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Defence and diplomacy

Defence and diplomacy: iron fist, velvet glove

Chapter summary

  • A separated Scotland would not benefit from the protection of the UK’s still considerable military assets. Despite defence cuts, Britain remains one of the world’s most significant military forces, with an ability to safeguard domestic assets from fisheries to oil while also retaining the capacity to project power abroad.
  • The UK’s anti- terrorist, intelligence and security assets are among the most sophisticated in the world. Scotland would simply not have the resources to match them. Terrorism comes in many guises. It has sprung up in areas of the globe that one might not have expected, from Madrid and Bali to Glasgow Airport. A separated Scotland would have the expense of setting up its own agencies, which in reality would offer very limited protection.
  • Defence – hard power – is just one way to exercise influence. Diplomacy, idea projection, media reach and culture – soft power – also has its part to play. Measuring soft power is an imperfect science: yet the UK is placed first in the world, even ahead of the US. Scotland would probably score quite well in such a survey. However, lacking the scale, diversity of outlet and global reach of the United Kingdom, it could not hope to match the UK’s influence.

Scotland outside the UK would be comparatively defenceless

A separated Scotland would not benefit from the protection of the UK’s still considerable military assets. Despite a reduction in the size of the UK’s defences Britain remains one of the world’s most significant military forces, with an ability to safeguard domestic assets, from fisheries to oil, for example, while also retaining the potential to project power abroad. The chart below compares UK defence expenditure with that of other European nations. The UK and France are, in effect, the only two significant defence forces in Europe.

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Scotland, by being a major part of the United Kingdom, is secure from numerous threats. Scotland would of course set up its own defence assets, should it go its own way. However, military hardware is extremely expensive, and the proposed “Scottish Defence Force”, whose suggested initial budget has already been cut twice, is not a credible answer to the many threats that Scotland would face. Nor would it enjoy the British economies of scale. In reality, a Scottish force would be little more than a token peacekeeping force doing the bidding of the EU or the UN. That is not independence.

The UK’s anti- terrorist, intelligence and security assets are among the most sophisticated in the world. Scotland would simply not have the resources to match them. Terrorism comes in many guises. It has sprung up in areas of the globe that one might not have expected, including Madrid, Bali and even Glasgow Airport. A separated Scotland would have the expense of setting up its own agencies, which in reality would offer very limited protection.

Scotland benefits from military hardware procurement contracts which would be jeopardised by separation. For example, the Royal Navy has never built a warship outside its sovereign territory. It is wishful thinking to expect that in a separated Scotland ships would be built on the Forth or the Clyde.

Consider just one of the many threats that Scotland will face immediately upon separation from the UK. She will no longer belong to the EU: yet her waters are part of the “common European resource” handed away to the EU by Edward Heath. Trawlers from EU nations will wish to continue to fish in Scottish waters, and the “Scottish Defence Force”, particularly with its budget already slashed twice before it has even been brought into being, will be powerless to police those waters.

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While the true issues in the military debate have been obscured by posturing over Faslane, the reality is that Scotland benefits mightily not only from the protection that Britain’s armed forces have provided but also from considerable inward investment from Westminster in the form of military expenditure.

Defence – hard power – is just one way to exercise influence. Diplomacy, idea projection, media reach and culture – soft power – also has its part to play. Measuring soft power is an imperfect science: however it is important. How a nation is seen not only enables it to exercise influence but also encourages direct inward investment and trade flows.

Monocle’s annual soft power survey (see chart below), which is recognised as the definitive study in the field, places the UK first in the world, even ahead of the US. Scotland would probably score quite well in such a survey. However, lacking the scale, diversity of outlet and global reach of the United Kingdom, it could not hope to match the influence of the UK. These things matter in terms of hard cash as well as cultural wellbeing.

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on September 16 | by

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