Former Army chief: SNP needs to be “honest and transparent” on defence policy

Ed Jacobs covers the growing row over the SNPs refusal to state what their defence policy would be post-independence.

With the SNP faithful preparing to meet from tomorrow for the party’s annual conference in Inverness, the first since it’s landslide victory in May’s elections to Holyrood, a former Chief of the General Staff has launched a withering attack on Alex Salmond’s failure to set out his thinking in any detail over Scotland’s defence and foreign policy in the event of independence.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Lord Richard Dannatt, the head of the UK Army between 2006 and 2009, argued that Alex Salmond had to set out a blueprint for defence and foreign policy prior to a vote on independence if the electorate were to be able to make an informed decision. He concluded:

“That’s the only honest and transparent way to go about it. He (Salmond) needs to be open about what the sizes of the armed forces would be. There should be an initial discussion (with Westminster) ahead of the referendum so Scotland would know what they are likely to get.”

Dannatt’s comments come after the first minister seemed to suggest the issue would be looked at only after a referendum. Speaking to Holyrood Magazine ahead of his party’s conference, asked what an independent Scotland’s defence policy would look like, he responded:

“Well, the second thing after your sovereignty is what policy do you want to accept within that independence and that will be up to the government of the day.”

Lord Dannatt has also supported the views of his predecessor, General Sir Mike Jackson, who in May argued that an independent Scotland would require the building of a completely new military from scratch, arguing that the military could not serve two political masters.  It was a rebuke of suggestions that the SNP are considering some sort of “independence lite” option, in which defence and foreign policy would be shared with England.

Responding to the developments, shadow defence Minister and Scottish Labour MP, Russell Brown argued:

“Knowing how we would defend ourselves, whether the shipyards would close, how many aircraft carriers we would have, the size of the army, our membership of Nato, our role on the UN Security Council: all these must be answered before the referendum, not after. On defence, our relationship with Europe, the currency, on pensions, Alex Salmond might run from the questions but he can’t hide from them.

The SNP’s defence spokesman, Angus Robertson meanwhile sought to deflect attention away from his party’s vision for a defence and foreign policy within an independent Scotland by turning his fire instead on Whitehall, declaring:

“Given the cuts that have just been announced as part of the basing review, as well as the historic decline in Scotland’s defence footprint – which has seen 10,500 defence job losses and a £5.6 billion underspend over the last decade – the question is really over the commitment of the UK parties to a defence presence in Scotland at all.”

Salmond has also sought to question the legitimacy of the decision by the Scottish Affairs Select Committee in Westminster to undertake two inquiries into the Scottish government’s plans for separation. Commenting on the committee’s decision, Salmond told Holyrood magazine:

“[It] used to have a job scrutinising the Scottish office and the Scottish office isn’t there anymore. The Scotland office doesn’t have anything to do, and famously the current secretary of state for Scotland [Michael Moore] used to think, before of course he was the Scottish secretary, that the role should be abolished.

So the Scottish affairs select committee doesn’t have a job to do and the way they are going about their business is basically an open statement that they refuse to recognise the world has changed, that there has been an election and that result has changed the entire environment they operate in.

But you know, it doesn’t matter anymore what the Scottish affairs select committee does or wants to do, none of that matters – these days are gone. Obviously, there will be a committee inquiry into a referendum and how we stage the referendum and the way we hold it but that will be done by the Scottish parliament committees and in the proper democratic manner.”

He continued:

“There is no one on the Scottish affairs select committee, apart from Eilidh Whiteford [SNP MP for Banff and Buchan] that has a mandate to say anything about a referendum, apart from the fact that they are opposed to it. The only ones with a mandate to say or do anything are the ones sitting in the Scottish Parliament.”

Outlining his surprise as the first minister’s apparent reluctance to engage with the committee’s inquiry, its chair, the Labour MP for Glasgow South West, Iain Davidson responded:

The first minister’s attitude is surprisingly negative – I thought he liked talking about separation. I am strongly in favour of my country, Scotland, being part of the UK but if we are going to separate it should be done with all the facts on the table and done amicably. If the first minister has nothing to hide, he should have nothing to fear.”

See also:

Alexander outlines harsh truths for Scottish Labour as his own seat is axedEd Jacobs, October 13th 2011

Devolved nations call on Whitehall to create jobsEd Jacobs, October 12th 2011

Scottish Labour needs a new Donald DewarEd Jacobs, September 26th 2011

SNP were prepared to consider referendum without independence optionEd Jacobs, February 21st 2011

New book reveals Alex Salmond is a man capable of “explosive rages”Ed Jacobs, October 11th 2010

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12 Responses to “Former Army chief: SNP needs to be “honest and transparent” on defence policy”

  1. Alan Cowan

    Former Army chief: SNP needs to be “honest and transparent” on defence policy | Left Foot Forward

  2. Matthew Little

    Ex-Army Chief of Staff slams Salmond's lack of defence plans, writes @edjacobs1985:

  3. Barry McComish

    "@leftfootfwd: Ex-Army Chief of Staff slams Salmond's lack of defence plans, writes @edjacobs1985:"

  4. Uwchgapten

    Genuine interest if @Plaid_Cymru equally vulnerable? "@leftfootfwd: Ex-Army CGS slams SNP lack of defence plans,”

  5. Ed Jacobs

    RT @leftfootfwd: Former Army chief: SNP needs to be “honest and transparent” on defence policy

  6. Rob the crip

    Lets see who will attack Scotland, difficult hold on England if they find more Oil in Scotland and the English do not get the rights. Anyone else nope cannot see France doing it, or Germany, so the baddies are England after all the do not attack people without Oil or the wrong Oil, like Syria.

    I cannot see why a EX 0fficer of the army who hopes to become what an MP bother to attack Scotland unless of course he’s Labour.

    England are doing deals with the French so perhaps Scotland will do a deal with Germany or Wales Ireland NI to protect our selves from Cameron Blair Brown and the rest of the war mongers.

  7. Dave

    Where is the honesty and transparency of the British military down the centuries?

    The huge amount of waste and overspend. The MoD has a £38bn black hole in its budget. Three illegal or immoral military conflicts in the past decade costing tens of billions and hundreds of UK lives as well as untold thousands of innocent civilians deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Gigantic aircraft carriers with no aircraft and renewal of a nuclear deterrence force etc.

    Dannatt & Co should look to themselves first. They have done very well out of the ‘defence of the realm’. The truth is that the UK is falling apart from within. It’s well beyond its sell-by-date.

    The Scots should decide what level of defence Scotland requires. The British Army has disproportionately recruited in Scotland and Wales, having exploited the relative poverty of both nations to that end. That can’t go on. It’s an army with far more generals than regiments, admirals than warships. Top heavy with upper class toffs.

    Salmond has to be prepared for the dirty tricks of the British Establishment, and those like the Labour Party which has a vested interest in maintaining the union – without Scotland Labour will never form a government at Westminster.

    The policies of the three unionist/British nationalist parties have failed Wales and Scotland by having put the sectional interests of the City of London and the affluent classes of the south east of England before anything else. Now is payback time.

  8. alex, aberdeen

    His whole argument or even the fact he tries to make it shows how out of touch this man is with reality,

    Nations much smaller than Scotland are fully capable of defending themselves and when Scotland is able to define its own policy’s there will be no wars of aggression

    There is no threat to Scotland. any suggestion that there is a threat is just the politics of fear. its the only way most politicians can keep themselves in a job these days. they do very little to help a country, their trade is in spreading fear and then promising to protect us from things we don’t understand

    The game is up,for these politicians in Scotland,

    I support alex salmond and his positive attitude towards the future of this nation and the focus on success not on failure, We are a strong and resourceful people, who always did make the best of what we had, and given the chance to decide our own future i believe we will go from strength to strength

  9. PMK

    Ripping from the Torygraph … Left Foot Forward has come to this.

    Who cares what this ill-informed, bloody-handed, imperialist war-monger Dannatt say?! He is just yet another Tory living in the 1870s, sad thing is – many Labour people are now resorting to such views also. The English political scene is entirely politically compromised.

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