that would be involved in the process of separation, if we could not decide exactly what the costs would be?
You said earlier that there are people doing work somewhere-the mystery people doing the work-all in secret, all of whom have this knowledge, apparently, and are deciding to describe it to the rest of us at some point, presumably in a bargaining process about bidding up prices for the costs of separation. Therefore, it is reserved to them because they do not want to give their hand away in a poker game. But how are the rest of us supposed to understand it? Presumably we have, in some way or another, to have a punt at how long the separation process-this bargaining process-should they vote for it, will take. Do you have any estimate of that?
Colonel Crawford: Certainly not less than five years, and more likely to be in the 10 to 15-year time frame to have everything negotiated, agreed, moved, done and dusted.
Mr Havard: Through several iterations of the Defence and Security Review process that we are predicting in relation to the UK currently then.
Colonel Crawford: Many iterations.
Professor Chalmers: That time scale would exclude the particularly difficult issue of the nuclear deterrent.
If there were to be a yes vote, there would be quite a lot of political pressure to move to independence and full separation in the not-too-distant future. You cannot have a gap between referendum and full UN membership of five years; that is absurdly long. It would be, I suspect, one or two years. Therefore there would be a question of what you would want to have decided before separation.
From the UK point of view, in some respects, its bargaining power would be much greater before it agrees to a full separation. But perhaps the Scottish Government would feel that they would be in a better position once Scotland is actually an independent state and not simply a devolved Administration, and it may want to postpone the resolution of some issues. There would be a complex dynamic.
Basically, once Scotland is independent, the issue of its membership of international organisations would almost certainly have been resolved by that stage-its membership of the UN and its relationship with the EU and NATO. It could then negotiate on issues like basing and division of other defence assets after that. Whether the UK would be able to adopt the opposite strategy and negotiate all these defence issues in advance of the break-up, I don’t know. What is most likely is perhaps that the UK would be seeing the defence issue as one of several critical issues, such as currency, North Sea oil and membership of international organisations, which have to be resolved, and try to have some overall bargain, even if the details of how you work through that bargain in defence and other areas would be left until after full independence.
Q65Penny Mordaunt: My first question is about the consequences of an independent Scotland for the deterrent. I understand that you have explained about negotiating in terms of using bases and other facilities. Is there not a special case with the nuclear deterrent? There could be a range of different foreign policy options. What is your assessment of what those options might be?
Professor Chalmers: Yes, there is a particular problem because the UK now has only one nuclear weapon system, Trident, and it is based in Scotland. The costs of establishing that infrastructure in Scotland in the past were very considerable, not least because of the very high level of safety and security required for such a base. In the event of independence, it would not be a straightforward matter, to say the least, to relocate the system to bases in the rest of the UK.
In the past I have written academic pieces on that question and looked at the now publicly available records of all the alternative bases in the rest of the UK that were examined by the US in relation to its Holy Loch decision and by the UK in relation to the Faslane-Coulport decision. Nothing is impossible, but it would be a very substantial venture indeed, in terms of time and money, to replicate those facilities elsewhere, particularly the Coulport facility. As the Royal Navy downsizes, there may be space available at Devonport for the submarines, for example, but in terms of the weapons themselves, on the working assumption that the UK and the nuclear installations inspectorate would not be prepared to relax their safety standards in the event of Scottish independence, you are looking at a very long period of time before ground was even broken, not to speak of the local political controversy that you might generate in the south-west of England, for example, if you were to base the Coulport facility near Falmouth. This is a big issue.
Colonel Crawford: I think Professor William Walker at St Andrew’s university said that if an independent Scotland insisted on removal of the independent nuclear deterrent-the Trident boats on the Clyde-it would effectively be ordering unilateral disarmament on the part of the UK, and I think that huge pressure would be put on the Government of an independent Scotland so that that did not happen. The most likely scenario that I would see happening in those circumstances is that in the final analysis a compromise would have to be reached. It may be that the Trident boats would have to stay in the Clyde against the wishes of the Scottish people and the Scottish Government, until such time as the boats or their weapons systems, or both, became obsolete.
Q66Penny Mordaunt: Right.
Colonel Crawford: That is not necessarily a popular view in Scotland.
Q67Penny Mordaunt: No. I can understand that costings are probably not well worked up, but when you say it would take a very long time both in terms of making ready possible alternatives and then decommissioning what is in Scotland, can you put a number of years on that?
Professor Chalmers: I could make a guesstimate, but it would be no more than that. Once the decision had been made to start looking at an alternative location in England or Wales, the timetable for building high-speed rail from London to the midlands might give an idea of the order of magnitude. That is certainly the order of complexity with all the planning processes, appeals and so on. I would be surprised if it was less than 15 years, but that is a broad estimate.
The political difficulty would be that the UK, even in a scenario that it agreed with Scotland to relocate, would be very reluctant to put a specific number on it, precisely because there is so much uncertainty in such a project.
Q68Penny Mordaunt: With regard to costs, is there any idea of what they would be?
Colonel Crawford: I suppose one could look at the cost of constructing the Faslane naval base and the Coulport weapons system base, and extrapolate that forward, but I am afraid I do not have any idea.
Professor Chalmers: I think the cost would be less than those costs, because there are some facilities at Devonport that could be used by submarines. The size of the deterrent is less than it was, so rather fewer weapon-storage facilities might be needed. It would be several billion, but I do not think I would like to be more precise than that.
Q69Penny Mordaunt: With regard to clean-up costs, has anything been done on that?
Colonel Crawford: Not that I know of.
Q70Penny Mordaunt: Given that obviously the nuclear deterrent is critical to the UK’s defence, and going back to your scenario, what bargaining chips does the UK have to retain the deterrent in Scotland?
Colonel Crawford: I think there will be a whole raft of bargaining chips as an independent Scotland seeks to set up its own defence infrastructure. We spoke previously of assets located south of the border that an independent Scotland might want. We talked about transport aircraft, and we talked about helicopters. The negotiations would involve all those sorts of things, so it might be a case of the UK Government telling the Scottish Government that they really really do not want to move from Faslane in the short term and offering something in part-exchange. Some of that may be money.
Professor Chalmers: Perhaps I could add to that. This is one of the most important issues in the negotiation, but it is only one of them. After a referendum, and when it was clear that Scotland was going to become independent, I think the two successor states would, in a way, be doomed to co-operate because of their degree of interdependence, not only in security, but in economics. Whatever had been said before the referendum, they would be doomed to co-operate because it would be in their mutual interest to do so. For example, if a Scottish Government said, "Right, we want to be non-nuclear, and we want to do it now. These submarines have to be back in England by next Tuesday," the UK Government would say, "Okay, you want our support to become members of the European Union; you want the Bank of England to support your currency, or to share a currency with the UK; you want to have free trade and you want your Scottish personnel to be able to serve with the UK Armed Forces: well, get real. We have needs as well."
On the other hand, however, if the Scottish Government were to say, "We will be reasonable on this nuclear force. We don’t like it, but we will retain it," as the Irish did after their independence, right up until 1938, it would be hard for the UK to turn round and say, "No, we don’t accept that Scotland has any right to be in the EU or NATO, and we don’t think Scottish personnel should serve in our Armed Forces, and so on." There would be brinkmanship and hard-line positions. It is possible negotiations would break down. It is more likely, in my estimate, that once passions cooled-and perhaps it is a hope rather than a prediction-you would have some sort of negotiation, which recognised that it is not up to Scotland to decide that the UK should unilaterally disarm.
Q71Ms Stuart: Just listening to you it suddenly occurs to me, what would the American response be if the Scots sent the nuclear submarines back to England. What would they do?
Colonel Crawford: I think that it would be likely that immense pressure would be brought on Scotland from Washington not to pursue that course of action.
Professor Chalmers: I think that is absolutely right. An independent Scotland would need, like any small state, to have friends in the international community. There are large Scottish diasporas around the world, not least in the United States, but also in Canada, Australia and so on, who would be asking whether this is the sort of Scotland that they support. They will not understand if an independent Scotland, as one of its first acts, decides it wants to throw out nuclear weapons and leave NATO. They will ask, "What sort of Scotland is this?" On the other hand, if Scotland makes it clear that what they want to do is create a small, social democratic state like the Scandinavian states, which joins international organisations and is an active player, they are more likely to get fair wind from those external communities, which will be critical. We know in the United States how important diaspora communities are in influencing US policy. I think the Scots would be well advised in that scenario to take advantage of that.
Q72Thomas Docherty: Are you aware of a small country called Ireland, which is not in NATO? I am fairly sure it has a good relationship with the United States. I don’t see the link.
Professor Chalmers: Let me explain, because that is a very good question, and the same question could actually be asked in relation to the non-nuclear status of Norway and Denmark, which is another comparison that is sometimes made with Scotland. I think the issue is one of process rather than comparative state-that it would be the act of insisting that these weapons left quickly, without somewhere to put them, that would raise real concerns about what this meant about Scotland’s policy. If Scotland did not have nuclear weapons in its territory there would not be an issue-but it is the act of doing that, and especially doing it precipitately.
Thomas Docherty: Right.
Professor Chalmers: I actually think that in the very long term, over decades, as in the case of Ireland in some respects, perhaps, the UK might become increasingly uncomfortable about basing its only operational nuclear system in a foreign country, and might decide of its own volition that it would prefer to base it on its own territory. After all, having your main system based in one country and having your missiles serviced in another begins to look rather less than fully independent. There might be questions raised there; but for Scotland to precipitate that process, I think, would not be seen as very friendly.
Colonel Crawford: The sensible time to be doing that sort of thing, if it does come to that, would be as the Trident missile system becomes obsolete, and is replaced-if it is-by something else.
Q73Sandra Osborne: Given that it is about to be renewed, that would be a very long time. At the moment the Scottish people are being given the impression that if they vote yes in the referendum Trident will be removed from Scottish soil. I do not think they would take too kindly to the idea that the Americans are going to decide against the democratic right of the Scottish people, if that is what they choose. Don’t you think that people need to know these things before they actually vote on the referendum as to what their future is going to be, rather than maybe aye, maybe no?
Colonel Crawford: I think that is a very fair point. From the Scottish perspective, it is not clear what the bargaining chips are on the other side of the argument if Scotland were to vote no in the independence referendum. Information needs to come from both sides of the argument before people have any sort of idea.
Q74Thomas Docherty: What are the bargaining chips?
Colonel Crawford: The bargaining chips are that we understand from the discussions that have taken place so far that if Scotland votes no, it is highly likely that the UK Government will devolve further powers to the Scottish Parliament.
Q75Thomas Docherty: No, the Prime Minister suggested that. That is possibly what will happen, but I think Sandra and I would say that that is not what the Scottish Labour party or the Labour party would be suggesting. That may be what the Liberal Democrats wish to do as part of their federalism, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that that was an offer that had been made to the Scottish people.
Q76Mr Havard: Can I just pursue this for a second? Devo-max, devo-plus or whatever comes up-whether there is one question or two questions-there are a lot of questions, and we have not got there yet. Whatever the party position, it might not be a Scottish nationalist Government anyway, even if there was independence, so all these things are up in the air. It seems to me that basically all we can do at the moment is to look at the potential for change and the relative costs of different types of change. We are trying to estimate those, because I think that is the information that people need to have in order to ask, "What am I getting into?"
The thing I wanted to get to is the nuclear deterrent. If independence came along, maybe the last point you were making about the rest of the UK evaluating itself would apply, but this is over a very long period of time. Can I just go back to what I have said before? There is a plan for the current UK to go through a series of evaluations of itself in terms of its needs for defence and security-the defence and security review-and there is a programme for doing that on a five-year basis. Everyone is assuming that that sequence will carry on while the debate about Scotland runs in parallel with it and presumably feeds into it. How do you see that process being disturbed by all these questions about relative separation, irrespective of the result of the referendum-whether Scotland is staying or whether it is going?
Professor Chalmers: I think those processes would be enormously disturbed, but I think it would be a broader question than that. If, as Stuart suggests, the referendum were to take place in October 2014, that is not very long before the latest date for a UK general election. It is hard to imagine that the process of transition to complete separation could be concluded before May or June 2015, so you would have elections to the UK Parliament in 2015 that included Members from Scotland, and the West Lothian question would potentially arise even more than it does already.
Sir Bob Russell: The Whole Lothian question.
Professor Chalmers: Perhaps the Whole Lothian question. At every level there would be a period of considerable uncertainty in the UK, as well as in Scotland, until the two states had properly separated. How one handles that constitutionally, I do not know, but I think the issue of the defence review would be subordinate to that. Clearly, there would be a need for both the successor states to have defence reviews given their very different circumstances.
Mr Havard: And security.
Professor Chalmers: I suspect that the five-year NSS and SDSR cycle would have to be amended to take that into account.
Chair: We are going to cover NATO. A lot of the issues that we still have left to cover have, to a certain extent, already been discussed.
Q77Mrs Moon: Can I just pin down a couple of facts in relation to Scotland and NATO? If there had been a vote yes for independence, would a future Scottish Government have to reapply independently to join NATO, or would their current membership-in terms of the whole UK membership-still exist? Which would it be?
Chair: Answer, answer.
Professor Chalmers: I am not an international constitutional lawyer, but people who know about these issues tell me that on issues of recognition, most of the wider international community would in the first instance look to the entities concerned to sort the matter out for themselves. If the London and Edinburgh Governments had negotiated that one or both would want to be a member of the EU, NATO or the United Nations, other countries would have to have a very strong interest to block that, and they probably would not. However, if Edinburgh and London disagreed, and brought in the wider international community in some sort of mediation role, it is much more likely in the case of the EU or NATO that the weight of the international community would be with the status quo power, with London. But that is a political question, not simply a legal question. We can get too hung up about the idea that there is a clear constitutional set of rules and that it is therefore absolutely clear which way it will go. Respected lawyers argue it in different ways.
Colonel Crawford: I suspect that the NATO question will go away in the fullness of time in that those who espouse the case of withdrawing from NATO on independence may well change their mind.
Q78Mrs Moon: Very briefly, the financial implications of an independent Scotland that withdraws from NATO would be huge in terms of affording defence cover. Am I right?
Colonel Crawford: I think the implications are that it would see that the unique prospect of a small nation withdrawing from arguably the most successful collective defensive alliance in history would be a big step to take, politically, militarily, and psychologically.
Q79Mrs Moon: I can’t remember who it was, but you talked earlier about Iceland as a model.
Colonel Crawford: It was Malcolm.
Q80Mrs Moon: Iceland is a very active and proactive member of NATO, so it would seem to me to make absolutely no sense at all.
Professor Chalmers: An independent Scotland that was not in NATO would be a very different animal from any other state. It would be very different from Ireland, which was never a member of NATO. It is difficult to predict exactly what it would be like.
I think the most important thing would be the signal that it sent to others. Countries such as Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Austria co-operate closely with NATO, but are not members. Again, it comes back to the point about process versus end state, and everyone would be asking why Scotland has decided to take that very strong step when almost every other country is in it. It would be incomprehensible.
The specific operational implications are much harder to work out, because it would depend on Scotland’s defence posture. It is possible to imagine that it would have a threat assessment comparable with Ireland and maintain quite small armed forces. After a few years, people would get used to the fact that the Scots were just a bit strange in not wanting to be in NATO, but it would work out arrangements, as the Swedes and Finns have, for transit of air space and so on. That would effectively be equivalent to NATO membership, even if it was not called that.
Q81Thomas Docherty: While I understand that everyone here may think that NATO membership is a no-brainer, that is not the position of Mr Salmond, as he has said repeatedly-
Professor Chalmers indicated assent.
Q82Thomas Docherty: Perhaps you will humour me for a second, and assume that Mr Salmond is good for his word-we have no reason to think he is not. If the proposition put to the Scottish people is to be not in NATO-they spoke previously about coming out of Afghanistan, and said that they would not have gone into Iraq, and would not have expeditionary capabilities-is the more appropriate model for size and shape-I am not asking for a line by line description-something like the Irish-style model of about 20 aircraft, two or three offshore patrol vessels, and an army of-
Colonel Crawford: A gendarmerie of 1,500 or something like that.
Q83Thomas Docherty: Right. Rather than something like a few squadrons of fast jets, frigates, and a brigade of circa 8,500. Would that be a reasonable assumption?
Colonel Crawford: I have been trying to develop my thoughts on this. Many commentators have said that Scotland has 10% of the UK population, so clearly, an independent Scotland would have an Armed Forces 10% of the size of the UK’s. Other commentators have said that Scotland is the same size as Denmark or Norway, and therefore it will have the same sort of thing that they have. Some commentators have said that whatever the Armed Forces of an independent Scotland might be, we have to sustain the level of defence-related jobs in the country, and defence is a job-creation scheme.
What I have tried to do is turn that on its head and say, "Let’s forget about all that. Let’s see what an independent Scotland would actually need-not what it would want-to carry out the tasks it might set itself in terms of territorial defence, defence of national interests and contribution to overseas alliances as it sees fit." Deliberately, I targeted that at the modest end of the Armed Forces and came up with the model that I have been talking about today. There is no reason why it should not become even more modest than that, although I think most commentators would say that I have been sufficiently modest already on all the questions I have come up with about Hawk jets and more sophisticated things.
The answer is, yes, it is perfectly possible for an independent Scotland to adopt the same sort of posture as Ireland, but I would think that it would be unlikely, because that is very modest indeed. That is almost down to armed neutrality.
Q84Thomas Docherty: So you are saying that the head count for the three services would be what?
Colonel Crawford: My model comes up with an army of 12,500. I can give you the exact details-
Sir Bob Russell: 12,500?
Thomas Docherty: That’s two brigades.
Colonel Crawford: That’s two brigades plus headquarters staff.
Thomas Docherty: Even Mr Salmond is not saying that. Mr Salmond was saying one brigade-[Interruption.]
Colonel Crawford: No. TA and regular.
Q85Thomas Docherty: But Mr Salmond’s position was one brigade, one air base and one navy base.
Colonel Crawford: I think the First Minister’s position was that that was what an independent Scotland would be likely to inherit, given the current plans.
Q86Thomas Docherty: I can get the exact words up: that is what we would inherit; that would be "the shape of".
Colonel Crawford: I think he said it would be ideal for Scotland come independence. I don’t know what his position is, but it would not be ideal to have one air base, one port and one military base, because that is putting all your eggs in one basket.
Professor Chalmers: The only thing I would add on your question about a Scotland not in NATO is that European states that are not in NATO are, in almost every case, contributing to ISAF in Afghanistan. I have met Swedish forces in Afghanistan. There is not a direct correlation between being in NATO and taking part in NATO operations.
Q87Thomas Docherty: But the SNP wants out of Afghanistan. It has said that and voted in the House repeatedly that it would come out as soon as it could.
Professor Chalmers: Well, the Afghanistan operation will be more or less over by the time the referendum takes place. I am talking about future such operations. The best predictor of what countries do in these operations tends to be an examination of their national strategic cultures. There is a question mark about what the national strategic culture of an independent Scotland would be, but I suspect that, given the prominence of Scots in the British Armed Forces for centuries, there would be an element of that in the national sense of what is appropriate and responsible to do. I would imagine that like countries like Sweden, an independent Scotland, even outside NATO, and certainly in NATO, would continue to want to make some contribution to international expeditionary operations while having the option of saying no, where they wish to do so.
Q88Penny Mordaunt: Following on from that, I have a brief question. We talked about the Army. In terms of Navy capabilities, if you are taking the approach that it is what Scotland needs-
Colonel Crawford: Yes, absolutely.
Q89Penny Mordaunt: Would it be sort of ocean patrol vessels as opposed to destroyers?
Colonel Crawford: Absolutely. I have come up with a model that, again, from memory, is about 20 to 25 vessels altogether, with a couple of frigates, which gives Scotland the option to contribute, should it so desire, to coalition operations. The emphasis is very much on keeping sea routes open and policing fishing grounds and oil and gas rigs. So yes, it would be based on offshore patrol vehicles.
Penny Mordaunt: Number of hulls is-
Colonel Crawford: Between 20 and 25.
Q90Thomas Docherty: How many war-fighting hulls? Frigates, destroyers or bigger?
Colonel Crawford: Destroyers or bigger. Two frigates. That is it.
Q91 Chair: But in keeping the sea routes open, you would not expect them to have an expeditionary capability towards the Suez canal or anywhere else.
Colonel Crawford: No, not necessarily. I think there is enough slack in the system to allow a Scottish Government, for example, to send or contribute a vessel, but certainly only in exceptional circumstances.
Q92Penny Mordaunt: I want to look at the possibilities of an independent Scotland sharing air bases with the UK. I understand from your previous answers that you say that that is possible, but what might be the circumstances if the UK wanted to engage in a particular action and Scotland did not and those bases were in Scotland?
Colonel Crawford: Realistically, the arrangement would have to include the fact that the rest of the UK had independence of action when it came to deploying its military aircraft or military assets. Otherwise, you just could not envisage the circumstances where a military decision was taken and then some of the forces were prevented from deploying or being part of it. Militarily, it is impossible.
Professor Chalmers: I think that would be a real problem. If you had an arrangement where Scotland had no veto power whatsoever over the use of aircraft taking off from air bases in Scotland to take part in an operation such as Iraq in 2003, which was very divisive in Scotland and in the UK, that would put the Scottish Government in that particular crisis in a very difficult position. I suppose that the saving grace in relation to air power is that this is a relatively mobile asset, and therefore in the event of such a crisis the UK might be able to fly those aircraft from English rather than Scottish bases. But of course, that possibility would over time, in addition to other factors, mean that the UK would be rather reluctant to continue to base mobile assets in Scotland when reinvestment decisions came up.
The area where there would be the strongest case for UK basing in Scotland would be where such basing has particular geographical advantages. That is probably the case in relation to air patrol, and you could see a continuing arrangement there. However, for the broader gamut of assets that would potentially be used in expeditionary operations you would see a steady drift of assets southwards.
Q93Sandra Osborne: In a separate Scotland, would there be a big enough defence footprint to maintain and develop an indigenous defence industry?
Professor Chalmers: I think for an independent Scotland this would partly be an issue of defence policy and how much the Scottish defence forces were prepared to spend on procurement and how far they could procure that domestically. Most of it they could not procure domestically, because Scotland has a share of the UK defence industrial base, but it is certainly not all-encompassing. Most of what Scotland would buy would have to be bought from elsewhere.
Its own industrial assets could be used, as they are now, to provide parts for international projects, such as the joint strike fighter or whatever it may be. I suspect over time that the trend would be for those industrial capabilities–which are not particularly competitive–to drift into the UK, because the defence industrial market is a very complex one. It certainly is not a free market. There is always a very strong element, despite the rhetoric of competitive procurement, of providing employment in one’s own country. Over time-in some cases, such as the Type 26, rather rapidly-you would see the Government in London deciding to procure domestically rather than in Scotland. However, Scotland would still maintain some niche capabilities where they may be particularly competitive.
That would link to a broader issue of whether an independent Scottish Government had an industrial policy and how far they were prepared to put resources essentially into subsidising defence manufacturing. I suspect that, given the economic constraints that such a Government would be under, it would take a lot to convince that Government that Scotland had a unique defence industry capability in areas worth subsidising at the expense of other capabilities. My final point is about the Type 26, because it illustrates a larger question. There will be a question for the UK Government between now and the time of a referendum about whether they wish to place contracts for manufacture in Scotland, which would then be difficult to reverse in the case of independence. In so far as there is some flexibility in placing major contracts, I suspect the UK Government will not want to place such contracts on the other side of the border in advance of a referendum. They may not want to make a final decision until they know whether or not the yards on Clydeside will be part of the UK after 2016.
Q94Sandra Osborne: Are we likely to see an aircraft carrier built in the Clyde after independence?
Professor Chalmers: I do not think there is any-
Q95Thomas Docherty: Rosyth.
Q96Sandra Osborne: Sorry, at Rosyth.
Professor Chalmers: The carriers will be well enough advanced in construction by 2014 for that not to be so much of an issue.
Q97Sandra Osborne: But in the future?
Professor Chalmers: The future generation of carriers in 2070 or whenever is perhaps beyond- The Type 26 is the immediate issue.
Q98 Chair: We have been hypothetical throughout this.
Q99Mr Havard: If we are really getting hypothetical, can you imagine a French aircraft carrier being built because they have re-established the Auld Alliance.
Colonel Crawford: I think the point is that Rosyth has the only dry dock in the UK that can put aircraft carriers together. I think it is the only one that is big enough.
Q100Thomas Docherty: On the reverse though, not just about construction or about English work for Scottish yards, as the MP for Rosyth I know that your model of two fighting vessels is not enough work to maintain Rosyth. Would you accept that what is much more likely to happen is that Rosyth would have to shut because the work would go, and the Scottish navy would have to get refitted in English yards.
Colonel Crawford: I think it all depends on how something like the Rosyth yard and the Clyde yards would be able to seek other markets for their products. This is completely speculative, but it would also depend on whether an independent Scotland would join some sort of alliance with Scandinavian states. There would be economies of scale when it came to procuring equipment, a bit like pan-European equipment procurement at the moment. The work would be shared out on a European basis or some other alliance basis, not on a UK basis. In terms of your original premise, yes, I think Rosyth would be in danger of shutting if it could not find work from elsewhere, because I do not think, in all honesty, that an independent Scottish navy would be large enough to be able to sustain the level of work or the level of shipbuilding in Scotland.
Q101Thomas Docherty: So it would be plausible that the Scottish navy would end up being refitted, for argument’s sake, in Plymouth, at the Babcock facility there?
Colonel Crawford: Or in German yards-
Thomas Docherty: Or in Brest or somewhere.
Chair: Final question.
Q102Thomas Docherty: This is with my Gisela Stuart Panama hat on. I appreciate that this is speculation, but what are the threats that Scotland as a separate country may face, looking beyond 2014?
Colonel Crawford: Terrorism, cyber-warfare, threats to economic assets, like the oilfields or the fishing grounds, which has happened before. I do not think there is any threat to the renewables industry. I cannot see anyone trying to capture the offshore wind farms or anything like that. So I think there are general low-level threats that, arguably, the rest of the UK faces at the moment. I do not think that there is any really credible threat of a conventional military attack against the territorial integrity of an independent Scotland.
Q103Sir Bob Russell: But what happens if there is?
Colonel Crawford: I hope that sufficient resources have been put into an independent Scottish defence force.
Q104Sir Bob Russell: An independent country needs more than hope, surely?
Colonel Crawford: Until the plans are made more apparent, all we have to go on-
Q105Sir Bob Russell: Sitting here representing a garrison town in the south of England, I have to ask the question: would an independent Scotland be safer for its citizens than is currently the case as part of the United Kingdom?
Colonel Crawford: I think it would probably be the same.
Professor Chalmers: If I could interject there, I think it is important, if we are talking about separation, to have a very long time frame in answering that question. I think Stuart is right in the short term-that the main security threats are more things like cyber-warfare and terrorism and so on, and not inter-state conflict-but Scotland has been part of the Union for more than three centuries, and we need to adopt a similar time scale in talking about the security implications of independence. The world will change a lot, even in the next 50 years, and who knows what will happen during such a period.
It will be critically important for an independent Scotland to have very close security relationships with its neighbours, and most of all with the UK, if it is not to be left exposed in security terms. But unlike in the current situation, that assistance cannot be guaranteed. It may be likely, but it cannot be guaranteed, because you would then be dealing with independent sovereign states with their own domestic politics and their own interests.
Q106Thomas Docherty: On the Russian question, we are regularly told that there is a possibility of an increased Russian threat in the years ahead. Is this something that Scotland needs to be thinking about and, if the answer is yes, how should Scotland prepare for how it meets those challenges?
Colonel Crawford: Are we talking about a Russian threat in terms of interests and competition in the High North and the Arctic, and all that sort of stuff?
Q107Thomas Docherty: That type of thing, and obviously there has been some stuff about Russian ships entering waters and the Bears continuing to fly south.
Colonel Crawford: I think that an independent Scotland would have to make sure that its defence arrangements with its allies were such that it could counter those threats. I do not know what alliances or coalitions an independent Scotland might join-we have already talked about NATO-but there will be alliances of the Scandinavian countries which it may choose to join because of the joint interests in the High North.
Professor Chalmers: Just to follow on from that, that illustrates very well the way in which an independent Scotland would not suddenly be able to escape from geopolitics or international security issues. Scotland would want, like other north European countries, to do contingency planning and to have forces available for what may be unlikely, but are possible, contingencies in relation to Russia. The High North is going to become more important for transport routes, for hydrocarbon exploration and all sorts of other issues. Quite rightly, the UK has recently put more emphasis on that, so yes. Of course, Scotland cannot address those issues by itself, but there may be aspects of that threat, were it to evolve, which are specifically Scottish. The Norwegians or the Americans would say, "If you want us to help you, then you have to help us." That is a really important reason why I think Scotland will be forced into interdependency.
The only other point I would make is that there is I think an emerging below-the-table inter-Service debate in Scotland, where those who believe that Scotland should give more emphasis to maritime and air capability have emphasised the High North as Scotland’s near-abroad and the area in which Scotland should put most of this emphasis, rather than being involved in army-centric expeditionary operations which, if we were ever to get into the situation of an independent Scotland, would be interesting to observe.
Q108 Chair: Will you forgive me if I reflect, at the end of this evidence session, that it seems to be a hallmark of NATO, apart from other alliances, that people are placing more and more reliance on this alliance and NATO in general, while contributing less and less towards it, and that is a really worrying trend?
That being the end of this evidence session, I think we should say thank you very much, indeed. It has been absolutely fascinating, and we are most grateful to both of you.
Colonel Crawford: Thank you.
Professor Chalmers: Thank you very much.