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By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP's Defence spokesman at Westminster yesterday demanded and explanation from Defence Secretary Philip Hammond over the £1billion imbalance between the contribution made by Scottish taxpayers and the level of defence spending in Scotland.

Speaking at Defence Questions, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP asked the MoD to explain why, when Scottish taxpayers contribute almost £3billion a year towards defence spending, nearly a third of that was not spent in Scotland.

However Mr Hammond refused to give a detailed answer, and gave a misleading reply, attempting to explain the disparity as being due to UK defence commitments overseas:

Mr Hammond said:  "Well the last time I checked the people we were needing to protect the UK against weren't in Scotland, and I think that Scottish taxpayers, like the rest of the UK's taxpayers, respect that we deploy our military forces, and structure our military posture to deal with the threats that we are facing."

The UK is forecast to spend £33.7 billion on military defence spending in the current financial year.  Spending on military operations overseas, such as Iraq, Afghanistan and UK involvement in the Libyan campaign, does not come out of the defence budget, but rather from the Special Government Reserve fund. This money is additional to the budget of the Ministry of Defence, and was not the subject of Mr Robertson's question.

Commenting after the exchange, Mr Robertson said:

"There is a mammoth imbalance between the contribution made by Scottish taxpayers to the Ministry of Defence and the level of spending that comes to Scotland.

"People will be shocked by this imbalance because, in contrast to the conventional wisdom about a significant and well-funded UK defence presence in Scotland, the facts are entirely different.

"Even before the basing review last year which left Scotland with just one RAF base, Scotland had already been hit by the loss of more than 10,500 defence job losses and a £5.6billion underspend over the last decade.

"These facts make the scare stories of the anti-independence parties all the more absurd when you consider the assessment by Professor Malcolm Chalmers, of the Royal United Services Institute, that a Scottish Defence Force would cost about £2.2 billion – which is £1 billion less than Scottish taxpayers are contributing right now to defence spending in the UK

"UK Ministers must explain why this extraordinary imbalance has occurred, and more importantly what they will now do to address it."

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