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Defence Committee
Written evidence from Professor Andrew M Dorman, King’s College London The analysis, opinions and conclusions expressed or implied in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Joint Services Command & Staff College, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence or any other government agency.

1. There is currently no agreed term to define the remaining territory and this in itself will be a debate that sits outside the defence remit. For the sake of clarity this evidence refers to the United Kingdom minus Scotland as UK Remainder or UKr.

2. If Scotland voted for independence then there are two likely outcomes that come from this. The remaining parts of the United Kingdom may chose to remain together or alternatively they may chose individually or collectively to go their separate ways. If the former option is chosen then the defence implications fall on two parties—Scotland and UKr. If the latter option results then we are looking at up to four potential states—England, Wales, Northern Ireland (possibly merging with Eire) and Scotland. This report largely focuses on the former option but makes passing reference to the latter option examining the issues largely from a Scottish and English perspective. By implication the issues confronting Scotland will tend to also be similar for Wales and Northern Ireland.

3. The manner in which the Union breaks up will have profound implications for defence. The United Kingdom’s armed forces and defence infrastructure have not been designed with Scottish independence in mind. Thus the creation of separate armed forces for Scotland, UKr and possibly England, Wales and Northern Ireland will take time. This is particularly true for the nuclear deterrent whose infrastructure is split between main sites in England and Scotland. However, it applies elsewhere, for example, in the integrated air defence network which includes a series of radar sites located around the United Kingdom and two main fighter bases—Leuchars in the north (to be replaced by Lossiemouth) and Coningsby in the south.

4. Independence discussions will revolve, therefore, around two distinct timeframes—the separation phase, covering the period of disentangling and dividing assets and liabilities up, and the post-separation phase, the period that follows on. For all the armed forces the longer and more cooperative the former phase lasts the more beneficial the result is likely to be for all parties concerned.

5. The separation phase is likely to be further complicated by two other factors which are currently occurring and will overlap with the separation phase—the drawdown of British forces from Afghanistan as they end the combat role by 2014 and the withdrawal of British forces from Germany. Both these tasks pose a significant logistical challenge at a time when the British Army is planning to reduce the number and overall size of its logistical capabilities as part of its Army 2020 force adjustments. In other words the separation of armed forces.

6. There will also be a question of post-independence border and territorial waters arrangements and any defence support to them. Will the future border between the respective states be relatively open similar to that which currently exists in the land borders amongst the Schengen nations or is it likely to be a more closed border.

7. Finally, it is extremely unlikely that any of the parties involved in Scottish independence will view defence in isolation. Inevitably, issues surrounding defence will form part of the greater bargaining that will inevitably form part of the separation. As a result, the armed forces can each expect to have compromises forced upon them.

8. For the states that emerge there will be a requirement to define a security and defence policy. For the UK or England this is more likely to be closer to the current UK National Security Strategy and Strategic Defence and Security Review with some adjustment made in recognition of the changed circumstances. For the UKr/England the process should be easier given that the majority of expertise within government and the think-tanks are almost entirely based in England. Scotland will need to develop its own capability to look ahead and assess future security and defence challenges and establish an apparatus for deciding policies to tackle these challenges. The extent to which Scotland will be able to do this, especially in the early years, is questionable. Scotland will also need to establish what role they see, if any, for their forces deploying overseas. Will they, for example, deploy units on UN peacekeeping operations?

9. The emerging states will have a choice over whether to enter into membership of formal alliance and informal partnerships with other states. Currently the United Kingdom is a member of the United Nations with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council as well as membership of NATO and the European Union. It also has a number of other defence and security commitments such as the Five Powers Defence Agreement and the “Five Eyes intelligence partnership. UKr/England is likely to seek to retain such affiliations as part of its traditional approach to sharing risk. The one exception may be the European Union which will probably require a new application and a vote at home. For Scotland the way forward is less clear. The SNP has historically been anti-NATO and recently has talked about some form of partnership with the Nordic group of states. Such a move will not provide the security guarantees that NATO membership currently provides and is complicated by the different institutional affiliations of the Nordic states (ie Sweden in the EU whilst Norway is in NATO and Denmark is in both). The SNP have traditionally sought to retain EU membership but this may be complicated by the potential requirement to adopt the Euro as a new member.

10. During the transition phase there is the question of how the status of individuals will be determined. Is it to be determined by where they are domiciled at a particular point of time, the historical lineage of the unit they are then affiliated to assuming it has an affiliation with a particular part of the United Kingdom or is it for individuals to make an election? Will the needs of the emerging states play any part in this decision? For those already in the UK’s armed forces will their terms and conditions of service including pension entitlements transfer and be protected? Who pays for any redundancy costs if the combined requirement of the newly emerging states in a particular specialty is less than that currently provided by the UK’s armed forces? How will non-United Kingdom service personnel be treated?

11. Once the transition phase has passed the UKr/England will presumably treat any Scots wishing to join its armed forces in a similar way to citizens of Eire or the Commonwealth. They will therefore be subject to the same quota limits that apply (generally 15% with some exceptions notably the Irish Guards, Royal Irish Regiment and Gurkhas). For Scotland the pledge of the SNP to retain all six current infantry battalions is likely to be problematic given their continued under recruitment. They will therefore need to establish a policy for recruitment from abroad and decide whether there will be any quotas.

12. There will need to be established a process for dividing the existing defence assets. There are a number of potential mechanisms that might be applied. For example, where equipment or bases happen to be located at an agreed point in time or some form of share system based on a factor such as GDP, population, etc. There are problems with both of these options. First, some assets will not clearly be located in a particular state at a given point in time eg ships at sea, forces deployed outside the United Kingdom. Moreover, the future requirements for the new states (see below) does not necessarily equate with some equitable division of existing assets. Second, some capabilities, such as officer training are located solely in England but would be needed by all of the states that emerge from Scottish independence. If the latter option is chosen then a mechanism to value equipment and the defence estate will have to be established including a mechanism for dealing with disagreements.

13. Much of the academic analysis undertaken to date has focused on how defence assets might be divided in the event of Scottish independence. There is an additional element to this. There will also need to be a dividing of the defence financial commitments. In the United Kingdom the Ministry of Defence has led the way in embracing the Public Finance Initiative (PFI)/Public Private Partnership (PPP) concept. These contracts will either need to be renegotiated (who does this is another question) or the financial commitment taken on by one or more of the parties involved. In some areas this might be relatively straight-forward. An independent Scotland probably doesn’t need the capability represented by the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft programme whereas UKr or England will but will no doubt expect Scotland to contribute its share. Others are more complicated. Who pays for the PFIs associated with the Defence Academy currently based in England?

14. Defence acquisition post-independence will also raise issues and mostly lead to a defence consolidation in the UKr as employers move out of Scotland. Currently the defence industrial sector is not evenly distributed between the nations. It is highly likely that the sectors remain as they stand post-separation and instead industry is likely to move to support the separate nations. Thus, for example, whilst there is a heavy preponderance of ship-building in Scotland it would be politically difficult for a future UKr/England government to continue to acquire its warships from Scottish yards and not to look to retain an indigenous capability instead. Regional politics will play a part as will any alliance affiliations. The issue of knowledge transfer between the different states may arise. If the UKr/England remained in the European Union then even if it wanted to purchase defence equipment from Scotland it would be obliged to put out to tender any defence contracts it did not give to its own industry. Thus Scottish yards would have to compete with their Spanish, German and French equivalents. If unsuccessful, then the future of Scotland’s naval shipbuilding capability would be called into question simply because an independent Scotland would be unlikely to generate sufficient orders to make the retention of this capability viable and UK yards have not been particularly successful in recent years in obtaining overseas orders.

July 2012

1 The analysis, opinions and conclusions expressed or implied in this paper are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Joint Services Command & Staff College, the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence or any other government agency.

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