Referendum Answers

Short Answers to Popular Questions about Scottish Independence

What about defence?

Q. How will we afford to defend ourselves if we don't have the British Army or the Royal Navy?

A. By spending less on defence than we do at the moment but getting more

You see, although our share of defence spending is around £3.4bn, we don’t actually get that much defence. There's Trident's nuclear weapons obviously, but there’s no navy in Scottish waters (apart from one wee ship), no Nimrod reconnaissance aircraft, and RAF Kinloss was shut. So nothing really to protect oil rigs and nothing much to patrol the North Atlantic gap (the big space between Scotland, Iceland and Greenland)

The White Paper suggests that an independent Scotland should spend around £2.5bn on defence (saving a massive £800m a year). Proportionately, that's the same as the most Scandananvian countries spend on defence.

For this, we'd raise an army of 11,000 to 15,000 soldiers, including a brigade-sized force; create a navy of around 20-25 surface vessels, including Type 23-class frigates and the new Type 26 global combat ships, to protect our trade routes and our oil & gas installations; and build an airforce comprising about 60 aircraft including BAE Hawks, C-130 Hercules, and Chinook and Sea King helicopters .

But remember this when you’re pondering defence. Scotland’s armed forces would be there to protect us and our assets, like the oil rigs, and our trade routes. They'd also to contribute to NATO obligations and (like Denmark and Norway do for example) contribute to international peace-keeping operations for the UN.

What they're definitely not needed for is launching illegal wars in Iraq. And because we don't need to pretend we're a world power, we definitely don't need a hugely expensive and useless nuclear submarine fleet or have massive aircraft carriers. Instead, we’ll spend money to defend ourselves. That’s it. And don't you think that that’s how it should be?


The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies: A’ the Blue Bonnets, Defending an Independent Scotland (pdf)

Further Reading

Business for Scotland: 12 Defence Facts

The Guardian: How Would An Independent Scotland Defend Itself?

Wings over Scotland: Phoning It In