Wednesday, 9 October 2013
Analysis paper on Scottish Independence and Defence
The MOD has published its assessment of the implications for Scotland were it to become an independent country and create its own armed forces. This 88 page paper is a fascinating read, as it exposes the real challenges faced in creating a military from scratch.https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-scotland-analysis-paper-on-defence
Humphrey has written before about the difficulties facing a newly independent Scottish Defence Force, and many of the concerns raised then have been echoed in this paper (http://thinpinstripedline.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/bagpipes-bayonets-bluster-and-bugger.html). The paper nicely highlights the reality that you cannot slice up defence assets and turn them into a coherent military force – ORBATs may look impressive, but dividing them into something more meaningful is particularly difficult.
Additionally the paper highlights the issue of how one takes a world class military, optimised for power projection abroad, and then carves off a smaller chunk of it to focus on missions for which it was not designed. For instance, the idea that Scotland would keep running a modern air force built around Typhoon seems interesting, but where does the pilot training pipeline come from, how is this affordable and what happens when the Eurofighter nations move to upgrade their aircraft? Is it truly feasible to imagine a relatively small Scottish Defence Force being able to shoulder the burden of paying the costs of sustaining an increasingly obsolescent Typhoon fleet, which is no longer at the same standard as its multi-national peers?
The problem facing a newly independent Scotland seems to be that the UK military assets are simply not appropriate for what will be a low level defence force in a relatively small country. Stripped of the recruiting, support and logistical contracts and pipeline that have sustained the equipment, one can imagine a future Scottish Defence Force burdened down with legacy equipment which requires expensive training and support to run properly, and which is too expensive to meet what will be a very small budget.
One could almost argue that rather than take much UK military equipment, it would be more sensible for Scotland to instead take a large cash payment and procure a low level defence force (with UK forces providing sovereignty assurance in the interim) which better meets their specific needs. So, procurement of low level OPVs, simple vehicles and so on – in other words start from scratch with something that is feasible, and not take on equipment that is designed for a very different role.
The other key issue emerging from the paper is the reality that a newly independent Scotland will have no shipbuilding industry orders, and that it highlights the reality that what matters to military shipbuilding is not the yard, but the design capability. The UK ability to design complex warships is arguably far more important than the ability to build them in home territory. The Scottish situation would be one of having good yards, but no design capability, and competing in a fiercely competitive market against yards able to offer much cheaper hulls. One cannot see the Scottish yards surviving for long without a design capability to back them up – but this would not come without yards to build the designs. The chapter on the industrial and manufacturing implications is well worth reading to realise just how interdependent the defence industry is now.
So, the paper is well worth a read, and it will be extremely interesting to read the Scottish Governments own paper when it is published (which Humphrey will also link to as well).