Scotland to be stripped of its army if it becomes independent

Scotland: Government should 'stop fighting' referendum says expert

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Scotland would be stripped of its army if it became independent, a Scottish foreign policy expert has said, explaining that even Scottish divisions of the UK armed forces are owned by the Government in Westminster. Professor Azeem Ibrahim told the armed forces would be automatically repatriated to the UK Government if Scotland became independent as, by law, they are “owned and controlled by Westminster”.

Professor Ibrahim, Research Professor at the Strategic Studies Institute, said Scotland would be forced to engage in negotiations over the armed forces, but would have no guarantees of ending up with Scottish divisions of the army.

Speaking to about the Scottish army, the foreign policy expert said: “There is a bit of a misunderstanding that the Scottish divisions would be part of Scotland [after independence].

“The reality is that everything – the entire security establishment, the military intelligence, everything – by law is owned and controlled by Westminster.

“Anything Scotland gets would be subject to negotiations.

“In practice, everything is controlled by Westminster, which is controlled by the UK Government. What Scotland gets will be down to negotiations.”

But while Scottish independence would have a detrimental impact on Scottish security according to Professor Ibrahim, the UK Government last week warned that independence could have a negative impact on the UK’s security as a whole.

Last week, the Scottish Affairs Committee opened up an inquiry into Scotland’s role in UK defence of the North Atlantic and the Arctic.

Pete Wishart, chair of the committee, said Scotland is “the heart of the UK’s military capabilities”, raising questions for what would happen if the devolved nation were to break away from the UK.

He said that the security of the North Atlantic and the surrounding countries “has never been so important in modern times”.

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The “mini-inquiry” will identify what the UK Government can do to further bolster North Atlantic and Arctic defence capabilities in Scotland, while the Scottish Affairs Committee will examine Scotland’s role in the UK Government’s Arctic Strategy, which was published in March 2022.

Mr Wishart said: “From the navy to the RAF, Scotland is the heart of the UK’s military capabilities.

“As the world is exposed to increased geopolitical tensions following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the security of the North Atlantic and the surrounding countries has never been so important in modern times.

“The UK Government’s Arctic Strategy, published earlier this year, recognises this and outlines how the UK is operating in new ways to adapt to any threats.

“Our Committee will be examining the role that Scottish-based defence capabilities will play in this changing landscape, and how the Arctic Strategy is being delivered in Scotland.”

Professor Ibrahim said Scotland plays “an absolutely integral part of the security apparatus of the UK”.

But he questioned whether it would be able to “maintain the same level of defence as it currently enjoys” if it were to become independent.

Last year, defence expert John Gower claimed that Trident may be forced overseas or halted if Scotland gains independence because key Trident assets – such as the Faslane submarine base, the warhead loading site at Coulport, and nearby testing ranges – are all located in Scotland or Scottish waters.

Mr Gower, a rear admiral at the time of the 2014 independence referendum, concluded in a European Leadership Network paper: “A Scottish secession would therefore generate fundamental operational and fiscal issues for the UK’s nuclear deterrent.”

The SNP and the Ministry of Defence have been contacted for comment. 

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