By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has made a scathing submission to the Future Maritime Surveillance inquiry by the Commons Defence Select Committee which examines the UK Government’s approach to this vital aspect of defence.

In a detailed submission, SNP Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP points out that MoD cuts leave the nations of the UK as the only maritime state in Europe not to have long range surveillance and search and rescue capabilities.

Mr Robertson points out that the decision to scrap Nimrod has left the UK without any marine patrol aircraft – creating massive military and search and rescue capability gaps.  This leaves the Irish Republic better provided with search and rescue capabilities than the UK.

The current combination of assets leaves a huge capability gap for the various nations of the UK. The ability to project power, conduct real time Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition, and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) and maritime Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) operations, screen for undersea threats and conduct long range Search and Rescue (SAR) have all been drastically cut or no longer exist in a credible form.

Capability gaps leave the UK unable to meet its treaty obligations in Search and Rescue.  The UK is now reliant on others to perform military tasks.

The shortcomings of Scotland’s defence within the UK were highlighted last year when ships of the Russian Baltic fleet moored in international waters just 30 miles offshore in the Moray Firth in December 2011.  The ships were thought to be en route to the Mediterranean, and had entered the Moray Firth to seek refuge from storms.  The Russian fleet, including the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, was accused of tipping potentially dangerous waster into the waters off the Scottish coast, a short distance from the RAF base at Kinloss.

However as there are so few Royal Navy ships based in Scotland, the MoD was forced to send a frigate from Portsmouth in the south of England to shadow the Russian fleet.  Although there was no military threat from the Russian ships, the lack of UK defence provision in Scotland led to a delay of over 24 hours before British ships arrived in the area.

Apart from two small patrol vessels, the entire Royal Navy fleet in Scotland is based in the Firth of Clyde in connection with the Trident missiles and nuclear submarine system.

Mr Robertson says that the situation underlines the importance of defence co-operation with other nations – underlining the opportunities for an independent Scotland.

Commenting, Mr Robertson said:

“As a maritime nation it is unbelievable that the UK Government has left us with much diminished surveillance capabilities.  It is a decision that leaves huge military and civilian capability gaps and has the potential to put lives at risk.

“No example better illustrates the bad decisions that the MoD is making than the decision to scrap the Nimrod fleet.  After spending billions on their renewal, the destruction of these state-of-the-art aircraft was an act of gross vandalism and a scandalous waste of public money.

“Whether its national events like the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games to everyday missions such as maritime reconnaissance and rescues there is now a mammoth capability gap.

“Only recently, when the Russian aircraft carrier group moored just miles offshore from RAF Kinloss, we witnessed the unedifying and panicked response of the MoD as it dispatched a lone Frigate steaming North from the South East Coast.  It would not have been lost on the Russian Navy that there were no Nimrods to conduct basic and vital monitoring of the Russian carrier as it dumped rubbish into the Moray Firth.

“The UK is now the only country not to have such capabilities amongst our near neighbours and is now reliant on others to perform basic military tasks such as it had to in Libya.

“The principle of countries working together on military issues is good.  Indeed, this sort of cooperation is not unusual or new amongst many other countries.  France and Germany and the Scandinavian countries have a long history of working together successfully.

“Cooperation is not a substitute for capabilities however, and this agreement does not do is fill the capability gap which has been created by the decisions in the strategic defence review to scrap Nimrod, and which has left the UK without its vital maritime reconnaissance fleet.

“The UK is making really bad defence decisions for Scotland exposed.  We should make better defence decisions ourselves in Scotland – we only need to look to our northern European neighbours of comparable size all of whom maintain appropriate military capabilities including fast jets, ocean going vessels and highly trained personnel.”


# UpSpake 2012-03-15 08:47
Its taken the SNP some time to wake up to the asset stripping of defence infrastructure in Scotland and to probably eventually realise that the promises of all these troops to Kinloss and Leuchars was no more than an empty sop. Naieve and unprepared are comments reasonably made towards the SNP for, despite their popularity, have too many policies ill-prepared and thought out.
That is just an observation as regards Defence is concerned, what policy does the SNP have for Security ?
Woeful is just the start of criticism.
# tartanfever 2012-03-15 09:24
Nearly as bad as the unionists is Westminster. While you may have ground for criticism of the SNP, remember it is a reserved issue, so anything going on just now in the way of cuts you should be directing toward Downing Street.
# the wallace 2012-03-15 09:51
Upsake is right,is it seems the snp’s defence policy or lack of decent one, will be a point of attack.The snp need to give this serious thaught as it will be a vote winner or loser come the referendum they need to give more details of presonnel numbers,unit typeswhat type of kit ,eg what type of aircraft will be used for coast gaurd and maritime patrol? bases,aircraft type and number,infantry battalions,engi  neers,armoured units,artillery  ,logistics,rese  rve forces etc,they need to start laying down markers for this,as it will even more important than the economy to most voters,and should gain more importance in the head shed.
# tartanfever 2012-03-15 10:38
Right, so posters here are attacking a lack of policy from the SNP, who don’t even run the defence force as it’s a reserved issue. Once again, direct your ire where it is most effective and to those who actually run defence – Westminster.

The lack of policy from the SNP – well there may be grounds for argument on that, however, I sense a lot of impatience here. The referendum is two and a half years off and then independence is over four years away, we haven’t even ended the consultation period yet and yet you people are going off half cocked shouting the odds.

Also, how many ‘reviews’ have Westminster decided to hold on defence policies over the next few years ? Exactly, so you think Westminster actually know what they are doing ?
# the wallace 2012-03-15 11:09
There is no crime in critising the snp’s lack of serious defence plans,if we dont our enemy surely will, and they will rip them to bits for lack of a proper plan,or are us mere voting fodder not allowed to critisise those that lead us when we see something that is wrong? .
# Jiggsbro 2012-03-15 12:36
Scotland is not ‘left exposed’. If we were to be invaded, crack RAF pilots are on standby to bomb our airports.
# RandomScot 2012-03-15 14:10
Of coursem the world is different to the one Upspake describes

The SNP have a Defence policy statement out already, with a more detailed document due out a year before the referendum
# BeltaneFire 2012-03-15 16:47
Then big problem at the moment is that, come 2014 and beyond, we don’t really know what we’ll have to work with, as the UK’s armed forces are being so drastically cut, and this materiel may not fit into our plans.

I’ll wager that the MoD doesn’t even know what it will have to work with at that time.

The SNP has a strategic policy, but Upspake and The Wallace would like to see more detail, which is fair enough.

I cannot see a situation where an independent Scotland won’t have the necessary forces to deal with the likely threats.

We will need to be able to defend our oil platforms or be able to re-take them should they be occupied. I suspect that the Royal Marines are already trained for such a scenario, and any Scottish marines will do like-wise.

As a maritime nation, we will put greater emphasis on our naval and air capabilities, one would think.

And in or out of Nato, we will co-operate with our neighbours, whether they are in or out of Nato. This doesn’t have to be complicated.

As we push ahead with the referendum campaign, I’m confident that we’ll see these fears being dealt with.

At the moment, it is the Unionists firing-off all their ammunition. Let them! It gives us plenty of time to answer their juvenile questions in a calm and considered manner.

A time for calm! We have not yet begun to fight!
# AWoL 2012-03-15 18:26
The thing to bear in mind re Scotland’s defence is the rapid changes in technology.
It may actually become cheaper to operate, with the coming of robots, pilotless aircraft and seacraft.
Scotland should always allow for the possibilty of bullying by its larger neighbour down south.

It’s best bet is to turn itself into another Switzerland with every able-bodied man in possession of firearms, and select groups trained in the use of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weaponry.
They, the invaders, might win in the end if they want to sufficiently…..but as in the past, make sure they pay very, very heavily for it.
That should stop any sabre-rattling.

It is a daunting prospect for any professional army to face any nation with a well-armed and well-trained citizenry.

There is nothing unusual about this.
The Scandinavian countries already do this.
Norway did not do this prior to WW2 and paid a heavy price. She could have defended herself so easily had she but invested in stocks of aviation fuel and some modern fighter aircraft.
Despite lack of training and belated distribution of firearms, the Norwegians formed a highly effective fighting force.
Effective air cover and a pre-trained, well-supplied militia would have seen off both the Germans and the British….and it wouldn’t have cost too much.
# the wallace 2012-03-15 20:16
AWoL,Some of these ideas should be investigated further post independence.
# AWoL 2012-03-15 22:18
I hold a different opinion.
At the time of independence, if not before, significant armed forces must be in place along with a tried and trusted anti subversion unit, the embryo of the SSS…the Scottish Secret Service, linked to the Scandinavian countries and perhaps Russia.
It all sounds a bit over-dramatic to some, perhaps, but my own hunch is that wee Scotland, post independence will be subject to the sort of pressure that Iran is receiving now.
We are going to need allies to pull this off. We will not be allowed to float off and do our own thing, treated with haughty disdain…..because others might get the same idea…..and THAT WOULD NEVER DO.
I want an independent Scotland as much as, if not more so, than the next man, but any who think the good ship Alta Scotia will sail without encountering storms and pirates is living in cloud-cuckoo-land.
# Holebender 2012-03-16 04:37
That’s odd. You want details from the SNP before independence, but AWoL’s proposals can wait until after independence. Aren’t you being inconsistent?
# the wallace 2012-03-16 10:29
Why am i being inconsistent?it is important for the snp to let us know what their strategic make up and over view of our future defence needs will be.I dont expect them provide a full defence plan strait out,but i do expect them to provide a better idea of future defence needs than they have so far it looks ameteur at best and our enemys will rip them to bits for it.As for awol he has some good points that could be looked at later,if you were a young scot wishing to serve in the millitary in the future and you didnt know what the unit types or make up of a SDF were they would think twice.
# Jiggsbro 2012-03-16 14:11
All parties need to tell us their views on how Scotland will look after independence. The referendum is about self-determination, not whether you want the SNP to run Scotland. One of the first things that must happen after independence is an election, which the SNP may not win. Although it may be more likely to win if it’s the only party that’s bothered to think through some post-independence policies.
# Am Fògarrach 2012-03-16 06:21
The Scottish Democratic Alliance has developed a comprehensive security and defence policy for independent Scotland. See …/security-and-defence.
# Barontorc 2012-03-16 11:51
I think you’re all doing the SNP a dis-service on defence planning.

If strategic development on defence is anything like economy planning, for which we also know very little of in detail, but trust that it will come good, just what’s the worry about defence all about?

Keep being restless and demanding policy statements and you may very well get a hashed-job. We’ve a very competent and adaptable SNP team taking us into the future – let them do that.
# AWoL 2012-03-16 14:47
“We’ve a very competent and adaptable SNP team taking us into the future – let them do that.”

Again, I disagree with this “sit back and leave it to the experts.”
I hope that is not the attitude in an independent Scotland. Expert or no, if anyone has interesting ideas about defence, especially if it can be accomplished more effectively and cheaply…..then chip in.
That world is changing so fast that even the “experts”…often living fossils,yes-men jobsworths can barely keep up.

Scottish independence may only be 4-5 yrs away. Now is the time for ideas to be floated. Much will be dross headed for the dustbin…..but there may be some little gems that need developing, if not right now, then in the fullness of time.
Sometimes these ideas come from unlikely quarters…given the chance.
There are too many dismal, can’t-do jimmies around and not enough give-it-a- try, can-do types.

Nothing should be left to the experts. They should be challenged and able to defend their position in open, honest debate. Not to insist upon this, will lead to corruption.
The sums of money involved in defence will be considerable, even for a small country like Scotland.
Far from leaving this subject to the experts, this should be an area that ALL Scots of voting age take more than a passing interest in.
# Am Fògarrach 2012-03-16 17:21
Quoting Barontorc:
I think you’re all doing the SNP a dis-service on defence planning.

If strategic development on defence is anything like economy planning, for which we also know very little of in detail, but trust that it will come good, just what’s the worry about defence all about?

Keep being restless and demanding policy statements and you may very well get a hashed-job. We’ve a very competent and adaptable SNP team taking us into the future – let them do that.

Barontorc –

Remember when Alex Salmond was first asked about this subjet? He could only respond that it would be a sort of mini version of the UK’s present forces. Totally illogical, as many intelligent people pointed out at the time.

We are not doing the SNP any dis-service on defence planning,we are offering logical ideas for their consideration, not trying to stuff anything down their throat.
# amfraeembro 2012-03-16 14:07
The SNP has already Defence policy statement, with a more detailed document due out before the referendum.
What policies (on anything) do the other parties have for the post-independence situation?
# Am Fògarrach 2012-03-16 20:26
Quoting amfraeembro:
The SNP has already Defence policy statement, with a more detailed document due out before the referendum.
What policies (on anything) do the other parties have for the post-independence situation?

The Scottish Democratic Alliance (SDA) has developed and proposed policies on several subjects.See
# the wallace 2012-03-16 15:04
The other parties will not bring any defence policies forward, they will fight to remain in the union and its current defence policy.
# amfraeembro 2012-03-16 19:56
My point is the opposition need to start thinking about this or they will be caught severely short come independence day, which will be bad for democracy. I had a phone call from Labour today and told(lied to) them that I would consider voting for them in an independent Scotland.
# scottish_skier 2012-03-16 20:35

I ask the same of the Tories, Labour and the Libs at every opportunity.

“If Scotland does vote yes and becomes independent, what will your policies be if you are elected to government? What currency will you support? Stance on the EU, NATO etc? How about defense?”

I mean I could never vote for a party that does not forward plan – that is what government is supposed to do. The SSP, Greens etc all have their vision for an independent Scotland, so why not Labour etc? Would they not stand for election anymore? 😉
# gopher3 2012-03-17 14:58
Labour still think we won’t get Independence, that’s why they don’t have a forward plan.
# Am Fògarrach 2012-03-16 20:31
Quoting the wallace:
The other parties will not bring any defence policies forward, they will fight to remain in the union and its current defence policy.

The Scottish Democratic Alliance (SDA) is registered as a political party with the Electoral Commission. We are committed to complete independence and are fully supporting the SNP until independence is assured. See scottishdemocra
# Ericmac 2012-03-18 18:41
A labour (left of left wing) suggestion about defence.…/…
# Arbroath1320 2012-03-18 20:56
Don’t worry folks we all know the MOD have our best interests at heart. This is why they are looking at firing Depleted Uranium shells at the Dundrennan military firing range near Kirkcudbright.…/…

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