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Troops will march south to England if independence goes ahead because being in Scottish army will be too BORING
- Damning report reveals reluctance of soldiers to join Alex Salmond's army
- Officers dismiss Scottish Defence Force as 'too dead-end and parochial'
- Troops would rather stay in British forces so they can see action
By Alan Roden
PUBLISHED: 02:42 EST, 2 July 2013 | UPDATED: 03:36 EST, 2 July 2013
Scottish soldiers will desert Alex Salmond’s independent army to fight alongside their British comrades if the SNP wins next year’s referendum.
A devastating new study which quizzed servicemen has left the Nationalists’ defence blueprint in tatters, concluding that Mr Salmond’s proposals ‘do not withstand serious scrutiny’.
For the first time, serving soldiers were asked for their views and ‘a majority – perhaps even a large majority’ would prefer to remain with the British Armed Forces’ because they will see action instead of spending their time in Scotland 'thumb twiddling’.
Desertion: Troops in Scottish regiments will reject Alex Salmond's independent army, a new report reveals, raising doubts about the future of regiments like the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders pictured on a parade through Port Glasgow Town last month
In one platoon, 30 of the 32 men who returned from Afghanistan earlier this year said they would not join a Scottish defence force (SDF).
One soldier was undecided and another admitted he would join the SDF for an easier life, adding: ‘All we’d be doing is checking passports on the M6.’
One officer questioned why a young Scottish man would sign up to ‘sit on the border in Cyprus or Lebanon with a blue beret and no rounds in his rifle’ when he could instead train at Sandhurst and join an elite fighting force.
The findings have raised fears of a ‘two-tier’ military structure in Scotland, with the brightest and best youngsters choosing to defend Britain before transferring to the SDF once they are married, have children and want to ‘calm down a bit later in life’.
Scotland would also need its own special forces to protect the North Sea oil rigs, but there would be a major recruitment crisis because the job would involve ‘thumb twiddling’.
Other findings in the 128-page report from the highly respected Henry Jackson Society include:
- The SNP’s defence strategy is not geared towards defending Scotland, but is designed ‘to help it win the independence referendum’.
- A separate Scotland would have an ‘Army-centric’ military, when a greater focus on maritime and air defence ‘would be preferable’.
- Defence firms that employ thousands of Scots could be forced to relocate to England to access the world’s second-largest defence market.
- Orders for the UK’s Type 26 global combat ship would ‘almost certainly’ be lost, and – in time – ‘most’ of Scotland’s shipyards would close.
- SNP plans to base Scotland’s navy on the Clyde raise ‘legitimate questions’, given that oil and gas rigs are located almost entirely in the north and east.
The report, launched in Edinburgh today, has been written by defence expert and author George Grant. He has previously provided briefings to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst.
Latest figures show that Scotland’s notional share of the UK’s defence budget was nearly £3.3billion in 2011-12.
The SNP has drawn up plans to spend £2.5billion on a 15,000-strong Scottish military if there is a ‘yes’ vote in next year’s referendum, although it claims this is around £500million more than is currently spent within Scotland’s borders.
Check point: The report is a devastating blow to Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who yesterday launched the official 2014 Ryder Cup Tartan at Lochcarron of Scotland mill in Selkirk, Borders with tournament director Richard Hills
Mr Grant’s report concludes that ‘if one is being objective on this subject, it is almost impossible not to arrive at the conclusion that – as things currently stand – defence policy is one of the SNP’s weak points’.
‘This is not because they have attempted to put forward a fully thought-through defence strategy that nevertheless appears to have some deficiencies, but rather because their strategy appears to be predicated more on how not to alienate voters, than on how to actually defend Scotland.’
He adds: ‘It is the considered conclusion of this report that not only have the SNP failed to answer most questions adequately to date, but that any – if not the majority – of their proposals for defence do not withstand serious scrutiny.’
'It’s a no brainer. The Scottish Defence Force would be too dead-end and too parochial'
Army officer to report
The SNP wants to keep all of Scotland’s historic Army regiments, but that would require around 14,000 personnel – leaving just 1,000 for an air force and a navy.
And one of the major problems would be persuading Scots soldiers to desert the British Armed Forces.
One officer told the report’s author: ‘What of the young officer born, raised, and educated in Scotland? He can either join the Paras [British Army Parachute Regiment] or the local Scots regiment.
‘If he chooses the latter, he cannot go to Sandhurst; so he would be going to a new training school in Scotland, with the best hope of going and sitting on the border in Cyprus or Lebanon with a blue beret and no rounds in his rifle.
‘Or he can join the Paras, one of the most recognisable regiments in the world. What’s he going to do? It’s a no brainer; the SDF would be too dead-end and too parochial.’
The officer said the SDF would be staffed by ‘second-class Scots soldiers’.
Elite: Scottish troops would prefer to train at Sandhurst in Berkshire (pictured) before fighting on the frontline around the world, instead of joining peacekeeping operations with a Scottish force
Defence experts Professor Sir Hew Strachan told Mr Grant: ‘I can envisage a two-tier military service, where ambitious young Scots join the British Army, and then, once he’s married and got children and wants to calm down a bit later in life, he transfers to the Scottish Army.’
The report outlines potential massive job losses in the shipyards and at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, where the UK’s Trident nuclear missile system is based. But it also warns of the impact on defence companies.
‘Privately, concerns have been raised about the potential loss of access to the world’s second-largest defence market, and there have been some discussions about the possibility of relocation south of the border in the event of a ‘Yes’ vote in 2014,’ it claims.
Criticism: Labour's shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said the SNP's plans are NP defence plans are 'quarter-baked'
‘One well-placed source told this report that, following discussions he had had with the board of one of the big defence companies, ‘they said quite clearly that, if Scotland became independent, they would move their operation out from near Edinburgh’.
The company in question employs several thousand people in Scotland who, the source said, would consequently lose their jobs.’
Addressing military infrastructure, the study found that the Eurofighter Typhoon would likely be too ‘expensive and complex’ for a separate Scotland, while the ageing Tornado GR4 ‘lacks an air-to-air capability’ and the Hawk trainer is ‘comparatively slow, with no radar and only limited offensive capability’.
‘Therefore, it would be unable to fulfil the air-defence function envisaged by the party,’ the report states.
The study also suggests that purchasing four diesel-powered submarines would cost Scotland up to £2.6billion, which is described as ‘prohibitive’.
Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy said: ‘It’s official. The SNP defence plans are quarter-baked.
‘There’s a growing army of experts who have shown just how flawed their defence plans are. The defence and security of Scotland’s people and national interests must be the top priority, but all we get from the SNP is political posturing.’
But a spokesman for the Scottish Government said an independent Scotland would have ‘first-class conventional forces which will play a full role in defending the country and cooperating with international partners’.
‘Scotland stands to inherit a fair share of existing UK defence assets, and an annual defence and security budget of £2.5billion would represent an increase of more than £500million on recent UK levels of defence spending in Scotland,’ he said.
‘We have also been clear that we will retain all current defence bases, including Faslane - which will be Scotland’s main conventional naval facility – and our long-term commitment will ensure continued support for jobs and local economies in all the communities around Scotland that are home to military bases.’