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Scottish Independence and Scotland's Future
Ed Means Column
How the UK government shortchanges Scottish Defense


The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not yet fully comprehended that Scotland’s Independence is not merely fantasy and that independent Scotland will have defence policies that differ significantly from those of the UK. A case in point is maritime defence of its offshore oil, gas and energy (e.g. tidal, wind) resources. Also independent Scotland will have no requirement for aircraft carriers, nuclear weapons or nuclear submarines. In fact, the MoD has gradually reduced the once-strong defence of Scotland’s northern seas to virtually zero.

Here is a case in point:

On 21 December 2013 The Scotsman newspaper reported the following:

THE Royal Navy was believed to be shadowing at least one Russian naval vessel off the coast of Scotland last night after it sailed near the Moray Firth while on exercise in the North Sea.

“The Baltic Fleet vessel is believed to be a warship and was part of an operation being carried out in the area. It was described by a source as a ‘Russian Task Group’ suggesting more than one ship may have been involved. The [UK] Ministry of Defence would not comment on the incident or on whether the Russians had entered British territorial waters, which stretch out around 14 miles from the coast, although it was thought to be unlikely.”  The entire article is available at http://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/top-stories/navy-shadows-russian-warship-off-moray-coast-1-3242089.

 “It follows a similar incident in December 2011 when several ships from the Baltic Fleet arrived 30 miles off the Moray Firth, including the huge aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, the anti-submarine warfare ship Admiral Chabanenko and escort the Yaroslav Mudryy.” The escort was most likely a surface and air defense vessel.

The Russian military stated at the time that the fleet was on route to Syria and took shelter in the Moray Firth when faced with deteriorating weather conditions. Some ­commentators ­believe that Russia was then and is now ­testing Britain’s response times to such an incursion.

The 2011 incident was the first time a vessel the size of the 65,000-tonne Kuznetsov had deployed near UK waters and the closest a Russian task force had sailed to the UK in two decades.

The Royal Navy has no seagoing vessels based in Scotland; however, a Royal Navy vessel was thought to be deployed from the south coast of England to shadow the Russian ship. But by the time it would arrive at the Russian ships’ location, the Russians would be long departed.

Until 2011 the UK had extensive Scotland-based northern defenses including long-range fixed-wing maritime patrol and anti-submarine aircraft known as Nimrods. These aircraft patrolled vast areas of the North Atlantic. For complete information about these aircraft, see http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/nimrod-was-actually-a-good-hunter-upgrading-britains-fleet-updated-02442/.

Regarding the most recent incursion, Angus Robertson, the Scottish National Party leader at Westminster and MP for Moray, said last night: “This is just the latest example illustrating the unacceptable priority the UK government gives to northern defence and security.”

“The RAF has no maritime patrol aircraft and the Royal Navy has no conventional ocean-going vessels based in Scotland. These capabilities are essential to properly managing northern security matters. After a Yes vote in 2014 Scotland will join our northern European neighbours like Norway and Denmark who take these challenges seriously and which will to be to the benefit to all in north Europe, including the rest of the UK.”

In May 2007, Tornado F3 jets from RAF Leuchars in Fife were sent to intercept two Russian aircraft spotted observing a Royal Navy exercise over the Western Isles.

They were identified as Tupolev Tu-142 Bear Foxtrot planes, commonly seen by RAF pilots during the Cold War and which feature in the Tom Clancy thriller The Hunt for Red October.

The Russian aircraft were escorted from the area by the RAF, who said no radio contact took place between the pilots, before returning to their base in Murmansk.

If the result of the Referendum on 18 September is Yes, Scotland will be able to plan, procure and employ its own defenses and develop mutual defense plans in cooperation with other countries in the region. If the result in “No”, Scotland will be at the mercy of the UK.

Aircraft carriers without aircraft, anyone?


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