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Showing posts with label Scotland's defence policy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scotland's defence policy. Show all posts

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Scotland and NATO – a US view. The questions and contradictions that just won’t go away …

This is a right-wing Republican argument - but - who knows when the US will have another right-wing republican president? In less than four years? And who knows exactly what Obama and the Democrats think of Scotland and NATO?

The essence of the argument is all here - it contains all the contradictions inherent within the SNP's hotly-debated policy shift last October. They weren't successfully addressed or answered then - and Angus Robertson did not successfully address them in the debate that immediately followed this. Jim Murphy was of course in his usual backroom Glasgow political brawler mode, and betrayed all the intellectual poverty and hypocrisy at the heart of the Labour position.

Only independence - and an election in 2016 for a truly independent Scottish Parliament - will resolve these matters.

Since the Scottish Labour Party that contests that election will be a very different beast to its present expedient, power, money-grubbing and militaristic incarnation, who knows what the outcome of the 2016 election will be? The same will be true to a lesser degree of the LibDems. The Tories will still be Tories ...

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Scotland’s NATO membership – a deeply flawed concept and a retreat from principle

Five key facts -

1. NATO is firmly committed to nuclear weapons and the concept of nuclear deterrence, and only a unanimous vote by all 28 member states can change that policy (29 member states if rUK remains a member and Scotland becomes a member after independence.) In other words, the three nuclear member states can veto any attempt to abandon nuclear weapons.

2. From NATO site: "Whilst the North Atlantic Council (NAC) is the ultimate authority within NATO, the Nuclear Planning Group (NPG) which meets annually in Defence Ministers format is the ultimate authority within NATO with regard to nuclear policy issues."

3. A democratic vote or consent to use nuclear weapons by the member states is not required to launch a nuclear strike. (The authorisation of the Kosovo bombing provides a salutary example of how things might work. Effectively, the USA military decides, supported by UK and France)

4. The situation of Scotland is fundamentally different from that of any other member state - it hosts the UK nuclear deterrent, and if it insists on the removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland, rUK cannot host them and will cease to be a nuclear power. This poses a threat to NATO's nuclear stance that is posed by no other member state.

Although Scotland will reiterate its non-nuclear policy after independence, it must negotiate the manner and timescale of the removal of Trident and nuclear-armed submarines from Scottish waters.

5. The 25 non-nuclear member states are members of a defence alliance that can - and would - launch a nuclear strike in their name without their authority.  The 25 non-nuclear states cannot vote to remove nuclear weapons from NATO or make any changes to its policy because of the veto power of the three nuclear states.

What is the SNP proposing on NATO membership and why?

I posted the full Newsnight Scotland interview between Angus Robertson MP and Isabel Fraser, incl. the short but useful analysis that preceded it. In total it lasted 6m 40 secs, with the interview section being only 5m 10 secs. (For that edition of Newsnight Scotland, the producers clearly though same sex marriage was a much bigger topic than membership of a nuclear alliance that has the capacity to exterminate millions. But I believe they have a longer, more in-depth analysis planned of the SNP’s defence policy. God knows, such a programme is overdue – and vital.)

However, I have split the vital content up in edits to point up the individual contribution. Nothing has been edited out of these sections. Here is Angus Robertson’s full contribution – 3m 45 secs -  minus Isabel Fraser.

Here is Isabel Fraser asking all of her five questions -

Here are the five questions individually -





Angus Robertson answered none of them to my satisfaction. His approach was what I call the torrent of words approach – a kind of mini-filibuster style adopted by politicians when they don’t want to be pinned down. It was partially effective, and perhaps understandable, given the ridiculously short time available, but to me it was consistent with the half-truths and evasions that have characterised the lead-up to this revelation of the SNP leadership’s real intentions on NATO membership.

But the questions still hang there, waiting for an answer.

Since Angus Robertson’s contribution did not fully answer my question above - What is the SNP proposing on NATO membership and why?I must try to fill the gaps myself.

WHAT IS THE SNP PROPOSING?

“Scotland will inherit its international treaty obligations including those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and will remain a member, subject to agreement on withdrawal of Trident from Scotland.”

“With agreement on the withdrawal of Trident and retaining the important role of the UN, Scotland can continue working with neighbours and allies within NATO.”

“ … An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members only to take part in UN-sanctioned operations. In the absence of such an agreement, Scotland will work with NATO as a member of the Partnership for Peace programme, like Sweden, Finland, Austria and Ireland. …”

The Faslane base will remain, as Joint Forces Headquarters, and will be central to the SNP’s defence structure.

I believe that summarises the essence of the SNP’s NATO position – the full defence paper contains a great deal more than this about other aspect of Scotland’s defence plans.

Before looking at why the SNP are doing this (and I believe that they are being disingenuous about at least some of their reasons for abandoning a long-held anti-NATO policy) let’s examine the feasibility of them achieving membership of NATO while removing Trident and maintaining a non-nuclear policy.

“Scotland will inherit its international treaty obligations including those with the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)”

Well, will it? On what is this assumption based? One would assume that it is legal advice based on examination of international law on newly independent countries.

I’m no lawyer, but the Vienna Convention on Succession of States in respect of Treaties must be relevant here, however it is a deeply controversial document in its relevant clauses. (I am indebted to a Danish contact, Troels, for much information. Troels is interested in Scottish affairs but does not take a position on them, feeling that it is Scotland’s business.)

Article 16 states that newly independent states receive a "clean slate", whereas article 34(1) states that all other new states remain bound by the treaty obligations of the state from which they separated. Moreover, article 17 states that newly independent states may join multilateral treaties to which their former colonizers were a party without the consent of the other parties in most circumstances, whereas article 9 states that all other new states may only join multilateral treaties to which their predecessor states were a part with the consent of the other parties.

Scotland, in separating from the UK, would seem to come under article 34(1) and article 9. Among the many perceptions of this must be the possibility that Scotland would be bound to NATO obligations under article 34(1) but could be turfed out under article 9. If so, they presumably cease to be bound by NATO obligations.

Let’s look at what Lord (George) Robertson, a former general secretary of NATO says in today’s Herald. Under the headline Nationalists’ Nato policy shift branded a ‘cynical’ ploy the noble Lord of Islay is quoted as follows -

Lord Robertson, former secretary-general of Nato, was contemptuous of the SNP leadership's planned policy shift, saying: "This is a cynical exercise to get rid of another electoral albatross. Membership of Nato involves accepting its Strategic Concept, which clearly sets out a position and policy on nuclear defence, so countries in Nato will greet the Nationalist approach with derision."

Angus MacNeil, the co-signatory of the SNP NATO proposal has today reminded George Robertson of his  remarks during a speech to the Moscow State Institute of Foreign Relations in 2001 - "In the Founding Act, NATO committed itself to the famous three nuclear "no's" - no intention, no plan and no reason to establish nuclear weapon storage sites on the territory of the new members - a commitment still valid."

I think, Angus, that the wee Lord of Islay will speedily invoke the Vienna convention relevant articles (above) to refute that one – but we’ll see

NATO’s strategic concept includes the possession and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, and any member state signs up to that, even if they are non-nuclear. They cannot amend that, nor can they veto their use. NATO is not a democracy – it is  a military alliance dominated by three nuclear states.

A real question exists over whether NATO could demand that Scotland honour aspect of  its treaty obligations, e.g. provision of safe havens to nuclear-armed NATO submarines, while refusing to allow an independent Scotland to join or remain in  NATO. (Angus Robertson conspicuously avoided answering Isabel Fraser’s question on that topic.)

“An SNP Government will maintain NATO membership subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons and NATO continues to respect the right of members only to take part in UN-sanctioned operations.”

I can see no problem with the second half of that, the right of Scotland to refuse to take part in non UN-sanctioned operations, but the first part – the key part – sure as hell does pose problems. The difficult question to address is the negotiating dynamics of such a negotiating objective – for that is what it is.

Put bluntly, the SNP leadership want to maintain their nuclear virginity by getting rid of Trident while joining a nuclear alliance committed to retaining and using it without Scotland’s permission, or that of the other 25 non-nuclear member countries. Bear in mind that if Scotland is successful in removing Trident, the high probability is that the rUK would cease to be a nuclear power. Angus Robertson stated on Newsnight Scotland, “nuclear weapons being stationed in another country is a matter of bi-lateral arrangements between the two countries concerned – it doesn’t involve NATO at all, and in this case, that would be the relationship between Scotland and the United Kingdom – it’s not a matter for NATO at all …”

That is either naive or disingenuous. The idea that NATO would not have a significant influence on the rUK Ministry of Defence, and on any negotiations over Scotland’s NATO membership and Trident doesn’t stand up for a moment – in my view.

In essence, if we take the SNP’s negotiating stance at face value (I don’t) they will be saying to NATO – “Let us remain under the NATO defence umbrella and in return we will destroy rUK’s status as a nuclear power and remove at a stroke a major part of NATO European nuclear strike capacity.”

That is how it is being presented to the membership – it is how it will be presented at conference on October – a nice, clean-cut offer – or take-it-or-leave-it ultimatum, depending on your viewpoint. And from my Twitter exchanges, that is exactly the simplistic interpretation placed on it by many SNP supporters – Trident out and we’re in NATO – say no, and Trident goes anyway and Scotland joins Partnership for Peace (an organisation founded by NATO, incidentally).

My belief is that the SNP strategists’ position is far more complex than that – if it was not, they would be eaten alive in the negotiations. What I believe it really is disturbs me deeply, but whether it is or isn’t right now, here is my scenario of where we will wind up if we do go down this deeply misconceived route.

We will wind up in NATO, with at best, a token disarming of Trident warheads - something that can happen quickly and be reversed just as quickly – a commitment to a long period of theoretical decommissioning of ten to twenty years, and will be committed provide ‘safe haven’ to NATO nuclear-armed submarines. The high likelihood is that if a deeply unstable world survives 10/20 years without a nuclear war,  the vaporisation of Faslane and a large part of the West of Scotland and permanent pollution of the rest of it, the decommissioning will never happen, and Scotland will remain home to WMDs and Trident.

It is believed by many commentators that the SNP is going down this route solely because they believe that it will play well with a sector of the electorate for a YES vote in the referendum, and those opposed to NATO membership but supporting independence (like me) will still vote yes. They are right on the second assumption but perhaps not on the first. While I believe the referendum vote is part of the SNP’s rationale, I don’t believe it is anything like the prime reason. If I did, I would resign right now at such cynical expediency.

There is a lot more I could do – and may well do – on examining the negotiating strategy on defence, but for the moment I’ll wind up.

Here is the total Angus Robertson/Isabel Fraser interview -

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sitting on de fence on defence

The UK Parliament’s Defence Committee is appointed by the Commons to “examine the expenditure, administration, and policy of the Ministry of Defence and its associated public bodies”. That brief is taxing enough, given the legendary incompetence, not to say corruption of the M.O.D. and the grossly overstretched state of the UK’s international engagements, but it has a new concern, one that is increasingly dominating its thoughts, so it has set up a new inquiry into – guess – the Defence Implications of  Possible Scottish Independence, which I now award the title of DIPSI, and claim to be first to do so).

Another Parliamentary inquiry has been running for some time, of course, conceived in malice by the Labour-dominated Scottish Affairs Committee under Iain (The Fijians are generally easier to spot) Davidson, MP. His committee has a rather less Scottish-friendly title, The Referendum on Separation for Scotland (note the use of separation rather than independence in its title) which can’t be easily converted to a cuddly abbreviation like DIPSI. Its title, its blatantly hostile tone and the alleged bullying style of its chairman caused the SNP representative on the Scottish Affairs Committee, Eilidh Whiteford, to refuse to attend and the SNP to boycott the Committee. (Those are the reasons offered by the SNP for its boycott – some attribute other tactical motives to explain their absence.)

The defence issue is the critical issue in the UK’s opposition to Scottish independence. It is the critical issue in the agenda of those bodies such as Reform Scotland sedulously pushing the various so-called ‘devo-max’ options – devo plus in the case of Reform Scotland – although none of those advocating devo variants openly acknowledge this, because it involves confronting the heart of the defence issue – the nuclear issue – which is truly the critical mass of the defence issue.

There is a key linkage between attitudes and political positions taken on nuclear power generation, nuclear weapons, membership of NATO, climate change theory, opposition to renewable energy, Scotland’s oil and oil revenues, and defence as job creation scheme (placement of defence contracts).

With very few exceptions, those who favour nuclear power tend

to favour the nuclear deterrent

to marginalise the contribution of renewable energy

to either deny Scotland’s right to its oil revenues, or marginalise the future of oil

to focus on defence as a a job creation scheme rather than as a means of defending the nation

to favour NATO membership

In describing the above posture, for example, I am describing accurately the position and policy of the London and Scottish Labour Leaders, and the Labour Party. It is of course, in its essence, a right-wing agenda, which is what the Labour Party has been at least since Blair, Brown and Mandelson. It is not, however, the position of many Scottish Labour members and activists, nor is it the position of Scottish mainstream opinion.

Do I deny the existence of proponents of nuclear power who share none of the other positions stated above? Of course, I don’t – some have made that judgment purely on their assessment of what they see as the realities of power generation for the future. But I say say they are profoundly misguided to narrow the argument, without seeing the insidious linkages between nuclear power and nuclear weapons and all the other issues above. They also take an idealistic, almost a 1950s view of the energy utopia promised by clean, safe nuclear power generation, when no such paragon has ever existed, nor is on the horizon except as a scientific and technological vision that is a long way from realisation.

However, while defence is the critical issue for the power brokers and the military/industrial complex - and its handmaidens in government, it is clearly not the critical issue with the electorate, and politicians of all hues sedulously avoid it, aided by an ill-informed, under-researched and largely uncaring media, who find the topic too challenging, and who treat it in the most superficial way when it is addressed. (Without wishing to be accused of name dropping, several politicians have cheerfully acknowledged to me that they “know nothing about defence matters”. The ones who are supposed to know something about it regularly demonstrate in public – and on the media -  that they know little more than an informed voter might.)

DEFENCE COMMITTEE: Defence Implications of Possible Scottish Independence

I haven’t tracked down a BBC Ch.81 broadcast of  DIPSI yet, but there was a flavour of it on Scotland Tonight last night.

Brief and superficial though the clip and the subsequent exchanges were between Gemma Doyle MP (Labour) and Paul Wheelhouse MSP (SNP), they did point up one aspect of the debate – the nature of the phoney war the UK and Scotland are locked into until after the referendum vote in 2014.

To my knowledge, none of the experts giving evidence have any brief to speak officially or unofficially for the Scottish Government or the SNP. Whether any of them are - or will be - advisors and contributors to the November 2013 White Paper on Scotland’s defence is also unknown to me. (Happy to be corrected on this point.)

The Scotsman’s leader today finally caught up with – dare I say it, me – in their first glimmerings of understanding on the negotiating tactical and strategic implications of the current debate, something I have addressed at length and in detail for the last two years.

Here’s what I said back in January -

So when politicians talk about negotiation, draw a long breath. (I exempt practitioners of diplomacy from these strictures - diplomacy is negotiation between sovereign states, and it is usually at least conducted by professionals.) If we leave aside the unionist nonsense about ‘Scotland has two governments’, the reality is that Scotland, in the capable hands of Alex Salmond, is to all intents and purposes negotiating with the UK government as if both were sovereign states, even though that status is aspirational only for Scotland. In a country seeking independence, this is the only possible posture.

And some quote from a February blog  -

EXCERPT

Since the referendum is a consultative referendum, a YES vote to independence would be followed by negotiations on the mechanics of implementing independence.

A NEGOTIATOR’S RECOMMENDATIONS

There are two negotiations in this situation, one of which has already started – which I will call the pre-referendum negotiation – and one which will start after the referendum result is known, which I will call the post-referendum negotiation.

The pre-referendum negotiation will be a prime determinant of the referendum negotiation, which negotiators sometimes call the context and agenda negotiation. It is critical from a power dynamics situation, since failure to reach agreement at this stage can result in unilateral action by one or both parties.

Political negotiations take place in a very different context to commercial negotiations because of the media spotlight and the information needs of the electorate. In this negotiation,  the Scottish Government is the change agent and the UK Government represents the status quo. The Scottish Government derives its mandate from the Scottish people, but within a devolved settlement controlled by the UK Government.

To use a very old negotiating classification, this is a conflict of interest, not a conflict of rights under UK law, although international rights do exist. Conflicts of interest are settled by agreement or by power: conflicts of rights under existing agreements are settled by negotiation or by law.

Essentially, the context is one of negotiations between nations, i.e. diplomacy, even though the Scottish Government is not yet independent. In the case of any nation seeking independence, the subordinate nation has to behave as though it were independent before that independence actually exists, i.e. it has to emphasise its capacity to act unilaterally even though the status quo does not theoretically permit it to do so. This is why much of the legalistic discussion that rages is peripheral and essentially meaningless.

The implicit unilateral action here is that the Scottish Government will hold a referendum on its terms and on its timing, with or without the permission and imprimatur of Westminster.

This has in fact gone beyond being implicit – it is explicit, and, de facto, has been accepted by Westminster, because the alternative would be civil unrest on a scale that would make the poll tax riots look like a tea party. Everybody in Scotland knows this – few are willing to publicly acknowledge it.

It is therefore vital that the UK Government gets its act together for the pre-referendum negotiation so that the referendum itself can be conducted in a national climate of consensus about its purpose, if not about its outcome.

The Scotsman today says in its second leader -

Serious problem for Salmond (excerpts)

Thanks to questioning by Margaret Curran, shadow Scottish Secretary, we now known the Scottish government has not asked a single question of any Whitehall ministry about the relationships Scotland might have with them following independence.

Ms Curran says this shows the SNP have not done the most basic homework. A moment’s thought leads to the conclusion it is not altogether surprising. Any such debate would be tantamount to opening up independence negotiations and the SNP has no electoral mandate to begin such a process. The only mandate it has is to organise a referendum on independence and not, incidentally, on so-called devo-max or devo-plus.

Even if Scottish ministers did ask questions of Whitehall, the UK government would be almost certain to give no answers, first because of the lack of a mandate problem, and secondly because it believes that voters will reject independence. Nevertheless, Ms Curran’s questions reveal a serious problem for Alex Salmond. His government can only publish in its pre-referendum white paper what it believes it can achieve in negotiations. It can offer no certainty on the outcome of such talks.

Despite it saying A moment’s thought leads to the conclusion ..” and despite the fact that it has not had that ‘moment’s thought’ till now - whereas I have had it, and expressed it for over two years - the Scotsman leader points I have highlighted in red are fundamental, and I welcome them being made.

Here are a few topic samples of The Referendum on Separation for Scotland ‘inquiry’ of The Scottish Select Committee. Despite the clear unionist bias of the Committee and its chairman, the topics raised are valid, and in the absence of any Scottish Government representative to offer their perspective, they are largely left hanging. Nonetheless, the responses of Nick Harvey and Peter Luff are revealing, and are much more nuanced than the crude bludgeoning style of the Scottish Labour MPs would have liked to elicit.

Here’s what I said in my YouTube comment on the Scotland Tonight clip. Will the Scottish Government and the SNP take account of at least one voter’s view? Who knows?

YouTube

Published on Jul 3, 2012 by TAofMoridura

November 2013 before we see the White Paper?

And till then, what - silence?

Who are the experts assisting in the defence White Paper?
Who in the Scottish Government is overseeing this?
What evidence will be taken and from whom?
What will the military input be?
What liaison is there with the UK Government and the MOD?

Just some of the questions the Scottish electorate has a right to be kept informed about before November 2013









Thursday, 23 February 2012

The antis and the uncommitted – the key to independence

A number of conversations with individuals in the last week brought home to me forcibly again the fact that a large number of people are against independence and a significant number described themselves as unconvinced. I am left, not for the first time, with the uneasy feeling that what I do – blogging, tweeting, YouTube clipping – is reinforcing the commitment of those already committed to independence but is contributing little to shifting the perceptions that must be shifted to achieve a decisive YES vote.

This week at both Scottish questions and PMQs in Westminster, an orchestrated chorus of very dubious provenance sang stridently of the benefits of the Union and the evils of Scottish independence. This hellish choir comprised the usual suspects – Scottish Labour MPs whose jobs will vanish like snaw aff a dyke post independence, and Scottish MPs in English constituencies engaged in that most contemptible activity an expatriate Scot can engage in – talking down his or her country in an effort to curry favour with the host country. (The motivation for Scottish MPs in English constituencies doing this is all too apparent – to reassure their English constituents that they are not to be regarded with suspicion, because they are, in fact, stridently anti-independence.)

The choir is conducted by Michael Moore at Scottish questions and David Cameron at PMQs, as they spew out their misrepresentations, factoids and scare stories.

HOW DOES THE SNP REGARD ALL THIS?

The SNP group of MPs at Scottish questions can often seem a lonely, put-upon and beleaguered little group. They patently would rather not be there – and who can blame them for feeling that – and their efforts to put the record straight and ask pertinent questions are often frustrated by derisive noises off and patronising, dismissive replies. While this feeds the politics of insult, beneficial to the nationalist cause (as I know from the response to such clips on YouTube) their questions rarely make any real impact.

And I have to say at times they seem to miss open goals.

While their opponents are spreading misinformation in assertive sound bites, the SNP group often seems to be making arcane points of detail which,  however relevant, seems to get lost in the factoid fog of the unionists. Mike Weir’s response on the credit rating agencies point at this week’s Scottish Questions seemed to me an example of this – worthy, accurate and totally lacking in impact.

We have a minimum of two and a half years to the referendum, Michael Moore notwithstanding, and I speculate on what the SNP campaign strategy is in relation to this increasing miasma of misinformation. A blizzard of press releases emanate daily from the party on every subject under the sun, and undoubtedly some of these hit their mark and lead to stories in the media. I try to do my bit with them by tweeting the essence of the message when it seems appropriate.

One strategy the SNP may be pursuing is to let the Campaign to block Scotland’s independence - run by the unspeakable Labour/Tory/LibDem coalition for the safeguarding of the UK gravy train - exhaust itself by premature ejaculations in the early period of the referendum lead-in period then, in the post-consultation period, begin to deliver major detailed policy statements. The unionist incontinence will then leave them enfeebled and unable to respond effectively to cogent and coherent SNP detailed policy statements.

If this is the strategy, then I understand it and see the advantages of it. But there is a potential downside - that the unionist factoids and misrepresentations might take root in the minds of the electorate, and be difficult or impossible to shift in time for the referendum.

So where does this leave us?

PERCEPTIONS OF THE ELECTORATE

I position myself in all that I say as a voter, not as an expert. I have no insider knowledge, and no specialised economic expertise. So what what I have to say here is anecdotal, based on my range of contacts, and cannot compete with what I hope is the superb Activate database of the SNP and the analytical and campaigning skills of those utilising the information. But here goes

I see the following broad categories of voters -

1. The informed and committed

2. The uninformed and committed

3. The informed but uncommitted.

4. The uniformed and uncommitted.

I see the following motivations/perceptions among all of the above groups in relation to independence -

1. The UK is dysfunctional and only independence will provide a remedy for Scotland. Nothing short of national independence can deliver the freedom to act, within a framework of interdependence through membership of European and international organisations, e.g. EU, UN, NATO, Partnership for Peace.

2. The UK is dysfunctional but can be improved by measures short of independence, e.g. more devolution of powers to Scotland. Full independence is a bridge too far.

3. The UK is grappling with international problems common to all countries at the moment, but is coping and will cope with them. Independence is a dangerous distraction.

4. What’s all the fuss about? We (the UK) have done alright for 300 years. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

5. The entire political system in the Western world is corrupt, dysfunctional and only radical global action will remedy it. Nationalism is a distraction from this great internationalist goal.

The informed and committed will have already decided their positions based on their understanding of the facts, their own priorities, and to some degree on emotional considerations, which may be very powerful determinants of their position. Although some of this group may radically shift their position before the referendum, the numbers are likely to be small, unless some major event or events swing the balance powerfully towards a YES or a NO vote, e.g. a radical economic shift or a political scandal of some sort. Events, dear boy – events!

The uninformed and committed may well contain a majority who have placed emotion before reason in determining their position, and will therefore not be easily moved by facts. But some of this group may simply be uninformed and may shift their commitment if they engage fully with the arguments, i.e. they can be persuaded by factual argument. This segment of opinion is therefore crucial.

The informed but uncommitted and the uniformed and uncommitted are clearly fundamental targets for information and persuasion.

THE COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS AND QUESTIONS OVER INDEPENDECE

Here are some of the misconceptions and questions that I have experienced from my range of contacts, and from my scrutiny of press and media comment. These are assiduously fed by unionist politicians, but not necessarily created by them, and there are genuine questions in the minds of the as yet uncommitted.

1. The SNP and Alex Salmond have not spelled out what independence means.

2. Big is best – the most effective political groupings are the largest, therefore Scotland should stay in the UK.

3. Scots would be poorer after independence – it is reliant on the rest of the UK – i.e. England, essentially – to subsidise it.

4. The Scottish economic case rest on oil revenues, and oil is a declining asset.

5. As a small country, Scotland would have little influence in Europe, in the United Nations, in NATO (if it remained a member) and in global trade.

6. More devolution of power while remaining in the UK would be best for Scotland.

7. The SNP commitment to a constitutional monarchy that retains the Queen and her lawful heirs is an expedient political device to reassure monarchists, but would be speedily abandoned after independence by a referendum.

8. Adopting sterling as an independent Scotland’s currency and accepting the Bank of England as the central bank in a currency union would effectively mean that Scotland was not independent in any real sense.

9. Scotland might not be acceptable as an EU member after independence, and if it was a member, it would be forced into the Eurozone and adoption of the euro as Scotland’s currency.

10. The independence of Scotland would create a relationship rift with the rest of the UK, and have a deleterious effect on relationship with our nearest neighbours and create strains with friends and family in the rest of the UK.

11. It would be difficult or impossible to create an independent Scottish defence force, and servicemen and women would be forced into difficult or impossible choices.

12. An independent Scotland would experience high unemployment caused by the loss of defence jobs and contracts.

These are not the only misconceptions and factoids by any means, but they are the ones I encounter most frequently. From my perspective, none of them are accurate, or they betray an understandable  failure to comprehend either the nature of independence or the diplomatic and negotiating dynamics of achieving it.

I will return to all of them and try to demonstrate why I think they are misperceptions. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with Gordon Brewer and Crawford Beveridge, with Gordon struggling to understand the distinction between interdependence – and its constraints - in the modern world in relation to independence in a currency union.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

The Scottish press – contrasts between Scotland on Sunday and Sunday Herald

THE MILITARY/INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX

The MOD gravy train, a money-making machine for civil servants and career politicians that functions as a vehicle of death for inadequately equipped servicemen and women, an arm of government that is apparently incompetent and not fit for purpose, yet one that displays superb competence at enriching the politicians who have held senior posts in defence - notably senior Scottish Labour politicians - who wind up with directorships and lucrative consultancies in arms-related industries, and the senior civil servants who spin gleefully through the door to similar appointments.

(If you doubt this, examine the biographies of former defence secretaries, defence ministers, senior MOD civil servants, former NATO officials, etc.)

The Fox/Werrity affair briefly and embarrassingly lifted the veil, a veil that was rapidly dropped again as the Establishment closed ranks.

Today, the Telegraph - Ministry of Defence civil servant awarded £86,000 bonus with the sub-header Ministry of Defence civil servants have been awarded £40 million in bonuses despite fierce criticism of the department.

Search in vain for this Telegraph story in the Scottish Press today – if they didn’t know about it, they should have. But it doesn’t quite fit with David Cameron extolling the virtues of the UK and defence …

The Sunday Herald and Scotland on Sunday provide interesting contrasts today.Here are two Sunday Herald stories - 'Lives at risk' from poor nuclear safety regimes at Trident bases on Clyde and Anger at LibDems over Devo secrecy ruling

Search in vain for them in Scotland on Sunday – they don’t quite fit the narrative of that increasingly sad paper, although maybe they have or will appear, buried away somewhere.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Scotland’s defence–Angus Robertson’s response to the leaping Lords on Today

Naughtie:On the defence question – do you accept that it’s going to be a very, very costly business if Scotland does go independent? And not only costly to Scots, but costly to people elsewhere in the United Kingdom?”

Angus Robertson:That’s not the way I see it, Jim. Firstly, the prospect of people in Scotland being able to determine their own future is extremely exciting and historic. We look forward to the referendum as a real opportunity for the country, and it is true to say that it will impact on all policy areas of life, and we think it will bring tremendous advantages - and it’s important to understand what those are in defence and security terms.

“We’re in a slightly odd position in Scotland at the present time, where we’re already responsible in Scotland for veterans, but we’re not for defence and security policy, So, the point that we believe is that Scotland, Scotland’s Parliament – the government here – should be able to decide whether our servicemen and women go to war or not, how we defend our regiments, how we retain our bases, what posture we should take – whether Scotland should be a home to Trident nuclear weapons.

“All of these are the decisions that normal countries make, and we want Scotland to be a normal, successful country.”

Naughtie:Yes – but in the event of independence, there would be a very simple decision to be made, because the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet is in Scotland. Now that would still be  -em – the defence equipment used by the government of Westminster: in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right? At a cost of many, many tens of millions of pounds?”

I held my breath at this point, because the nuclear issue is at the very heart of my wish to see an independent Scotland. I regard most things as negotiable, and politics and diplomacy are the art of the possible, but for me, the objective of Scotland as a non-nuclear nation is not negotiable – it is a deal breaker – a sine qua non – as the Romans said, “a condition without which there is nothing.”

Why am I holding my breath, I asked myself? I have heard Angus Robertson confirm this very point a few weeks ago to a large and enthusiastic audience at Drummond Community School in Edinburgh, flanked by Derek Mackay. But Naughtie formulated his question as a double-header question – a very dangerous form to respond to. He asked for a single YES/NO answer to what in effect was two questions – nukes leaving Scotland and the cost. YES or NO confirms or denies both possibilities. The question must not therefore be given an unqualified YEs or NO if one answer is YES and the other is not.

Angus Robertson:Well, first off, let’s deal with the financial basis of the defence in Scotland and the UK, before …

That’s my boy, Angus!

Naughtie: “No, no, but hang on .. we’re talking about.” (Naughtie doesn’t like his double header being rejected.)

Angus Robertson:It’s important for listeners in England, who’ve never heard this, to understand the way that defence is currently organised and paid for in the UK, and at the present time, there’s a massive defence underspend in Scotland – incidentally, also in many English regions.

“But in Scotland, £5.6 billion less has been spent here than taxpayers have contributed to the M.O.D. In manpower terms, we’ve seen disproportionate cuts – 10,500 jobs lost – and in the recent strategic defence and basing review, we’ve seen two out of three air bases closed, the total withdrawal of the Royal Marines, and the closure of Army Command in Scotland. That is happening within the United Kingdom …”

Naughtie:Yes, and a couple of billion quid in defence order, which would go down the drain if Scotland were independent, because you wouldn’t be building stuff for UK defence.”

Angus Robertson: “I’m happy to move on to that in a second, Jim – it’s not true – but if I can just finish the point that I’m trying to make. It’s really important for people to understand that the UK Government does not look after defence well in Scotland, and I would argue in other parts of the UK, particularly the North of England either. And one of the advantages of being able to make defence decisions in Scotland is that we would utilise all of our resources – and Scottish taxpayers contribute about £3 billion a year towards UK defence, adequately just for Scotland.

“Now, you talked about procurement there. Let’s move on to procurement.  58% of the defence industry in Scotland in procurement is for export beyond the United Kingdom. Point two – where we have have an excellent domestic producing defence sector - excellent in shipbuilding, excellent in radar, excellent in optronics – I have no reason to believe the decision makers, either in Edinburgh or in London, will not continue to resource the best equipment wherever its made. And at the present time, the UK Government won’t spend 4.4% of its equipment and non-equipment spending in Scotland. That means that Scottish taxpayers are paying for considerable investment in the defence sector in England.”

Naughtie: “Well, the defence sector of the UK – these are matters that we  are going to – well, we will return to often and at length between now and the date of the promised referendum – but for now, Angus Robertson, SNP defence spokesman – thank you.”

MY SUMMARY

I was disappointed that Angus didn’t get round to answering the first part of Naughtie’s question on the “the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet ..“ … in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right?

But he was right to concentrate on the threat/bribe aspect of Lord West’s nonsense on defence procurement in Scotland and its impact on jobs, especially in shipbuilding. Angus Robertson demonstrated a superb grasp of the real issues, and the figures, unlike the two fumbling, bumbling peers who preceded him, and he did an effective demolition job on their feeble scaremongering tactics.

To Angus’ own question in his opening response – “… whether Scotland should be a home to Trident nuclear weapons.” We already know the FM’s answer, Angus’ answer, the SNP’s answer and the Scottish Government’s answer – it is a resounding, decisive, unequivocal NO and it has been given in many forums. For the SNP to renege on that posture would be an inconceivable betrayal of trust, and they will never do it.

As for the question “the entire UK nuclear submarine fleet … in the event of an independent Scotland, it would leave Scotland – right?”, I think know your answer, Angus, because you have already given it many times in the context of Scotland being non-nuclear, opposed to WMDs, whether carried on nuclear submarines, or by other delivery systems.

Or do I? Is it more complex? Perhaps … A nuclear submarine is a submarine powered by a nuclear reactor, whether or not it carries nuclear weapons. No nuclear weapons could be allowed to remain in Scotland under clearly and repeatedly stated SNP policy, i.e Trident, but nuclear subs and their bases without a nuclear payload?

I know there are existing treaty obligations about Scotland providing safe havens in Scottish waters to our allies – and we will continue to have allies, and will be part of non-nuclear defence groupings. Clearly, there are complex questions to be considered and discussed there with the UK and European allies. Angus Robertson is well equipped to discuss them rationally, objectively, and without rancour. But are the representatives of the UK anti-unionist parties and Establishment?

Not on Friday’s today showing, they’re not … The doughty Baroness was right about one thing – they had better get their act together, and field some politicians or diplomats who know what they’re talking about, unlike the ones we’ve just heard. The Scottish Government – and the SNP – have got their act together, and a superb one it is.

Ah, 2012- what will you bring?

Saor Alba!



Saturday, 31 December 2011

A tale of an unelected Baroness, two unelected Lords a-leaping and one elected Scottish MP – guess the topic?

Here’s what www.parliament.uk says about the House of Lords -

The House of Lords is the second chamber of the UK Parliament. It is independent from, and complements the work of, the House of Commons. Members of the Lords play a vital role making laws and keeping a check on government.

Here’s what I say about the House of Lords – it is historical relic maintained to limit the power of elected democracy in the House of Commons – the choice of the people. It is comprised of the Lords Spiritual, who are there simply because they are unelected bishops of the Church of England, founded by Henry VIIIth to legitimise his dubious marital arrangements, by hereditary peers who are there because an ancestor either fought or bought his way into the favour of the ruling monarch of the time, and by life peers, who are unelected political appointment by one or other of the London parties, usually political hacks who once were MPs but for one reason or another were booted upstairs into the sinecure of the ermine, or former generals, admirals, etc. with a fair number of businessmen who have contributed a substantial amount to ??? - and a few figures from the arts and entertainment world.

As of 21 December 2011, this gang of gandy dancers and railroad men – and women – numbers 788, plus another 21 who are on leave of absence or otherwise unable to collect their generous attendance allowance. The elected representatives of the people in The House of Commons numbers 650 MPs. Endless rubbish is talked about reforming this pernicious, faintly ridiculous and undemocratic institution, but in the main, nothing happens because the system suits the London parties and the Establishment. (Something has been done about the hereditary peers, who never mattered much anyway, but it will be a cold day in August before the London political parties let go of their right to create new Lords.)

The Labour Party, the party of social equality, the party of the people, simply loves the House of Lords, and former horny handed Labour sons of toil can’t wait to get as far away as possible from the sordid realities of their crumbling constituencies and into the ermine and on to the red benches. Lord Martin of Springburn, the disgraced former Speaker of the House of Commons, forced to resign over the expenses scandal, was relieved to find the pain of his ignominious exit from the Commons effectively and speedily ameliorated in this way.

Yesterday, another former Speaker of the House of Commons, also Labour, who left in a more dignified manner than Michael – now Lord – Martin did, Betty Boothroyd - now Baroness Boothroyd – decided to prompt the Today programme on BBC radio, to cover an issue that she felt wasn’t being discussed enough – the implications of Scotland’s imminent independence, especially its relevance to the UK’s defence policy.

A word in the right ears, and, lo and behold, it’s on the agenda for Today yesterday (sorry about that!) and a couple of Lord come a-leaping to the defence of the UK’s inalienable right to WMDs for the purpose of intimidating other nations, by killing Scottish servicemen and women in foreign fields and by basing nuclear weapons of mass destruction in Scotland, thereby making it a prime target in a nuclear exchange, and placing the indigenous population at risk of nuclear accidents and pollution of the environment. All of this is justified by a kind of job creation scheme argument over defence expenditure, one that seems to have great appeal for the Scottish Labour Party and Scottish trades union bosses.

The two Lords who leapt into the fray at the Baroness’ behest were Lord Forsyth and Lord West.

THE LORDS WHO LEAPT – Michael Forsyth

Baron Forsyth of Drumlean, the wee Tory laird, former confidante of Lady Thatcher, archetypal Scottish Tory needs no introduction. Utterly opposed to devolution, to the Scottish Parliament and to the independence of his nation, his contribution was predictable, and in its a way, a vintage Forsythian diatribe.

Today’s James Naughtie invited Lord Forsyth to comment on the questions that might be asked in the referendum.

With characteristic moderation, the unelected Forsyth opened by describing the elected First Minister of Scotland, - the acknowledged front rank UK politician, Briton of the Year, with a higher popularity rating than any other political leader and a decisive mandate from the Scottish people - as “a snake oil salesman”.

Forsyth, like others of his ilk, seems oblivious to the fact that this questions the judgment of the Scottish electorate - and their intelligence. In fact they do recognise snake oil salesmen – and women – when they see them, which explains the parlous state of Scottish Tories. (Like many of my generation, I saw the real thing in the 1940s and ‘50s in the Glesca Barras – Prince Monolulu.)

He then accused Alex Salmond of campaigning for devolution in 1997 “alongside Donald Dewar” the arguing against it in 2004. Since devolution and a Scottish Parliament were the first crucial steps on the road to independence, the leader of the SNP was hardly likely to campaign against it, but as Dewar, Forsyth, Tam Dalziel and others clearly recognised, it was not an event but the beginning of a process, a process now well advanced, thanks to the First Minister.

Both Tories and Labour (Johann Lamont was at it recently) now attempt to make the ludicrous case that the SNP cannot work under a devolved settlement and campaign for full independence – that they are somehow the enemies of devolution. A hauf-witted chimp could see through that argument. Forsyth, of course, was and is opposed to devolution, the Scottish Parliament and independence. When he looks at the rump of the Tory Party sitting in Holyrood, he must wonder what the **** they’re daien’ there …

He claims that Alex Salmond “wants three questions” in the referendum “because he knows there is a majority against independence”. Neither Michael Forsyth nor Alex Salmond knows any such thing. What they know is that a series of opinion polls indicate the the majority of Scots are in favour of a radical change in the constitutional settlement – that some favour full  independence, some appear to want the maximum powers devolved to Scotland but to remain in the UK, some want the status quo, and some are undecided.

It would never occur to Lord Forsyth, a grandee of a party that is essentially undemocratic in its atavistic power-based instincts - someone who is viscerally opposed to Scotland’s independence, or indeed devolution and the very existence of the Scottish Parliament – that Alex Salmond is a democrat, that a referendum is a democratic process, and that, on fundamental constitutional issues, the question or questions must be framed in a way that allows the electorate to exercise the choices it appears they want to make, rather than the simplistic ones a reluctant Tory Party - which has had no democratic mandate to govern Scotland for at least 14 years – wants to foist on them.

$64,000 question from James Naughtie: “Are you still convinced that there is a natural majority in Scotland against full independence?

Lord Forsyth: “I don’t know, Jim, but what I am convinced of is that continuing with this deliberate war of provocation which Alex Salmond is engaged in will damage the Union and damage Scotland’s interests …”

Forsyth seems to be having a problem with his short-term memory – a moment ago, he was saying that Alex Salmond “knows that there is a majority in Scotland which are opposed to independence.” He also seems blissfully innocent of the fact that Alex Salmond doesn’t want to damage the Union – he wants to end it completely to advance Scotland’s interests. Forsyth does have special knowledge of how to damage Scotland’s interests – at the time he was Scottish Secretary of State to Maggie, this bleak twosome managed to destroy Scotland’s industrial base, throwing thousands on the scrapheap. Scots haven’t forgotten, even if the wee Laird has …

Forsyth is concerned that the English now appear to be more supportive of Scottish independence than the Scots, and this of course reflects the underlying anxiety of all Scots who have allowed themselves to become dependent on the British Establishment and Westminster that the nation to which they have sworn allegiance will show them the door. There will be no Scottish MPs after independence, and I would not relish being either an Scot who is an MP in an English constituency or a Scottish Lord after independence. The Queen, Scotland’s new constitutional monarch (or perhaps King Charles and Queen Camilla?) may find a way to look after the Scottish Lords – after all, it was she, at least in theory who ennobled them.

The apprehensive wee Laird then tried to suck James Naughtie into his paranoia, reminding him that he was Chancellor of Stirling University, and inviting him to share Forsyth’s indignation over fees charged to English students. He then rather ruefully quotes Alex Salmond’s delivery of the Vulcan Death Grip to such critics by pointing out that independence would make English students troubles go away – they could then all come to Scotland to escape the iniquities of the Tory-led Coalition’s brutal fee burden.

Naughtie ignores the fee nonsense, as well he might, and asks Forsyth what he and the other two unionist parties are going to do about it?

The wee Laird flounders. “Well, I – I believe that we need to –er – work together and make the case for the union, and put it to the people of Scotland, and demonstrate how none of the big questions which – aah – matter to Scotland – erm – in terms of – eh – getting growth in our economy, getting jobs, what would happen –er - in respect of our defence –er – er – forces – er – what would happen about the national debt – none of these things have been discussed.”

As always, when a Scottish unionist talks, one is never quite sure who he means when he says our, as in our economy, etc. He presumably would like us to think he means Scotland. In point of fact, Alex Salmond has talked cogently and incisively in many forums about growth in the economy, in jobs, unlike the incompetent Tory-led Coalition, who not only have nothing intelligible to say about such things, but who are also making a king-sized mess of of doing anything about them.

The national debt is a big question, given the fact that Labour, the LibDems and the Tories have increased it astronomically by their financial and fiscal ineptness, and it clearly can only be addressed in the negotiations that follow the independence YES vote, over two years away. Not least of the problem is that, given the monumental cock-up that is the Coalition, not even Gypsy Amalia could predict what the national debt will be in 2015 or thereabouts.

As for “our defence- er –er- forces –er ..”, the our clearly refers to the UK defence forces, and  specifically the nuclear issue. But we’re coming to that …

We have this extraordinary phenomenon of Alex Salmond …” You got that right, Michael! “…with Brigadoon economics”. Well, no, Michael – the First Minister is the only politician in the UK talking sense about economics at the moment. The Coalition’s economics could best be described as Mickey Mouse economics, except the Walt Disney’s ghost would probably sue me for defamation. Ah hope it disnae …

“Ah, eh – telling people that he want to hold a referendum on the future of the United Kingdom – in the teeth of a financial crisis – on the anniversary of a medieval battle – Bannockburn. Yeah, yes – indeed – if it weren’t so serious, it would make you laugh.”

The wee Laird audibly relaxes with relief, having come out with this inaccurate and entirely trivial and irrelevant point, the climax of his inarticulate fumblings. You did succeed in making me laugh, Michael – at you.

This man went straight from St. Andrew’s University to Westminster City Council and spent his life up to 1997 in politics. Following the collapse of the Tories and with them his political career, he was speedily ennobled, and has since become Deputy Chairman of Evercore Partners International, a Director of J & J Denholm and NBNK Investments, and a former Deputy Chairman of J.P. Morgan UK.

All of these exalted organisations clearly saw qualities in Michael that must have had something to do with high finance and banking, and not just his Lordship status and his political contacts. He, in turn, must have learned a lot about the role of banks and financial institutions, not to mention Maggie’s deregulation, followed by 13 years of Labour incompetence, and now Coalition incompetence in the financial collapse of Britain’s economy.

He clearly could have marshalled all the formidable financial expertise he clearly must have to survive and prosper in this exalted company to offer trenchant arguments and a critique of Alex Salmond. But instead, he offers cheap insults and Brigadoon and Bannockburn. Oh, Mikey, how you disappoint me …

He is again thrown into panic by Naughtie’s question of who is to lead the Unionist campaign against independence. “Well, certainly not me,” he says rather hastily. “I, I, I, I,- I think" Michael as Carmen Miranda seems to be on the horizon, or even cogito ergo sum, but thenwe need to have – errr – the Unionist parties – er – working together – together with business and others, putting forward – er – the arguments for the Union! And this Alex Salmond has promised - this is a once in a generation decision - and the sooner we take it the better.”



As the wee Laird said “And this Alex Salmond has promised” his voice rose almost to an eager, hopeful falsetto, and doubtless his wee buttocks – delicately covered by Union Jack shorts - clenched excitedly under his kilt. As the late Jimmy Edwards used to say, you couldnae have got a tram ticket between the cheeks o’ … (Stop it right now, Peter!)

Aye, aye, aye aye, aye – I don’t love you veeery much, Michael …

THE LORDS WHO LEAPT – Alan West

Lord West of Spithead was First Sea Lord, head of the British Navy, before he became a politician under Gordon Brown, and, to my astonishment, was at Clydebank High School, and must have been there when I lived in Dalmuir, near Clydebank, from 1960 to late 1968.

This entirely irrelevant fact made me predisposed to like him, wholly irrationally, but this feeling was speedily dispelled once he opened his mouth.

James Naughtie invited him to detail the defence questions he claimed hadn’t been properly considered in the debate (what debate?) on independence.

Well, I, I, – good morning first of all – I – “ Haud oan, there’s only room fur wan Carmen Miranda here, Alan!

Alex Salmond hasn’t even – he’s guilty of not even having addressed defence issues, he’s sleep walking, I think, into disaster.” Poor Alex, he’s not just a snake oil salesman, he’s also guilty – and sleep walking! I have to give these two ********* full marks for bizarre inventiveness in invective. More ! More !

The implications are  - are very, very far reaching. How does Scotland – how would Scotland see itself in this new guise?”

A. As an independent nation with its own defence forces.

Would it be part of NATO?

A. Not while NATO is committed to nuclear WMDs

Would it be part of an EU defence force?”

A. Yes, almost certainly …

How would it defend its sea areas?”

A. With its own navy and its own vessels, appropriate to Scotland’s defence needs.

I’m tempted to ask where the **** you’ve been, Lord West, when these questions were being asked and answered by the SNP in many media forums. If an auld punter like me knows the answers, why don’t you? Maybe you were busy considering the fact that Britain has more admirals than ships, perhaps? Or maybe not …

There’s no doubt whatsoever that Ireland, for example, has relied on the UK and NATO to look after its defence needs – er, er – effectively …”

I wonder what The Republic of Ireland has to say about that?

Would that be what Scotland were doing? Erm –eh – we would need to look at issues such as – what size of force would Scotland have? What are the nuclear implications for the whole thing?

Ag! At last we get to the nub of it – this is what is really bugging the UK about Scotland’s independence. It’s the WMDs, stupid – any fool can see that …

And of course defence industries –these are all key issues.”

Aye, right – defence industries. I wondered when that one was coming, because a large part of the gravy train comes to a shuddering halt if Britain, i.e. the UK, cannot maintain itself – or claim to – as a world power brandishing nukes. The military/industrial complex, and its ever compliant handmaiden, Westminster, and indeed a large part of the insidious web of wealth, power and influence flows, or should I say, radiates from the ‘independent’ nuclear deterrent.

James Naughtie prompts the coy Lord: “You’re talking about what would happen in the event of –eh – what you might describe, just in shorthand, as full independence? Scotland being a separate country entirely – if that were to happen …

Naughtie’s breathless description, full of pregnant hesitation, makes this sound like an impending global catastrophe, on the scale of, say, Yellowstone Park erupting. Is there any other way to describe full independence other than as – erm – ah – eh – full independence?

I mean, haud on there, jist wait a minute, Jimmy! Ah thote this wis jist a wee country, barely a tenth o’ the size o’ the mighty UK, hardly able tae brush its ain teeth withoot Westminster tae haud its wee haun – why is the skitters runnin’ doon yer legs at the prospect? Whit’s gaun oan here? Eh?

Naughtie goes on: “What is the extent to which installations in Scotland are an important part of UK defence?

The noble Lord is calm and measured, almost reassuring initially, but he’s building up to the heavy muscle – the threats …

Well, they are important to the defence of our islands – there’s no doubt about that .. and therefore, any …” (For ‘our islands’, read ‘the UK’)

Faslane is the obvious example.” prompts Naughtie.

Faslane’s obvious – but clearly, I’m looking at –eh – eh – the option of Scotland separating. Faslane and Coulport, I think without a doubt …” The noble Lord’s gold braid quivers and he tries to move on swiftly, but Naughtie again – and pertinently – intervenes to cut through the merde -

Naughtie:We’re talking about nuclear submarines here.”

Lord West: “Nuclear submarines, attack submarines - the SSNs and also of course the deterrent submarines, with the  -eh – nuclear warheads …”

There – that wisnae too hard tae say, wiz it, Lord West – nuclear, attack, and –eh – nuclear warheads?

Erm– basically, that base would effectively close. I think the SSNs – the attack submarines – would be moved with their jetty – there’s a big jetty that can actually float and be moved, down somewhere, like, Devonport or Milford Haven.”

Get ready fur two heids an’ a green glow, residents o’ Devonport and Milford Haven – and ye’ll need mair than an Anderson shelter when the nukes come doon oan ye … But think o’ the joabs – the joabs … Surely that’s worth being made a prime target – is it no’ ?

But. naw, ye’re gonnae be all right efter a’– the nuclear wans might no’ go at all!

The actual ones with nuclear weapons – there has to be a real question then, of – would we keep nuclear weapons? Would this effectively lead us into unilateral nuclear disarmament?”

Did I hear that right? Nuclear weapons and all the attendant risks for the good people of Faslane and Coulport have been acceptable for decades, but they can’t be moved to Devonport and Milford Haven?

But the admiral has an answer. “Because the cost of replicating the ship lift, - erm – the explosives handling jetty, the storage facility at Coulport would be billions – eh – and we’d have to think of where that was put. Em – so the implications are ginormous ..”

Naughtie:and where the costs would lie – with the administration in Edinburgh or the administration ..” (tails off)

I have to say you’ve missed a few open goals here, James – maybe you’ve been doon there too long, trips to Stirling notwithstanding …

Lord West: “… if this was forced on us by a separation, I think a lot of the costs of clean-up, for lack of a better word ..” There is a better word – detoxification, Lord West. “should be carried by Scotland.”

Now that’s what I call nuclear chutzpah! By God, ye’re a brazen bugger, Lord West – ye’d murder yer ain Mammy and Daddy and plead for clemency on the grounds that ye’re an orphan! Whit a man! Did ye learn a’ that at Clydebank High?

And I think if one looks at the military – the very aspect of military forces – I – I did some rough calculation, and I looked at Denmark, Norway and eh- eh – and Ireland, and they’re all roughly five million, the same as Scotland. I looked at their defence budget as a percentage of GDP, and it would mean that Scotland would be spending something like £1bn – £1.1bn a year. This means her forces would be 8 patrol vessel, 2 maritime patrol aircraft, a handful of helicopters and eight and a half thousand troops.”

Well, thanks for your back-0f-a-Westminster-envelope calculations, Lord West, and for writing our defence budget for us, but – how can I put this delicately – that is none of your business. The purpose of independence is that we do it ourselves and get people like you and your excess of admirals vs ships off our backs. Of course, we’ll let you know what we’re planning when we’re ready, just to keep you from utter panic, but be patient.

Unlike the UK, we don’t plan to have the fourth largest defence budget in the world – behind only France,China and the US – which until the cuts, was running at around 2.7% of GDP. But you see, we’ll be about defence, not invading foreign countries, not maintaining irrelevant and obscene weapons systems, not about posturing as a global power, not about sustaining a gravy train of M.O.D. jobs. consultancies, revolving doors to the defence industry for civil servants, and lucrative directorships and consultancies for retired or redundant politicians. OK?

Now would those troops be used for UN peacekeeping, would they be part of the defence of Europe, bearing in mind America is looking the other way now, and letting Europe do more ..”

Aye, now we’re getting to the nitty gritty. The SNP has already said that an independent Scotland will play its part in appropriate UN peacekeeping operations, just as other small countries do, and will play its part in EU alliance that are not nuclear based. As usual, the Unionist Lord is asking questions that have already been answered, answers to which he and his fellow UK defenders appear not to hear.

“I think this would diminish both our countries. I think it’s really worrying, and I don’t believe that Alex Salmond has really looked at this at all – and the implications for defence industry in Scotland is devastating.” Here comes the threat – the defence-as-job-creation-scheme argument

If I were now looking at shipbuilding, and looking at the type 26 programme as the next big frigate programme, and I was one of the industries involved, I would say – put all our investment in England, because if  they separate, there’s no way England, Wales and Northern Ireland will pay for ships to be built in Scotland – they’ll be built elsewhere. so they would lose their shipbuilding industry – on the Clyde would go, Babcock would have nothing after the carriers, they’d have to close airbases, they’d have to close army bases. There are huge implications, and I don’t believe that Alex Salmond has really exposed these to the Scottish people, or the rest of the United Kingdom.”

Exit the Labour Lord, having dutifully delivered his Armageddon scenario, and his threat/bribe message to the Scottish people, who have suddenly become they

We must assume that Ed Miliband and Johann Lamont stand foursquare behind these threats, and that union full-time officers are being briefed as I write to work their memberships into a state of paranoia about independence and jobs.

I would like to finish the analysis with Angus Robertson’s response to this, but I’m knackered, it is after all Hogmanay, and family and guid Scotch whisky beckon invitingly, so I’ll have to save Angus till tomorrow.

A guid New Year tae yin and a’ – and mony may ye see …  Saor Alba!