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October 17 2012 4 17 /10 /October /2012 06:34

Independence would save Scots taxpayers £1.5 billion defence bill, think tank claims

Taxpayers in an independent Scotland would pay £1.5 billion less on defence of the new realm than they do today, a think tank has claimed.

HMS Astute, a nuclear-powered submarine, sails to her base in Faslane, western Scotland
HMS Astute, a nuclear-powered submarine, sails to her base in Faslane, western Scotland. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

A report by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) estimates that it would cost around £1.8 billion a year to defend an independent Scotland – the equivalent of 1.3 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product.


This is around £1.5 billion less than Scottish taxpayers currently pay to the Treasury to fund defence costs for the entire United Kingdom.


The report, A’ the Blue Bonnets: Defending an Independent Scotland, by Stuart Crawford and Richard Marsh, claims that independence would bring a substantial reduction in defence costs for Scottish taxpayers.


They claim that an independent Scotland would operate a "relatively modest" defence structure, with a "regional rather than global focus," comparable to that of other small European states such as Denmark, Norway and Ireland.


RUSI estimates that a Scottish Navy would employ a surface fleet of between 20 and 25 ships, but no submarines, such as HMS Astute, a nuclear-powered sub, currently based in Faslane, in western Scotland. There would be between 1,500 and 2,000 personnel based at Faslane, at a cost of £650 million a year.


The Scottish Air Force would be shrunk to around 60 aircraft, the report's authors suggest, with 1,750 to 2,250 personnel, at an annual cost of £370 million.


And the Army would stand at 10,000 to 12,500, including "a brigade-sized force, three combat battalions plus supporting arms." Some of the traditional Scottish regiments could be restored, with the overall cost estimated at £820 million.

Scotland currently supplies around 13 per cent of the British Army, 14 per cent of the RAF and 10 per cent of the Royal Navy.


The authors said: "Should the government of an independent Scotland, of any political hue, have the political will to establish an SDF [Scottish Defence Force] along the lines described herein, then it can certainly be done. An SDF would be necessary, feasible and affordable.


"Scottish defence forces would be relatively modest and probably have a regional, rather than global, focus.


"They would not be equipped with expensive and state-of-the-art hardware across the board; and ... they would be predominantly used for domestic defence duties with the capability to contribute to coalition and alliance operations under the aegis of whatever organisations Scotland became a member of."


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