By Anne-Marie O’Donnell
The SNP has called on Westminster to release details of a national security incident involving a Russian military vessel off the Scottish coast just before Christmas.
The Royal Navy was caught short on 22 December when a “Russian Task Group” sailed near the Moray Firth and had to frantically despatch a Royal Navy vessel from 600 miles away in Portsmouth to shadow the Russian ship – which took 24 hours to arrive.

Now, the SNP is demanding clarification from Westminster over whether the Russian Task Group included vessels from the Admiral Kuznetsov naval task force after Russian media reports suggested its involvement. If it is confirmed, it will mark the second time in two years that the Royal Navy has been forced to conduct an escort for the vessel after veering close to Scottish waters.

Despite claims by the Russians that ships were merely sheltering in waters near Scotland in recent incidents, speculation is rife that Vladimir Putin may in fact be testing Britain’s response times and capabilities.

Westminster SNP leader and defence spokesman Angus Robertson condemned the lack of military protection on the Scottish coast and called for urgent clarification on the matter.

“The UK does not take the northern dimension seriously, having scrapped the entire maritime patrol fleet, basing not a single ocean capable conventional craft in Scotland and not even mentioning the High North and Arctic in the last Strategic Defence and Security Review,” he said.  “Apparently the MOD does not even always have a frigate or destroyer available for Fleet Ready Escort duties.

“This is not the first time that a vessel has had to be scrambled from the south coast of England to steam for 24 hours at high speed for 600 miles to fulfil necessary escort tasks off Scotland.  We welcome friends from Russia and elsewhere, but it is intolerable that there are no UK conventional naval vessel or maritime patrol aircraft in Scotland to perform basic escort duties.”

According to the Russian Northern Fleet’s spokesman, Captain 1st Rank Vadim Serga, the Admiral Kuznetsov fleet was involved in the incident.

“The heavy aircraft carrying cruiser Soviet Union Fleet Admiral Kuznetsov ,the large anti-submarine ship Admiral Levchenko, the large assault ship Olenegorsky Gornyak, as well as support vessels such as the rescue towboat Nikolai Chiker and the tankers Sergei Osipov and Kama,” he told the Interfax-AVN news agency.

In December 2011, the 65,000 tonne Kuznetsov became the first vessel of its size to be deployed so close to UK waters for 20 years, exposing weakness in UK defence, particularly around Scotland, which houses the UK’s nuclear weapons stock.  The SNP has been highly critical of the scrapping of the Nimrod fleet, which has left the UK without a dedicated maritime patrol aircraft.

The latest incident is one of a series with the Russians over the last decade. In May 2007, two Russian aircraft were identified watching a Royal Navy exercise over the Western Isles and the UK was forced to scramble Tornado F3 jets to intercept and escort them.


2014-01-09 11:24

Ach, who’d want to invade Scotland, whose people are too wee, too poor and too stupid to be of any use to anyone. Look at the fortune it would cost the invaders to subsidise the country to keep it going.

Only Westminster would be that kind.
2014-01-09 11:56

This isn’t just not watching the back door – this sea area approach is the bloody front door and driveway and it’s totally unguarded. Wonder what NATO have to say about this behind closed doors? The UK must be a laughing stock in these quarters.
2014-01-09 12:59

In contrast to this feeble reaction, the Norwegian Coastguard arrived as soon as a Chinese ship entered the waters off Spitsbergen. I haven’t seen reference to any further Chinese incursions.…/…

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