By a Newsnet reporter

UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has defended the lack of Royal Navy ships stationed in Scotland and claimed that such a presence is unnecessary due to “good intelligence”.

The Tory MP was responding to questions after a second incursion into Scottish waters by a Russian vessel led to criticisms of the lack of maritime support in Scotland.

Questioned by the SNP’s Defence Spokesman Angus Robertson on the failure of the Royal Navy to provide adequate ‘fleet ready’ protection in Scottish waters, Mr Hammond said:

“We do not need a frigate stationed in Scottish waters; We need good intelligence about the intentions of vessels approaching the UK’s area of interest, and we have that good intelligence.”

However the UK Minister also admitted that UK authorities had been alerted to the imminent arrival of the Kuznetsov by postings on social media after the Russians posted their plans online.

Asked whether the UK had received advance notice of the recent deployment of Russian naval ships to the north of Scotland? The defence Minister replied that: “The carrier task group had openly declared its planned deployment on social media sites.”

He added: “Once it became apparent that the task group was indeed likely to enter the UK’s area of interest, HMS Defender, as the fleet ready escort ship, was ordered to sail from Portsmouth to meet and escort the group through the UK’s area of interest.”

The admission that social media had played a significant role in alerting UK intelligence to the arrival of the Kuznetsov, was welcomed by Mr Hammond’s party colleague Sir Gerald Howarth who said: “I am sure that all Members are immensely grateful for the part played by social media in providing the United Kingdom with intelligence in advance of the Kuznetsov’s arrival in the UK’s area of interest.”

Edited clip of exchanges – View full video here

The Russian aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, strayed into waters near the Moray Firth just before Christmas. The Royal Navy was left red faced and vulnerable when its only option was to despatch a vessel from 600 miles away in Portsmouth to shadow the Russian ship, taking 24 hours to arrive.

It was the second such incident near Scottish waters in recent years. In December 2011, the 65,000 tonne Kuznetsov became the first vessel of its size to be deployed so close to UK water for 20 years. The SNP has been highly critical of the scrapping of the Nimrod fleet, which has left the UK without a dedicated maritime patrol aircraft.

In addition, 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. The incidents have raised serious concerns over the UK’s ability to adequately protect the region of the UK that houses its nuclear weapons.


2014-02-11 16:56

Hammond and intelligence in the same sentence?…don’t make me laugh. They would be quicker deploying RN vessels to level Glasgow than they would to defend Scotland. Better together…aye right!
2014-02-11 17:50

“We need good intelligence about the intentions of vessels approaching the UK’s area of interest, and we have that good intelligence.”

There are three flaws in Hammond’s appraisal:

1. The intelligence appears to rely on the “enemy” posting their intentions online.
2. The MOD appears to be reliant on members of the public informing them of what has been posted online.
3. Given 2, there seems to be no working link between the British intelligence service and the MOD.

I don’t think Hammond’s approach works when events are real. This cobbled together, make it up as we go along approach is unacceptable for our (Scotland’s) defence. We can do better than this.

2014-02-11 18:26

So that’s what military intelligence does, reads the Russian Navy’s twitter account.
2014-02-11 18:51

Does Newsnet know Wings over Scotland is suffering an accute and persistent sinister cyber attack from an unkown source which is severley hampering the website and its operation in the Indy debate.

Worth a story ? or interview with the site ?

[Admin – It would be a story if it could be proven beyond doubt that any attacks were related to the independence debate.]

2014-02-11 23:05

This might have something to do with it.…/…


2014-02-11 19:37

This is both tragedy and absolute comedy gold!
2014-02-11 19:44

OOOOOOOOO! it just gets better!
Marga B
2014-02-11 22:29

OT but does anyone have any dealings with Alyn Smith MEP?

Speaking at a conference in Brussels on the Scottish, Catalan and Belgian independentist movements, he’s got every right to make a strong case for Scotland being unique.

But if reported correctly, he chose the wrong place to mark out his pitch – does the SNP not “do” solidarity? According to Smith they don’t even “do” nationalism.

“I’m not a nationalist. I’m a democrat. The independence of Scotland has nothing to do with flags or kilts, or national pride or languages… For us it’s important to have a government that represents our values and London doesn’t”.

So that’s the Catalans told. Thanks, Alyn Smith.

2014-02-11 23:30

O/T – Apologies.

BBC Scotland news tonight states that the UK Govt to make formal announcement later in the week, ruling out a currency union with indy Scotland.

But then we all know that what a politician says before a vote is quite different to what they do after a vote. Probably trying to flush out the SG’s plan B so they can attack it.


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