Economics of Independence

12 Defence facts that the No campaign don’t want you to know

Written by Michael Gray

black-watch_2054617cYesterday Phillip Hammond, Westminster’s defence minister, made a rare visit to Scotland to play up fears concerning defence in an independent Scotland. He claimed independence threatens jobs in the military, that an independent Scotland would struggle to defend itself and that Scotland would lose military contracts.

These claims quickly unravelled as his assertions were exposed as a poor substitute for facts. Many of the numbers he quoted in interviews were actually wrong!  In response, Business for Scotland can provide facts and figures on defence in Scotland.  This evidence demonstrates that an independent Scotland will be secure, economically better off and can play a constructive role in the world – but one more focused on protecting peace rather than Westminster’s focus on projecting power, which is the strategic flaw at the heart of Philip Hammond’s Defence strategy .

Fact 1: Scotland is poorly defended by the UK

Due to Westminster policy, there are very few defence assets left in Scotland. Numbers of troops have been cut to an all time low. There are only 5 MoD helicopters in the whole of Scotland and only 1 conventional naval vessel on the East coast. Scotland does better in terms of air defence cover with typhoon squadrons, which, as airbases are being closed in order to concentrate air defence at Lossiemouth.

Fact 2: The UK has a defence underspend in Scotland

From 2002-2008 there was a £5.622 billion under spend on defence forces in Scotland. Scottish taxpayers put in much more than is spent in Scotland.

Fact 3: Westminster has cut defence jobs

Between 2000 and 2010 Ministry of Defence personnel in Scotland were cut by 27.9%. This is much higher than the equivalent UK cut of 11.6%.

Fact 4: Scotland lacks naval and Arctic capacity

The navy does not have one major surface vessel based in Scottish waters. This limits security operations in the North Sea. The UK has also been left behind in activities in the Arctic Region, which has become of increasing significance to China, Russia and the US, especially in the context of the Arctic ice retreating because of climate change. That retreat opens up shipping lanes which make the region of more strategic importance, especially to an independent Scotland.

Fact 5: An independent Scotland would save money on defence

The 2011-12 Scotland contribution to UK defence spending was £3.4 billion. The SNP propose spending £2.5 billion on defence. Military expert Stuart Crawford proposed a spending range of £1.5-1.8 billion. In these circumstances, Scotland would save towards £1 billion each year on defence. This level of expenditure is of relative comparison with the likes of the Scandinavian countries, all of whom live up to their international responsibilities.

Fact 6: Scotland would get a better defence force

Crawford’s defence model includes a Scottish navy of between 20 and 25 vessels, the building of which Scottish shipyards could compete for in the same way they do for UK contracts. (some of which go overseas) Currently there are 11 vessels in Scotland. Such a model can also include aircraft and helicopters for use in North Sea operations and the Arctic. Angus Robertson’s proposal include an increase in the military footprint for the army in Scotland from around 11,000 troops to 15,000. Business for Scotland set this out in further detail ‘here’.

Fact 7: Defence spending in medium sized countries

Countries of a similar size to Scotland have effective military units which are sustained at far lower cost than the Westminster model. As of 2010, Denmark spent 1.4% of GDP on defence. Norway spent 1.5% and Finland spent 1.6%.

Fact 8: Medium countries contribute to peace5855151891_dc2d700b26_z

Countries of a similar size to Scotland have effective military units which contribute to global peacekeeping and security. Denmark combats piracy in the Indian ocean and provides security operations in the Arctic. Ireland had contributed to numerous peacekeeping operation through the United Nations, including in Syria last month. Norway currently has forces contributing to the peacekeeping force in Sudan. It was also pivotal to establishing peace in the Balkans during the late 1990s.

Fact 9: Scrapping Trident can increase jobs

The independent Scottish Trade Union Council report ‘Cancelling Trident: The Economic and Employment Consequences for Scotland‘ found that more jobs can be generated from scrapping trident than would be generated by renewing weapons of mass destruction.

Fact 10: Scotland gets a bad deal on defence contracts

Between 2007-08 and 2011-12 Scotland received £1.9 billion less than its population share of defence contracts.

Fact 11: Scotland’s defence assets are worth £7.8 billion

An independent Scotland will be entitled to a population share of UK defence assets. 8.4% of the UK’s total defence assets equals £7.8 billion as of 2007.

Fact 12: Scotland will save £200 million a year by scrapping Trident6a00d8341c091653ef013480457bf1970c-500pi

The annual cost of operating Trident is between 5-6% of total UK defence costs, according to UK Ministers. This is around £2.5 billion a year. Scotland’s contribution to this is therefore around £200 million a year. Scrapping Trident from the Clyde will make billions of pounds worth of financial savings for people in Scotland.

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About the author

Michael Gray

Michael is Head of Research with Business for Scotland.

A graduate from the University of Glasgow, he has carried out a series of interviews with academics, politicians and the public in Denmark, Iceland and Ireland. Michael's on twitter @GrayInGlasgow.



    We will still be under the NATO and UN umbrellas due to our geo-political position and access to northern Atlantic waters.

    Professor Michael E. Smith, the Chair of International Relations at the University of Aberdeen, who describes himself as “increasingly intrigued about independence”, he’s written extensively on EU military and security policy, and also understands the internal machinations of NATO.

    America said on TV on 10 4 14 they would not block iScotlands NATO application.

    “…….even if Scotland is kept out of NATO by a vindictive UK or whatever, it is still a strategic part of the North Atlantic and would fall under Alliance protection in a worst-case scenario: a major attack against Europe (Smith, 2013).”

    THE UK budgets £3bn for defence spend in Scotland, including Trident at £1bn, but the Guardian reported that a defence underspend of £1.1bn makes Defence spending in Scotland £1.9bn.

    Indeed a report by the Scottish Global Forum co-authored by Dr John MacDonald (2014), an expert on transatlantic security and the politics of war, and Lt-Col (Retd) Andrew Parrot (2014), concluded that current defence was “inadequate” , and that savings could be made of £800m, whilst providing a very effective holistic Scottish Defence Force the size of Denmark (MacDonald and Parrot, 2014).

    A copy can be found here:

    We don’t want or need Trident on the Clyde and Hebridees, particularly due to its appalling safety record of leaks and failing 11/13 point checks recently, higher than average rate of cancers and miscarriages in Helensburgh due to those leaks, not least its multi-billion cost, as 47% of children in Glasgow are in poverty and fast approaching 200,000 families visit foodbanks in Scotland. Just recently Westminster had covered up Doonray nuclear leaks since 2009, revealed nuclear dumping in Galloway Hills since 1970, and just weeks ago revealed that the MOD want to continue to dump nuclear waste in the Clyde……..

    ………..where 60% of Europe’s oil and gas lie untapped – some £3-8 Trillion of reserves..

    And in the event of nuclear attack Scotlands second city Glasgow along with 1,500,000 neighbouring citizens would die as a result of a nuclear strike.

    This is a grotesque state of affairs for Scotland, her people, her Sovereignty and land regarding Westminsters determined nuclear capability from London, England.

    Its hard to believe that Scottish MPs, unionist or not would advocate the union for the Scottish people on this knowing this consequential outcome.

    Now, not only this underspend, but £1bn of the £1.9bn is Trident – so only £900m is spent on what Scotland actually requires.

    Here, News that the navy misses North Scotland’s retired Nimrod fleet and crews are in limbo.

    Expanding on the Northern Atlantic point above, The Royal Air Force has been responding to Norway’s claims to MFR News that it’s “under pressure” after the MOD scrapped the North Scotland-based Nimrod fleet.

    The Norwegians are compensating for Britain’s loss of its sea surveillance and intelligence-gathering capability.

    Lieutenant Colonel Bjørn Gohn-Hellum told MFR: “We are now the only NATO airborne intelligence and surveillance asset operating in the region and in the Barents Sea.”

    AUDIO: Hear the interview between MFR Reporter Bryan Rutherford and Lieutenant Colonel Bjørn Gohn-Hellum…

    The Russian battleship the Kusnetsov that appeared of the Moray coast is a case in point. It was only discovered by the MoD through Twitter monitoring. Despatched was a Typhoon, and HMS Defender based in Portsmouth. It was detected nearing Scotland, but the only ship the Royal Navy had available to respond after Ministry of Defence cuts was in Portsmouth, resulting in a delay of 24 hours until it was in position (Nicol, 2014) to shadow the battleship who was on a ‘naval exercise’ according to the Kremlin.

    This alone implies more than 1 vessel, a supporting aircraft carrier and submarines – all that’s sent is 1 Frigate and 1 Typhoon.


    Its this lack of care to Scotland by Westminster that’s got to make Scotland think again as to her general attitude of Westminster towards us.


    The Scottish Government, on the otherhand, budgets £2.5bn some £1.6bn above the £900m to spend on what Scotland actually needs:

    4 Frigates, two retained from RN
    2 Aircraft Carriers (what I think)
    Reopened Royal Force Faslane bases;
    Some 16 jets;
    20,000 troops, including 5,000 reservists;
    And maritime patrol aircraft

    The spread of troops will enhance the communities we live in through spin offs, contribute significantly to economic growth, and provide employment through various contracts around Scotland, and partners working boosting local communities.



  • You might want to mention that both the Labour party in government in 2005/6 disbanded Scottish Regiments whilst soldiers fought Blair’s illegal war in Iraq.
    Men returning home from active service were finding out that they no longer had a job.

    The Tories have substantially reduced the overall numbers of soldiers in the UK and Scotland year on year has lost defence contracts to other parts of the UK. Most Scottish soldiers are stationed outside of Scotland.

    Only the SNP stood against disbandments and mergers to the Scottish Regiments and in 2005 a petition to 10 Downing Street with 155,000 signatures from Scottish voters was delivered by Alex Salmond and Angus MacNeil – opposing the disbandments and mergers.

    Bottom line: You cannot trust the future of the Scottish Military in the hands of London Governments and only in an Independent Scotland can you decide the fate of soldiers – both in terms of deployments in illegal wars and crucially security in jobs for the military.

  • More people need to see these facts and figures. Too many of my generation (non computer literate)do not realise how much we contribute to Westminster and too few newspapers print the “Yes” facts but dwell on the “No” camp’s arguments.

  • Mr Hommond said “independent Scotland would struggle to defend itself”. From whom Scotland must defend itself? if not from England, then there is noboby to defend ourself from. 2nd point, if you don’t take the country into illigal wars then there is no need to defend yourself from anybody. Wars creates more wars. Scotland is an advocate to peace and defender of the peace and it will remain so as an independent country.

  • Thank you for highlighting the actual facts.
    Sadly many of my fellow country men are still too afraid to believe the truth, this is a result of having been a nation which has been intentionally kept under the thumb for so long it it is difficult for some to believe in them selves again.

  • Great stuff again from Business for Scotland. I hope to persuade Yes Pentlands to put the leaflet Making the Business Case for an Independent Scotland out after the latest newspapers (won’t be difficult as it’s excellent)but would like to follow it up with a more detailed economic/business case. Does BfS have anything planned?

  • Another interesting fact:
    Apparently some 300,000 people are employed in the defence industry in Britain, so you would expect around 26000-27000 of those jobs to be in Scotland. And yet, according to the Scotland analysis: Defence report, we only have 12,600 defence industry jobs here.

  • I currently sub-contract to an English based multi-national defence manufacturer with sites in Scotland. Their official take on the debate is that they have extensive export orders as well as MoD contracts won through open competition and do not expect independence to have a substantial impact on operations in Scotland, although their share of MoD contracts may be at risk.

    The question I’d ask is this: The armed forces of other countries import from Scotland, as park of the UK, and will continue to do so on independence, so why would the country who is our closest neighbour and ally refuse to do so? Particularly when most of the defence contractors in Scotland are actually already part of multinational corporations.

  • Much appreciate these facts. It never fails to shock me how the likes of Hammond and his ilk thinks they can come up to Scotland and insult the intelligence of the people. Sadly many Scots are trustworthy so think he must be telling the truth. Thanks to pieces like Biz for Scotland it can help folk understand and be very wary of anything that comes out of unionists mouths especially with those from UKGov.

    • We’re currently spending 2.5%, whereas other a Euro countries are considerably lower. Spain is 0.85%, Norway and Sweden are 1.4%

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