Report: Towards a Defence & Security strategy for an independent Scotland

Paper looks at the new defence & security institutions an independent Scotland would need and how much they would cost to establish

AN independent Scotland should have a ‘triple-lock’ on going to war, a new paper on defence and security after independence has argued.

‘Towards a Defence & Security Strategy for an independent Scotland’ can be read in full here. 

The paper, authored by defence policy consultant Garry Macdonald, is part of the Common Weal’s White Paper Project to renew the case for Scottish independence case.

‘Towards a Defence & Security strategy for an independent Scotland’ argues that a Scottish constitution should place constraints on the deployment of military forces through a “triple-lock”: a clear mandate under international law; an articulated government strategy of how the use of military force would support a political resolution or prevent an imminent humanitarian catastrophe; and a vote in the Scottish Parliament to secure democratic approval.

“Together these safeguards would constrain the ability of the Scottish military to be used for national or economic aggrandizement and ensure that they are only deployed when appropriate and necessary,” Macdonald argues.

Other key points in the report include:

  • The ‘threat environment’ for an independent Scotland would in the near future mainly consist of non-state actors such as from illegal trafficking and smuggling along Scotland’s big coastal line and cybercrime. A defence and security strategy should be orientated towards these threats, while having the capability of coping with a territorial threat to Scotland should it arise.
  • Negotiations between an independent Scotland and the rest of UK would determine which Defence assets would be physically transferred and which would be transferred as an asset value instead. Operating on the basis of zero physical assets transferred, the asset value of Scotland’s share would be around £10bn. This could act as a start-up fund from which to constitute the institutions necessary for a Scottish Defence & Security strategy. An annual operating cost would likely be between £1.8-2.5bn.
  • In the interim period following independence, Scotland should pursue ‘associate membership’ in NATO and the EU, allowing for a more flexible foreign policy while allowing integration in specific areas of mutual interest. This would take the form of joining the ‘partnership for peace’ programme in respect to NATO and the European Free Trade Association in respect to the EU, before considering full membership in the future.
  • An independent Scotland should establish a number of institutions to lead its Security & Defence strategy: an integrated Scottish Security & Intelligence Agency; an armed forces comprising an Army, Air Force and Navy; a beefed up Police Scotland; a Scottish Customs Agency; and a Scottish National Security Centre to act as a powerful co-ordinating body to ensure a joined up approach across the institutions.

“An independent Scottish defence strategy would cost us less, leave us substantially more protected and keep us out of illegal wars. These are great opportunities for Scotland.” Robin McAlpine

Garry Macdonald, author of the paper, stated:

"Issues of defence and security received comparatively little coverage during the last independence referendum. Consequently, the argument that an independent Scotland would be capable of defending itself was not as well formed as it could have been. As part of Common Weal’s White Paper Project, this discussion paper is an attempt to put some ideas and suggestions on the table to encourage further debate and ultimately to help refine the case for a Scottish defence and security strategy.

“The intent of the paper is to get people thinking about what we mean by security, what institutions and capabilities Scotland would need and how we go about building them. The hope is that this will encourage more people with experience to contribute to the White Paper’s iterative process and build a stronger case for defence and security in a future bid for Scottish independence."

Robin McAlpine, Common Weal Director, said of the report: “One of the oddest things about Defence from Scotland’s point of view is that we pay a disproportionately high amount for Defence by international comparison and yet the actual defence of Scotland is minimal. Rather than using the money for proper maritime patrols to prevent smuggling, terrorism, people trafficking and to monitor the activities of other nation states, we have virtually no defence around Scotland’s coast and spend all the money on counterproductive foreign wars instead. An independent Scottish defence strategy would cost us less, leave us substantially more protected and keep us out of illegal wars. These are great opportunities for Scotland.”

“We welcome proposals to increase the armed forces recruitment age to 18 to end the abuse and exploitation of working class young people and human rights which are the UK’s shame.” Rory Steel

Rory Steel, a spokesperson for Young Scots for Independence, said:

“This Defence and Security Strategy touches on an often ignored area of an independent Scotland, but an area that would have a great impact abroad and at home.

“Broadly speaking, many of the proposals break away from the typical defence and foreign policy of the British state which has erupted conflict in all corners of the world taking millions of lives and costing billions of pounds. Scotland could be a country of peace and cooperation by enshrining those ideals and safeguards into a constitution.

“We welcome proposals to increase the armed forces recruitment age to 18 to end the abuse and exploitation of working class young people and human rights which are the UK’s shame. Proposals for an independent military justice system are long overdue and would secure real justice for people who have been abused and injured or killed unjustly by the armed forces – particularly young recruits.”


Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 10:59

I was expecting some CND peacenik nonsense about banning nuclear weapons from the Clyde but was pleasantly surprised not to find anything about that here.

However, an independent Scotland should remain in NATO, a full member with no ifs and no buts.

It is all very well Russia Today giving Alex Salmond a TV show but Scotland ought to know where our security bread is buttered by now and that is with NATO.

Scotland should agree a British sovereign military base deal for the nuclear bases on the Clyde, similar to the British military bases on Gibraltar and Cyprus but with certain differences.

As a republican, I would not want the UK or its monarchy per se to exercise command and control over the British independent nuclear deterrent but for Scotland and rUK to agree a non-royalist British command which would also involve a nameplate change, a re-branding exercise, and a cap badge change for the staff.

For example -
* no longer "HMNB Clyde" but "British Naval Base Clyde"
* no longer "RNAD Coulport" but "British Naval Armaments Depot Coulport"

But aside from the make-over, in practical terms it would be business as usual for the independent British nuclear deterrent.

Constructing a credible and workable policy and arrangements for the British nuclear deterrent after Scottish independence is critical for building support for independence now, especially with those Scots with experience in defence matters.

For example, I would like to agree a defence policy for Scottish independence with someone with the standing of George Robertson, the former NATO Secretary General. ("The Right Honourable, The Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, KT GCMG PC FRSA FRSE", LOL)

Robertson may never be won over to Scottish independence but if we could build a defence policy that the likes of George Robertson could at least admit was workable that would be a massive boost for the independence campaign, without any doubt whatsoever.

Peter Dow, Science and Politics

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 11:29

"An independent Scottish defence strategy would cost us less, leave us substantially more protected and keep us out of illegal wars. " - Robin McAlpine
"illegal wars" Robin? What "illegal wars" would that be?

Iraq: the Mother of all FOOTWEAR battles!

Peter Dow's picture

Peter Dow

Tue, 12/19/2017 - 12:38

The rise of Daesh (ISIS / so-called "Islamic State") was more to do with -
* the sponsorship which insurgents against Iraq and Syria got from the Gulf kingdoms,
* the unitary constitution of Iraq which allowed for Sunnis to be oppressed by the central state. Better would have been a federal or confederal 3-state constitution (broadly Sunnis, Shias and Kurds states) which would not have oppressed groups like the Sunnis and who therefore would not have turned to terrorists sponsored by external states to defend them
* Obama ordering the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq with such a precarious unitary state was asking for trouble.

There have been long-term security dangers arising from the Middle East which ultimately are more to do with no-strings trading of oil with undemocratic and dictatorial regimes which like to empire build, sponsor terrorism and generally misuse the huge bounty of oil wealth.

These dangers have been stoked by greedy and short-sighted politicians from Thatcher & Reagan to May & Trump whose main interest in the Middle East was what weapons systems we can sell them.

Also greedy and short-sighted European politicians who have also sold Satellite TV broadcasting facilities to the Middle East and North Africa, which has been used to incite terrorism.

Also there is a sense in which at a strategic level, Saudi Arabia / Pakistan and Iran have grown their own nuclear, conventional and terrorist proxy power by gaining sponsorship from the great powers - US and allies, Russia and China.

At the lower level the proxy wars are real enough but note carefully how Saudi Arabia - Pakistan and Iran do not go to war with each other, for all the Punch and Judy show they put on for the entertainment of their great power sponsors.

If truth be told, the great powers, the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council have been played for fools by the Islamic world, whose people have suffered greatly in wars but whose rulers have risen in power as the people of the region suffered.

The only solution to this would be for the Security Council to make the same example of the Saudi Royals, the Pakistani military generals and the Iranian Ayatollahs as was made of Saddam Hussein.

This could be done quite simply by seizing control of oil tanker shipments and satellite TV and promoting democratic revolution.


Wed, 12/20/2017 - 11:02

Surely the reason for omission of any reference to removing WMD from the Clyde is that the paper addresses Scotland's military requirements post independence, which would not include WMD. As an entirely separate issue, rUK would remove its WMD from the Clyde unless the Scottish Government granted them leave to remain, which, given they are only 27 miles from the centre of Glasgow, would seem unlikely.


Wed, 12/20/2017 - 14:24

"....we have virtually no defence around Scotland’s coast...." Utter nonsense. We currently have the Air Surveillance And Control System (ASACS) based in RAF Boulmer which covers our extensive coastline and airspace. We don't need "maritime patrols." Maritime patrols. How quaint. How out of touch.
Obviously we would not have this facility on independence.... How many men on boats would we need to patrol our 10,000km coastline then?

CommonSpace journalism is completely free from the influence of advertisers and is only possible with your continued support. Please contribute a monthly amount towards our costs. Build the Scotland you want to live in - support our new media.