Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Defence Of Scotland

The Scottish government had a good week last week considering Alex Salmond's declaration that he would take the Scottish regiments from HM Forces should Scotland vote for independence. He managed to escape too much criticism, which is unfortunate because without a professional defence force no nation survives.

I agree with Angus Robertson when he said: '...normal countries decide whether they are going to maintain the military in a format they feel appropriate' but one naval base, one air base and one mobile armed brigade of around 6,000 isn't a format, it's a skeleton.

The SNP has always been weak in military policy, understandably so and they are no better or worse than the other Scottish political parties in this regard. Until the last few years they had no need to develop one, but now they do need to come up with a detailed policy.

What needs to be decided is the type of defence force Scotland needs. We could look to Finland for an example but you will note, as with some other western countries, it relies heavily on conscription. I cannot see Scots agreeing to conscription even though I can see the benefits it could provide both economically and socially. Therefore a Scottish defence force will most probably have to rely heavily on reservists.

We may have the infrastructure in place, but the power of a defence force lies with its personnel and the recruitment of personnel could prove to be a difficult and lengthy process.  Not every Scot serving in HM Forces will want to rush back home to join a Scottish defence force. Although Alex Salmond accused Richard Dannatt of 'talking Scotland down' Dannatt had a point when he says that most British military interventions have been opposed by the SNP, so what would would they do? Many join up for adventure and salary comes well behind.

However I disagree with critics who say that not being a member of NATO will restrict a defence force from joining with others in military deployments. Finland manages fine - it has an excellent reputation - and does not belong to NATO, which I feel is well past its sell-by date and should be disbanded.

Once a firm structure is decided the system of recruitment has to be considered. In recent days I've heard some talk about difficulties recruiting support services such as communications, intelligence, logistics, special services - the backbone of any defence force. In today's world many countries share specific services but they also strongly support their own. Modern militaries are are not composed of 'hired killers running around with guns' (as I have oft heard said) but staffed by people highly skilled in their specific areas and the difficulty arises in attracting Scots from the larger HM Forces.

One way to do this would be to 'grow our own'. That would take time, but it would be worthwhile. There are already buildings which could be transformed into a military academy that does not necessarily need to be confined to officer training. We could also, very easily, provide a military college for educational training and liaise with industry as happens at present. Cranfield has taken years to achieve its present status and I see no problem in a Scottish military college/university achieving similar results. Such a centre of excellence may help curtail the present brain drain, when our best brains move because of a lack of opportunity and poor conditions of employment.

"What about the immediate term?" some ask. My response is that I would expect the London government to respect the wish of the Scots if the answer is Yes in the referendum and make allowances while we build our own defence force. Another question asked is, "Do we need defence?" Of course we do. Every country has to defend its people and its assets. Scotland has many assets, some of which are poorly defended at present - such as our coastlines - because of ill-advised cuts from a series of Westminster governments.

When the Scandinavian countries became independent one by one they managed to form their own excellent armed services.  We too can do that but it is important the best key personnel are recruited. The recent UK defence cuts have disillusioned many highly skilled HM Forces personnel and more than a few are considering their positions because they know they could receive far greater financial rewards in civilian life. Some of them may consider joining a Scottish defence force if they are offered a suitable package.

The question of packages is one for defence economists to undertake. That and equipping a military forces are subjects for another time.  In the meantime our politicians must ensure they receive the best advice available and from people who want the best for Scotland and not those with hidden agendas.


JRB said...

It is less than 24 hours since Alex Salmond stood up in Holyrood to introduce a consultative document on a referendum on Scottish independence.

There is still some way to go, and work to be done, before we even have that vote in the autumn of 2014.

Only once a positive vote that independence is the wish of the Scottish people will detailed discussions on the division and separation of the institutions and infrastructure of nationhood begin.

Whilst your thoughts on the Armed Forces provides food for future thought, SR Do they not come a little too early, and thus risk being lost in the grand scheme of things to come.

subrosa said...

You may well be right JRB, but then that supports my argument that nothing about defence should have been mentioned last week. Throwing a vague 'one navy, one airforce and one mobile armed brigade' into the public domain was foolish.

However, I don't see any harm with Scottish politicians looking outward at other small countries military setups. If nothing else they may learn something.

Demetrius said...

Scotland has a small land border but a very long coastline. It's airspace is relatively substantial to total population and adjacent to strategically important areas. This is at the more expensive end of defence provision especially as troop movements now can be made substantially by air. This will really take a lot of deep thinking alien to a lot of people, both civil and military.

Captain Ranty said...

In that same 24 hours Nats have been (unsurprisingly) quiet about Salmonds admission yesterday that talks to join the EU are already underway.

Anyone care to explain why Scotland needs to join a dying currency and a dying union?

Anyone care to explain the notion of independence and how that gels with waving goodbye to one master and (at the same time) waving hello to a new one?

Until his statement yesterday I was fully prepared to play fair on the upcoming referendum. Not any more. The Scots are about to become enslaved by a much more cruel master and I will do what I can to make people aware of this folly.

BTW, we will not need a standing army Rosie. I'm sure the EU will send their thugs over to keep their newest acquisition "safe".


subrosa said...

Coastline security is an expensive business Demetrius and intense research is needed before any more statements are made.

subrosa said...

I missed that yesterday Ranty. Must see if I can find it.

You're right. If we're part of the EU what's the point in spending money on a defence force.

Captain Ranty said...

If we're part of the EU what's the point in fighting for independence?

We won't be.


Brian said...

Who's going to invade an independent Scotland that won't get involved in foreign wars? The Vikings have disbanded and England is hardly going to bother with the cost of occupation. Instead Scotland should adopt a policy of retrenchment, perhaps organising things along the lines of the Óglaigh na hÉireann

Indeed, why not establish a joint defence/emergency force with the Irish Republic?

Gedguy said...


I was going to do a bit on the SDF but you have beaten me to it. I am sure that your bit will have been far better than mine. Just a couple of points:
1. At the present time 80% of the RAMC is made up of volunteer forces and whebnever there is a conflict the RAMC volunteers are part of it. Now I am sure that you would, like me, applaud the work done by those highly skilled volunteers.
2. You seem to think, or you imply in your piece, that the SDF will not be getting the training that a professional army needs to have. I disagree with you on that part and we could spend the next ten years disagreeing with each other but let me point out that exercises between the rUK military and the newly formed SDF will continue as it does now. The only difference in the relationship with the military is that we won't have nuclear weapons on our soil and we won't be sending our troops out to wars that the Scottish people think of as illegal. Everything else will be the same. I expect the rUK will still be able to practise at Benbecula and that RAF jets will still practise low flying in the highlands. That being the case then I would expect the SDF to still practise tank movements in England. I don't see what the problem is. As far as the comments of the top brass are concerned that is just political interference which, if it were to be aimed at the current UK government they would quickly be told by the politicians to Foxtrot Oscar.
I know that you are pro military, but, then again, so am I. I am just not falling for the UK's blatant stirring of the situation in every and any area it can poke its nose into. I have trusted Alex so far and I am willing to trust him over this.
That said, you have brought up some really interesting, and important points about the brain drain. I don't have an answer to that as I, like many others, have not seen the results of any talks that will happen between the Scottish government [post independence] and the rUK because they haven't begun yet.
Anyway, good piece.

Gedguy said...

Captain Ranty,

We obviously know where your stance is on the EU and that is your right. What is not your right is to twist the impending situation around to big up your anti-EU stance without expecting an answer to your statements.
At this moment in time the Scottish peoples are subject to two masters: the UK and the EU. When independence comes we will be subject to only one. In my books that's 100% better. At least we will have a vote in the EU which we don't have just now. Even the UK government knows that it is far, far better to be in the EU than to be out of it. If that were not the case then they would have had a referendum on that years ago. It suits the British government to poke their fingers at the EU and blame it for interfering in everything, yet they still allow the EU to pass those laws. Why do you think that we never hear anything good in the British media about the EU? The EU is not a monster, as painted by the British media, but have done a huge amount of good for Europe, as a whole. I take everything the British media say about the EU in the same way as I do about their attitude to Scottish independence which is I don't believe a word they say.

Brian said...

"At this moment in time the Scottish peoples are subject to two masters: the UK and the EU. When independence comes we will be subject to only one. In my books that's 100% better."
@Gedguy: in my books it's 50% better. Why should a sovereign state have a master at all - indeed logically that's impossible. I want the EU to be my servant, to facilitate a better life for me and other people. But the EU is not and was never intended for that.

Captain Ranty said...


"When independence comes we will be subject to only one."

If you cannot see the stupidity of that statement then there is no point even trying to explain it to you.


Captain Ranty said...

Just in case the SNP have a different definition of independence, for the sake of transparency, this is the one I am using:


"The state or quality of being independent; freedom from dependence; exemption from reliance on, or control by, others; self-subsistence or maintenance; direction of one's own affairs without interference."

I looked hard but I failed to see where independence actually means "to be beaten with one knobbly stick instead of two".


Gedguy said...

Captain Ranty,

You have no need to explain anything to me; I am more than capable of understanding where you come from on this subject. What you fail to understand, or, more than likely, refuse to accept, is that we all have masters somewhere along the line. Even in an independent Scotland the Scottish government are our 'masters'. If you cannot understand that basic principle of how society works then I am wasting my time trying to explain that to you.

Captain Ranty said...


Perhaps you should swing by my blog. I have no masters at all.

And stop saying "even in an independent Scotland". Scotland has no intention of becoming independent. Take another squint at the definition if you doubt me.

Between now and the referendum my blog will reach up to two million people and I will explain the concept of independence, and the scam the SNP is proposing, at every opportunity.

I will not, however, be siding with you and the SNP in this. You will sell the notion of independence and enslave us to that abomination in Brussels.

It can only end badly for Scotland, who, for the first time in over 300 years has a real shot at true independence. You know, like Switzerland, or Norway, or even bloody Cameroon.

Or are you going to insist that they have masters too?


Brian said...


"without a professional defence force no nation survives"

Don't tell the neighbours of these countries then :)

Gedguy said...

Captain ranty,

Thank you for your offer to swing by your blog. I will be more than delighted to. Hopefully I will be number 2,000,001.
By the way, don't even think of telling me what I can and cannot say. I will decide that; not you. If you want to put over your point of view I will respect your point of view but that does not necessarily mean that I will agree with it and you attempting to tell me what I believe is, surely, rudeness on your part.

Captain Ranty said...


Ah, you are one of the sensitive ones, eh?

I merely pointed out that your continued use of the word "independence" is badly flawed. And you admitted that you are perfectly willing to swap two masters for one. What I cannot comprehend is how that makes Scotland free.

Instead of trying to convince me that I am wrong, you have a hissy fit when I point out that your argument is weak.

Of course you are entitled to your point of view but I have not been rude. I have a Black Belt in rude, but I would not abuse Rosie's hospitality by being rude here.

Your notion of independence is wrong. The SNPs notion of independence is wrong.

Scotland does not need a master.

But it is all too clear that you do.

Good luck with that.


Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

What about contracting Obama's Seals to carry out some precision hits?

Could save us a fortune -it's privatised so it would be efficient - and a forty man defence force has got to be cheap!

Gedguy said...

Captain ranty,

I have visited your site and I am sorry to say that I will not be visiting it again. You are rude and abusive and not the sort of person that I would wish to have a conversation with. I have posted this on your site:

I have taken up your offer to visit your site, and glad I was in doing so because I can see you for what you are; sad. Those ' bastards south of the border' are called English and are due respect. Now, if you were talking about Westminster, I would find it difficult to agree with you. So far, in your article you have spouted a lot of accusations without one link to back up your claims. Where are your links or are we just to take your word for it? If you are not willing to put forward your evidence then you are just another of those people who rabbit on about nothing. Where is your link to back up your claim that you have just under 2 million hits? All I see are 178 followers.
I see what you have on offer and I don't want to be associated with people like you. Sorry, but I will not be visiting your site again. Have a nice day.

Brian said...


Or even the Milk Tray man? :) Wouldn't it be guid if Scotland was the first to send rescue and relief aircraft and ships instead? As Scotland is no threat to anyone's way of life (think Duchy of Grand Fenwick) it could build an alliance of small nations based on friendship and duty.

Captain Ranty said...


I was going to answer there, but I can point out your obvious error just as well here.

I did not say that I had had 2 million hits at my blog.

What I actually said was:

"Between now and the referendum my blog will reach up to two million people..."

So I would appreciate an apology. You make me look like a liar there. I do not tell lies.

And yes, "those bastards south of the border" are indeed the inepts that are lodged in Westminster. My regular readers know that, particularly as I have recently pointed out that the Scots and the English get on pretty well. It is (always) the pollies and the papers that incite division.

BTW, I've read a few articles at your blog and I spotted that you aren't too hot on links. I won't be revisiting you again either.

Have a nice life.


Dave_G said...

Quoting Gedguy: "Even the UK government knows that it is far, far better to be in the EU than to be out of it."

Are you for real?

The UK Government have refused on more than one occasion any debate on the cost/benefit relationship between the UK and the EU. Why?

What the UK Government say and what the truth is are two entirely different things.

And quoting again "If that were not the case then they would have had a referendum on that years ago."

Now, you're either taking the p1ss or seriously misinformed. We are DENIED a referendum precisely because the Government knows that WE know the cost/benefit is outrageously unbalanced. If the Government were so convinced of their righteousness they'd have no qualms about letting US decide OUR future.

Gedguy said...

Dave G,

"taking the p1ss"

Really? Because I have a different view from you I'm classified as "taking the p1ss"? The difference between you and I is that I'm not willing to lower myself to your level. Goodbye.

subrosa said...

We could have a ceremonial military Brian, if it's appropriate. The military doesn't only fight off invaders, it contributes a great deal to the wellbeing of a country in many ways.

subrosa said...

I didn't realise I said that Gedguy. In fact I tried to emphasise that a country's military training quality is essential and gave the reasons we could eventually be as good as others.

Don't think I would say I'm 'pro-military' but I do have an interest in military matters.

There is little point having any discussions with London about military issues until the SNP and others have decided what type of defence force is necessary. That will take some time because there are many very well informed people who would want to contribute to the debate.

subrosa said...

Gedguy/Brian, I'm with Brian on this and with CR. Why the SNP have this desperation to be a full member of the EU concerns me and I think it's a mistake.

subrosa said...

That's the one I use too Ranty and like you I'm not happy at the present Scottish government's policy re the EU.

subrosa said...

Gedguy, like Ranty I take a close interest in EU affairs and I don't like what I see there. It's unhealthy and something we should avoid.

I would prefer a much looser relationship with the EU rather than what is currently suggested.

We'll have to agree to disagree regarding the SNP's EU policy.

subrosa said...

Auch Brian, do you honestly think we should tag onto rUK's HM Forces when we're perfectly capable of designing a force of excellence?

subrosa said...

The Seals may be cheap Crinkly, but by the time the White House has added their 250,000% profit...

subrosa said...

Gedguy, in defence of Ranty's blog you need to read back some way before you understand where he's coming from, however the decision is yours.

Some of us don't agree with the SNP's EU policy and that's a subject for polite debate.

subrosa said...

There is such an alliance Brian and yes we could join it.

subrosa said...

Come on Gedguy, argue your corner.

To me Dave is on the right side of the fence and Westminster politicians know full well that the UK doesn't benefit from being in the EU. They want to be there for several reasons, not least to hold on to their seat in the UN and pose on the world stage.

What good has the EU done for the UK in the last 10 years? It's destroyed one of Scotland's main industries for just a start.

Observer said...

Salmond would have one hell of a harder job persuading people to vote for independence if Scotland was to be outside the EU. A lot of the (genuine) questions that people ask about the future of an independent Scotland consist of a very short answer.

You don't need to worry about that we will be in the EU.

If that is not the case then Salmond will have an even higher mountain to climb.

The EU does what it says on the tin. European citizens have equal rights, & there is free passage of people & goods.

Without being part of that selling independence will be a much harder task. I really wonder how people think that Salmond could do that

However he won't have to as the SNP position is pro-Europe & that isn't about to change.

Observer said...

As far as defence is concerned I don't think that anybody can answer anything just now, so when pressed Eck just took what was in Scotland now & said that will do.

Frankly as most people don't think Scotland is about to be invaded by anyone I don't think it's high up on the list. Of course Scotland will need to have a Defence Force, but what shape that takes will depend on the division of assets & liabilities at the point of separation.

Until then it's all just words.

subrosa said...

I'm not so sure Observer, but I accept your ear is closer to the ground than mine these days.

Indeed I do worry about an 'independent' Scotland in the EU. Are you suggesting we couldn't me like Norway or Switzerland? Do you think they don't have equal rights and free passage of goods?

As for free passage of people that hasn't exactly been a success has it. What benefits has that brought except nobody needs to show a passport. The sadness is we don't know who is in the country these days because it's not necessary to record those non-UK residents arriving and leaving (from EU countries). I think that's a step backwards in the policing of our borders.

You're right about one thing though. The SNP won't change their policy on it nor will they ask the people. Maybe they're afraid many more than they think would rather be as independent as Norway.

subrosa said...

Observer, what was said last week was pure PR from Salmond. Anyone with a clue would realise what is here will certainly not do. We're only going to be accommodation providers for a section of HM Forces.

Yes, until then it's all words but the shape of a defence force should (I sincerely hope) be dependent upon need not purely finance - although that is important.

People are asking about these matters. They may be only words to you but a little more enhancement of the words would be welcome.

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