Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Scottish Nationalism and Defense Policy

As I've mentioned previously, the SNP doesn't appear to have much of a defense policy. I haven't picked up on a number of stories over the last couple of months because I kind of burned out on my daily news reading and decided to take a break from it, but a couple of stories I saw (before I began that break) tie into the SNP's lack of a defense policy. One of the items that's regularly brought up is the fact that the United Kingdom's submarine fleet is currently constructed at shipyards in the Forth of Clyde (the waterway adjacent to Glasgow). The SNP has repeatedly said that the UK will still build submarines there, even if Scotland becomes a sovereign nation independent of the United Kingdom. Unfortunately for the SNP, this is exactly the opposite of what everyone else in the UK is saying. In fact, it looks as if Her Majesty's government is already starting to hedge its bets (probably as a political signal to Scotland as much as anything else) in its defense policies:

  • Fewer troops to return to Scotland
  • Hammond announces Army base closures

    SNP leaders also seem to forget the longstanding concept that they should merge their military industrial complexes, with the United Kingdom building ships, France building aircraft, and Germany building tanks, to name but three examples. They can't make it happen, for a variety of reasons. An independent Scotland might very well have a slight advantage over, say, France, when it comes to building submarines (the Lancaster House Treaties notwithstanding). However, SNP leaders seem to ignore the fact that - save for the equipment procured through the Anglo-American Special Relationship - the UK avoids the procurement of kit from external sources. Scotland would become an external source, and it's difficult to imagine a contingency in which the United Kingdom wouldn't relocate its submarine construction, and its several Scottish military bases, to a new or existing shipyard in the remaining United Kingdom - places I've heard suggested are Newcastle, Portsmouth, and Belfast.

    Another element of this discussion is Scotland's membership in NATO, which it currently enjoys within the United Kingdom. SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and his subordinates have repeatedly claimed that Scotland will be grandfathered into NATO without having to apply as a new member. However, NATO has just as repeatedly rejected that claim. As the United Kingdom is a charter member of NATO, and with the Anglo-American Special Relationship to consider, it's difficult to imagine Scotland being allowed to join NATO as an independent entity. This is further complicated by the fact that the SNP maintains an anti-nuclear posture - a position entirely inconsistent with the purpose and posture of NATO, as I learned in great detail through my SND course last semester. Even if one assumes a decisive "Yes" vote in 2014, First Minister Salmond's stated outlook is entirely inconsistent with reality. In fact, one might go so far as to suggest that the SNP's underlying strategy is to leach off of NATO in the same way that Ireland currently does - something that isn't actually working out for NATO member states at the moment.

    For a variety of reasons, Scots in particular and the British generally have been rather insulated from national defense for a long time. In fact, national defense is the most fundamental task of any sovereign government, and the SNP's lack of any coherent defense policy is disconcerting. National security isn't something you can come up with on the fly, it must be carefully and painstakingly engineered with a coherent strategy in mind. That coherent national security strategy is something that the SNP appears to sorely lack. You can read more about these issues at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) section on this topic.

    As I've mentioned before, I remain skeptical of the proposed Scottish secession referendum, but I'm also willing to be convinced that the SNP has a plan and a justification for secession. The wait continues.

    Note: I'm hoping that CN Glaswegian Sensation will consent to writing a guest contribution for the blog. She's read what I have to say about the topic, and said that she wishes that I shared more nationalist sentiment on the blog; that said, when pressed, she said that with respect to the vote, "my heart says yes but my brain says no", so it would be great to get her perspective on the issues in question.
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