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Thursday, 17 May 2012

The Scotsman, defence and independence – realism tinged with fear and despair

The Scotsman, viewed as a entity, provides an interesting case study for the psychologist – or even a psychiatrist. Its identity depends on two things – its concept of itself as the national voice of Scotland and its commitment to the subservience of Scotland under the Union. But these two identities have been in irreconcilable conflict for some years now, and the core personality is disintegrating. Unless urgent professional help is sought, this once great newspaper will become an irrelevance in the Scotland of the future.

This dichotomy is nowhere more evident than in today’s edition. The front page story is the Scotsman trying to induce panic over the prospect of independence by resorting to the defence-as-job-creation-scheme scare story – Breakaway Scotland would lose warship contracts. This theme is extended on pages 4 and 5.

I won’t re-hash all my arguments on the theme of the military/industrial complex here. Those interested can find them in previous blogs – here are some links -

Defence jobs and the military

Military/industrial complex

Defence of Liam Fox

Scottish Labour and Defence - follow the money

But then we reach Scottish Perspective, and a different personality emerges from the editor, Bill Jamieson, no less. In his piece Will the Right back independence? prompted by the highly unwelcome – to the Davidson/Forsythian brand of Unionist Toryism – statement by Lord Fraser of Carmyllie that Scottish independence has “something of an inevitability about it”.

This feeling of inevitability has caught up with Peter de Vink, major Tory supporter and fundraiser, and now apparently with Bill Jamieson, judging by the tone of his article. Tories listen to money when they listen to nothing else, and there is no doubt that the apostasy of these two men has shaken the Scottish unionists to their red,white and blue underpants. I mustn’t be snide, because it is a welcome injection of reality

(Michael Kelly is mercifully silent on the question of independence for once, and confines himself to fighting obesity.)

Letters to the Editor reflect the angst of the loyal unionist with two letters under the sub-header Tories’ white flag.

SNP members must be hugging themselves with glee at this latest faux pas to emerge from the beleaguered coalition government.” We are, we are, Brian Allan!

And Iain J McConnell of Gifford, who rivals Alexander McKay, the sage of  New Cutt Rigg in his loyalism and regular contributions, opens his letter poignantly with “Sadly …” and goes on to excoriate David Cameron for providing “open goals for the SNP”. I feel your pain, Iain, as the empire begins to dissolve before your eyes, but you underrate the enormity of Cameron’s interventions. Not just open goals, but a series of own goals. Never mind, I’m sure a Jubilee party will cheer you up, and there’s sure to be one in Gifford at least.


But then we come to pages 36 and 37 and the report on the Scotsman conference on defence after independence, one of a series to contribute to the great debate. This reflects the prevailing mood of the inevitability of independence, not a mood one might have expected the Scotsman to deliver when examining in advance the panel of speakers for the debate, perhaps one that it did not intend to create.

The headline – What’s in the pipeline for independent Scots forces? – signals the fatalism, indeed the sub-header emphasises pragmatism.

Professor Hew Strachan (MA, PhD, DL (Tweeddale), Hon D Univ (Univ of Paisley), FRSE, FRHistS, Chichele Professor of the History of War and Fellow at All Souls College Oxford, Director of the Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War, and former Senior Lecturer in War Studies and International Affairs at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst) is understandably pissed off at the great debate concerning itself “with cap badges, rather than looking at strategy” and strikes a suitably apocalyptic note -

The military and politicians are fiddling while Rome burns

The British Empire was never reluctant to compare itself with imperial Rome, but equating Cameron, the Coalition and the shambolic UK, a tattered remnant of empire, its last pretension sunk by the economic collapse - and by three ruinous governments over the last thirty years or so - is a metaphor too far, even for an All Souls Chichele Professor, and old Henry Chichele will be shaking with laughter in his cadaver tomb at Canterbury.

A note of sanity was brought to the proceedings by former Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Crawford, who set out what Scotland would need as a defence force if it abandoned the international policeman pretensions of the UK – those are my words, not Stuart’s, who put it much more objectively as a basic defence option. As he said -

This is a model, not THE model, but it is the only one I know of at the moment.”

But from my perspective, a much more ominous note was sounded by Professor William Walker (St.Andrew's University). The Scotsman report quoted him as follows -

"He said he believed some members of the SNP recognise there is room for manoeuvre. 'Some of them realise that maintaining Trident for even a short time and retaining flexibility (for example, keeping Trident but agreeing it would not be replaced) would give the SNP a substantial bargaining card."

Now that quote chills my blood, as does the idea that an independent Scotland might remain in NATO. The road to nuclear hell is paved, not with good intentions, but rather expedient, ill-considered and shabby compromises.

Changing policy on NATO? Whatever gave you that idea?

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