Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Commons defence inquiry gets under way

soldiers with guns
Image caption MPs will consider the defence implications of possible Scottish independence

A vote for Scottish independence could spark an emergency defence response similar to a terrorist attack on Faslane, according a defence expert.

Prof Malcolm Chalmers was speaking on the first day of a inquiry into the defence impact of Scots independence.

The Westminster inquiry also heard from retired Lt Col Stuart Crawford, now a political and media defence consultant.

He said it would be "sensible" for the Scottish and UK government to begin a dialogue with the MoD on independence.

Last month the Scottish Affairs Committee heard Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey say that the MoD had made no contingency plans for independence.

On Tuesday morning, the Defence Committee heard from Professor Chalmers, director of research at Royal United Services Institute.

He said that in the absence of formal pre-independence discussions and contingency plans, the MoD could deploy plans which are already in place for "other sorts of emergencies".

Image caption Four Trident submarines are based at the Faslane Naval Base on the Clyde

"In my experience there are people in the MoD that are thinking about these things and talking about them," he said.

"I think going the extra stage and asking the armed forces to make detailed plans for contingencies which would only be relevant in the case of Scottish independence is much harder.

"As far as I know they are not making that sort of detailed planning.

"Clearly, some of the aspects of independence could overlap with other sorts of emergencies.

"For example, if there were to be some sort of terrorist attack that closed Faslane for a period of months, then that sort of contingency planning which I presume that there is would be relevant to this scenario.

"But there are other aspects of Scottish independence which are unique."

'Negotiating cards'

MPs questioned who the Scottish government was consulting with on its future defence plans, given that neither witness has been asked for their expertise, nor were they aware of anyone else in the wider defence community who has been asked to contribute.

The inquiry heard that the UK government's post-independence defence contingencies were similarly unclear, with Prof Chalmers suggesting that there may be "an understandable reluctance from London to reveal negotiating cards prematurely".

He suggested there will be "lots of options" on how to deploy units post-independence, so there was no need to make concrete decisions ahead of the vote.

But he said it was important to provide "enough information to the Scottish people so that they can make an informed decision".

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