Quotulatiousness

April 3, 2014

September, 2014 – the potential start of “interesting times” in the UK

Filed under: Britain, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:09

If Scotland votes in favour of separation from the United Kingdom this September, it will kick off a period of vast political uncertainty on both sides of the border:

The potential negotiations are all frighteningly close. In just six months time difficult discussions between the Scottish government and Whitehall could be getting under way. David Cameron would lead for the Rest of UK, but only as a weakened Prime Minister contemplating a legacy centred on the loss of the Union. His Westminster opponent Ed Miliband would have to contemplate the loss of many Labour MPs from north of the border. Meanwhile, Nigel Farage would presumably be jumping up and down shouting “bye-bye Scotland, close the door behind you” and stressing that England should be for the English. That view would, I suspect, be very popular after the Scots had raised two fingers at the English in the referendum.

In Scotland, once the Nationalists had woken up with a massive collective hangover, there would be bedlam too, with Salmond the victor and head of government demanding to lead for the Scots in negotiations on oil and so on. But should one man be allowed to create a separate state and dictate its constitution? Shouldn’t a wider group of founding fathers and mothers come up with a plan that Scottish voters can then be asked to approve? To help, the better Scottish MPs and peers at Westminster would very quickly have to go home to try and prevent Salmond turning the whole exercise into a massive vanity project. They would also have to stand for seats in the next Scottish parliament elections, or retire and pipe down.

All this would be taking place against a backdrop of economic uncertainty and intense emotional turbulence.

In such extraordinary circumstances, it is unlikely that English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters would put up with Scottish MPs trying to carry on as normal and then standing for election in 2015 as though nothing had happened. The Members of the Scottish Parliament would say that they now spoke for Scotland. The English, Welsh and Northern Irish at Westminster would be justified in saying later this year to those MPs from Scottish seats: what are you still doing here?

February 24, 2014

Paul Krugman on Scottish money

Filed under: Britain, Economics — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:40

I rarely find much of interest in Paul Krugman’s blog, but he’s pretty good in this brief analysis of Scotland’s monetary future in a post-independence scenario:

Whether it’s overall a good idea or not, however, independence would have to rest on a sound monetary foundation. And the independence movement has me worried, because what it has said on that that crucial subject seems deeply muddle-headed.

What the independence movement says is that there’s no problem — Scotland will simply stay on the pound. That is, however, much more problematic than they seem to realize.

[...]

In fact, Scotland-on-the-pound would be in even worse shape than the euro countries, because the Bank of England would be under no obligation to act as lender of last resort to Scottish banks — that is, it would arguably take even less responsibility for local financial stability than the pre-Draghi ECB. And it would fall very far short of the post-Draghi ECB, which has in effect taken on the role of lender of last resort to eurozone governments, too.

Add to this the lack of fiscal integration. The question isn’t whether Scotland would on average pay more or less in taxes if independent; probably a bit less, depending on how you handle the oil revenues. Instead, the question is what would happen if something goes wrong, if there’s a slump in Scotland’s economy. As part of the United Kingdom, Scotland would receive large de facto aid, just like a U.S. state (or Wales); if it were on its own, it would be on its own, like Portugal.

As Stephen Gordon points out, this is “another analysis where you can substitute Qc/RoC for Scotland/UK”.

February 21, 2014

Delingpole’s “love” letter to Scotland

Filed under: Britain, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:12

He spends just about as much time trying to persuade Scots to stay as he does in winding them up:

Anyway, here are my ten reasons why I think Scotland and England are much better together than apart.

[...]

3. Deep Fried Mars Bars.

As every Englishman knows, these are the staple diet of inner city Scotland*, usually served with a side order of deep fried pizza, washed down with Irn Bru, and followed with a heroin chaser, which makes them vomit it all up again, as seen in Irvine Welsh’s hard-hitting documentary Trainspotting. (*Although we of course are aware that outside the cities, you subsist on haggis and whisky)

Some Scots like to claim that this a grotesque caricature which is typical of the contempt in which they are held by the snide, ignorant, condescending English. But then, the feeling’s mutual, isn’t it? In any international sporting event, the Scots will always support whichever foreign team is playing England.

And isn’t that exactly what’s so wonderful about our relationship? All the best marriages are based on partial loathing: look at Anthony & Cleo; Taylor and Burton; Petruchio and Katherina. It’s the spark that keeps it all alive.

4. The Pound.

As Bank of England Governor Mark Carney has made perfectly clear, an independent Scotland is not going to keep the pound. Why not? Well look at what Greece did when — with a little book-balancing sleight of hand from its friends at Goldman Sachs — it snuck into membership of the Euro.

So if you want a future where you travel abroad, my Scottish friends, or indeed where you want to be able to be able to import anything at all, it’s very much in your interests to maintain the Union. Otherwise you’ll have to find a currency more in keeping with your new global status: the Albanian Lek, perhaps, or the West African CFA franc, as used by your economic soul-mate Burkina Faso.

5. The economy.

Let’s be blunt: apart from the whisky industry, and what’s left of the tourist industry that hasn’t been wiped out by Alex Salmond’s wind-farm building programme, Scotland doesn’t really have one. It is a welfare-dependent basket case, with near Soviet levels of government spending and a workforce who’d mostly be out of jobs if they weren’t sucking on the teat of state employment.

For various historical and emotional reasons, the English taxpayers who bankroll most of this welfarism — e.g. through the iniquitous Barnett Formula, whereby around £1000 more per annum is spent by the government on Scottish citizens than English ones — have decided generally to be cool about this.

But when we hear about Scotland’s plans to go it alone economically, we’re about as convinced as the parents of stroppy teenage kids are when they threaten to leave home right this minute. The difference is that when in ten minutes’ time we get the phone call “D-a-a-d. Will you come and pick me up? I’ve run out of pizza money” we’re not going to come running.

February 1, 2014

Economics can’t explain everything – the “Great Fact”

Filed under: Economics, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:02

David Boaz rounds up a few human moments to illustrate the “Great Fact”:

In Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World, economic historian Deirdre McCloskey writes about the “Great Fact” — the enormous and unprecedented growth in living standards that began in the western world around 1700. She calls it “a factor of sixteen”: we moderns consume at least 16 times the food, clothing, housing, and education that our ancestors did in London in the 18th century.

[...]

And finally, I note an older book on my own Scottish ancestors, The Scotch-Irish: A Social History by James G. Leyburn:

    The squalor and meanness of [lowland Scottish] life around 1600 [or 1700] can hardly be conceived by a person of the twentieth century. A cluster of hovels housed the tenants and their helpers….A home was likely to be little more than a shanty, constructed of stones, banked with turf, without mortar, and with straw, heather, or moss stuffed in the holes to keep out the blasts….The fire, usually in the middle of the house floor, often filled the whole hut with malodorous clouds, since the smoke-clotted roof gradually stopped the vent-hole. Cattle were tethered at night at one end of the room, while the family lay at the other end on heather piled upon the floor….Vermin abounded…skin diseases…Infectious diseases were propagated readily.

According to scholars such as Angus Maddison and Brad DeLong, GDP per capita hardly rose for thousands, or tens of thousands, of years before the emergence of capitalism. And then after 100,000 years of stagnation (by DeLong’s estimates), around 1750 capitalism and growth began, first in Northern Europe and the American seaboard, and spreading ever since to more parts of the world. That is, the existence of relatively free markets is the reason we don’t live like my Scottish ancestors. This is indeed the Great Fact of the modern world. We should celebrate it, even as we work to extend the benefits of markets to people and nations who don’t yet enjoy as much capitalism as they should.

January 14, 2014

Questions in Parliament – Scotland and the post-referendum military

Filed under: Britain — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

A few answers to questions in the UK parliament on issues relating to the military in a post-separation Scotland, courtesy of Think Defence. First on the official reactions to the Scottish government’s pre-referendum white paper:

Sovereignty: Scotland

Andrew Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what discussions he has had with Ministers in the Scottish Government on defence prior to the publication of the White Paper on an independent Scotland. [178081]

Dr Murrison: The Secretary of State for Defence, my right hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), did not have any discussions with Ministers in the Scottish Government about the White Paper on an independent Scotland on defence nor were any requested prior to its publication.

10 Dec 2013 : Column 197W

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations his Department has received from the Scottish Government in the last 12 months on the proposed reconfiguration of the UK defence estate in the event of Scottish independence, as set out in Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to An Independent Scotland. [178610]

Dr Murrison: None. The Ministry of Defence has not received any representation from the Scottish Government regarding the reconfiguration of the UK defence estate in Scotland in the event of independence.

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations his Department has received from the Scottish Government in the last 12 months on the proposed removal of the UK Trident nuclear submarines from Scottish waters in the event of Scottish independence, as set out in Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to An Independent Scotland. [178611]

Dr Murrison: None. The Ministry of Defence has not received any representation from the Scottish Government regarding the removal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent from Scotland in the event of independence.

And again, on the 17th of December:

Sovereignty: Scotland

Ann McKechin: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what representations his Department has received from the Scottish Government in the last 12 months on the proposed transfer of armed forces personnel in the event of Scottish independence, as outlined in Scotland’s Future: Your Guide to An Independent Scotland. [180163]

Dr Murrison: None. The Ministry of Defence has not received any representation from the Scottish Government regarding the proposed transfer of armed forces personnel in the event of Scottish independence.

And on January 9th, a question on the estimated costs of defending Scotland in either case after the September referendum:

Sovereignty: Scotland

Mr Gordon Brown: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate the pro rata population adjusted cost of defence provision in Scotland in 2016-17; and what the Scottish Government estimates those costs will be for 2016-17 in an independent Scotland. [180865]

Dr Murrison: Defence is organised, resourced and managed on a UK basis to provide high levels of protection and security for all parts of the UK and its citizens at home and abroad. Decisions on spending are based on meeting Defence requirements and ensuring value for money. The Defence budget is for the whole of the UK and is not apportioned on a regional basis. As part of the UK, Scotland benefits from the full range of UK Defence capabilities and activities funded by the Defence budget. The UK Government is confident that the Scottish people will vote to remain part of the United Kingdom and is not planning for an independent Scotland. In the event of a vote to leave the UK, it would be for the Scottish Government to determine the Defence budget for an independent Scottish state.

January 13, 2014

An independent Scotland and the UK’s existing debts

Filed under: Britain — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:56

Robert Peston examines the question of whether a post-referendum Scotland would be debt-free or would have a share in the existing debt obligations of the United Kingdom:

This morning’s statement from the Treasury that the UK will stand behind all its sovereign debts, whether or not Scotland’s people vote for independence, is in a way a statement of the bleedin’ obvious.

That debt, all £1.4 trillion of it, is an obligation of the National Loans Fund.

And nothing can change that — whether Scotland were to decide to secede (or, to pick an unlikely corollary, in the event that the People’s Liberation Army of West Sussex, miffed about fracking, were to declare UDI).

So why has the Treasury chosen to say that the UK will honour its debts, whatever Scotland does?

Well, it is because investors — whom we may think of as sophisticated and informed (ahem) — have been increasingly asking the Treasury and the Debt Management Office for clarification of the status of the UK’s financial obligations in the event of a fracturing of the United Kingdom.

[...]

Who would not vote for independence if an autonomous, separate Scotland would be set free from the burden of UK debts currently equivalent to 76% of GDP or national income (on the latest estimates by the Office for Budget Responsibility)?

Except that even Alex Salmond and the Scot Nats don’t believe that an independent Scotland could, in practice, walk away from its fair share of the UK’s debts — even if they would have the legal ability to do so.

January 5, 2014

Infamous Edinburgh bodysnatchers’ final five victims?

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:36

If you’ve ever visited Edinburgh, you’ll probably have heard about the sinister pairing of Burke and Hare, the bodysnatchers who murdered 16 people and sold the bodies to medical students for dissection. In 2012, five skeletons were uncovered during a townhouse renovation in the Haymarket district, and it’s speculated that the four adults and a child were previously unknown victims:

Archaeologists have only now determined that the five date back to the early 19th century following studies by Historic Scotland and consultants Guard Archaeology.

Altogether around 60 bones were found, including four adult jawbones and others believed to be from a child.

The bodies are thought to be those of criminals or dwellers of the poor houses. Those that were not claimed were frequently used for either dissection, to be anatomical skeletons, or both.

Irish immigrants William Burke and William Hare murdered 16 people in Edinburgh in 1828 and sold the bodies as dissection material, but it is thought unlikely that the pair were responsible for the five found in Grove Street as the notoriety of their crimes means that all their victims are believed to have been accounted for.

John Lawson, from the Edinburgh City Council Archaeology Service, was the first to examine the remains on site.

He said: “At the end of the Enlightenment period there was significant demand for cad­avers and which indeed outstripped supply, and that led to a thriving illegal trade, with Burke and Hare clearly the most infamous of those who supplied bodies to medical schools.

“We can’t rule out that those found on Grove Street were sold by the resurrectionists, as they were called, although it might be a stretch to say it was Burke and Hare themselves, given their crimes are well-documented.”

He said that most would be used for dissection, with the skeletons of others used to teach anatomy to students.

But Lawson said it was still unclear why they would have been buried in the garden.

This is a good example of the division of work in the newsroom: the headline says the bodies are linked to Burke and Hare, while the article itself quotes an expert saying it’s “a stretch” to say that. Headlines are usually written by editors, rather than the journalists who put the stories together.

December 6, 2013

Defending an independent Scotland, continued

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

Sir Humphrey is back with the next part of his series assessing the needs of an independent Scottish military organization:

Despite the ability to talk to each other being so vital, there seems to be no mention [in the Scottish white paper] of any form of IT infrastructure beyond a vague reference to ‘communication units’ in the paper. This is a real concern — good secure IT able to provide secure communications of classified material and not fall prey to hackers or cyber attack is very expensive and requires specialist skills. It is probably highly unlikely that the UK Government would be willing to allow the new Scottish Government to use its national defence IT system (and arguably would a Scottish Government want to?). This means that in the run up to independence the SDF is going to have to work out how to install an entire communications network from scratch. Don’t forget that provision of IT is contracted out to various different companies for the MOD, so its not as if one can simply divvy up the assets and black boxes.

[...]

The paper commits the SDF to retaining in existence all current MOD sites in Scotland, and possibly restoring RAF LEUCHARS to flying status. One of the challenges facing the MOD at the moment is the dilemma between having a broad footprint across a range of areas, often made up of aged buildings with heavy maintenance requirements, or condensing this into smaller but more modern sites.

The SDF will find itself inheriting a very large footprint of sites, many of which are quite old, quite remote and in need of a lot of work. It will need to decide whether to invest in them, or rationalise and save money for better facilities elsewhere. At a most basic level, is the SDF going to provide housing to their personnel? After all the MOD housing isn’t actually owned by the MOD, but by Annington Homes — this means that at independence there will not actually be any housing for the SDF personnel. It may sound a small thing, but the new SDF will need to quickly work out a complicated contract to house people in married quarters.

[...]

At a most basic level, one must ask about how the recruitment and selection process is going to work. To grow a force of some 15000 over 10 years and then retain it will prove to be a real challenge for any military when you consider the small resource base open to it (barely 5 million people). At present recruitment for the UK armed forces is able to draw from a much larger pool, and even then it is a struggle to get the right recruits at the right time. When you look at the potential sets of skills required — Typhoon pilots, Infanteers, Naval Officers etc, and consider that these all have very different selection and training procedures, you quickly realise how challenging its going to be to recruit for the SDF.

[...]

Finding the money to pay the troops will be one thing, but actually finding the troops willing to join will be another. The key worry is that barring wholesale transfer of troops against their wishes, it seems that very few personnel would willingly wish to transfer over to the SDF on independence. Given that the current ORBAT calls for very specialist personnel and skills, one can foresee a situation where the SDF may inherit the kit, but if the operators and maintainers choose not to come over, and if the training pipeline cannot cope, then this equipment is likely to stand empty for quite some time to come, and also calls into question the ability of the SDF to effectively defend Scottish interests.

November 30, 2013

Creating a Scottish air force after independence

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:14

We looked at the problems of setting up a Scottish naval organization last week, and now Sir Humphrey turns his attention to the proposed air force for a post-independence Scotland. The proposed air force equipment from the white paper included “a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) squadron incorporating a minimum of 12 Typhoon jets based at Lossiemouth” and “a tactical air transport squadron, including around six Hercules C130J aircraft, and a helicopter squadron”:

The first challenge is the Typhoon fleet and how it can be operated to best effect. QRA is a very expensive thing to do properly — it’s not just about having pilots based in a cockpit ready to take off. Setting up QRA is about having a Recognised Air Picture, a means of sharing information and communicating it to the airbase. It is about having the C2 links in place so that in the event of a scramble, the means exist for the senior decision taking Minister to be able to authorise a shoot down decision and then for the pilot to carry it out in an appropriate manner. This ability needs to be available 24/7/365 and is an onerous task on aircrew and support teams.

In the SDF the reality is that with only 12 jets available, their entire effort will be taken up doing QRA — assuming two training aircraft come over, this gives a squadron of 10 aircraft to generate 2 airframes on a constant basis. Take two out of the equation for servicing, two on the flight line and two being prepared to take over, and this leaves you with a flex of four aircraft to conduct all training and flying for the fleet.

The MOD currently estimates that Typhoon costs £70k per hour to fly (full costs), so assuming that it flies for 30 hours per airframe per month over a year (an averaged figure as there will be peaks and troughs), you suddenly realise that it would cost £2.1 million per month, £25 million per year to keep each aircraft going, or a total of nearly £300 million per year to ensure that two jets were constantly available for QRA. This is well over 10% of the putative budget. Add to this the operating costs of RAF Lossiemouth currently exceed £100m per year, and you realise that nearly 20% of the SDF budget is going to be taken up just to run QRA.

As Sir Humphrey pointed out in an earlier post on the naval question, there’s no guarantee that lopping off a “fair share” of the UK’s existing equipment inventory makes any sense for the quite different needs of an independent Scotland. Again, the right approach is to ignore the equipment question at first and instead analyze the actual needs — what does Scotland need their air force to do — rather than building a wish list of impressive machinery that almost certainly won’t provide value for the money. An independent nation needs to protect their own airspace (or be involved in alliances to provide that protection communally), but that requires identification of actual or potential threats to Scottish interests.

Another problem with automatically adopting the same equipment as the UK is that the supporting organizations and infrastructure will also have to be created to utilize the equipment:

The other problem is who actually supports the aircraft — a lot of deep level RAF servicing has been contracted out now, and these contracts will be null and void for the SDF airframes. The SDF will either have to spend a lot of money to introduce servicing facilities (which are not cheap) or it will have to enter into all manner of very expensive commercial arrangements with UK companies to get them to support Typhoon in Scottish service. This sort of arrangement cannot be skimped either — if you don’t service your aircraft, then you quickly lose the ability to fly them. As such a newly independent Scotland may find itself hamstrung by a need to pay a great deal of money in support contracts and servicing contracts and not capital investment in new technology.

[...]

The proposal to acquire C130s seems similarly expensive. There is not, and has never been a C130 basing presence in Scotland. This means that the SDF would need to pay out from the start to set up a C130 support facility and hangar in Lossiemouth. They would also need to find sufficiently trained crews and groundstaff – a small point, but the C130 fleet has been based at Lyneham and Brize Norton for nearly 50 years. Finding a sufficient pool of operators and support staff to uproot from their home to go to a newly independent Scotland is going to be a major challenge in itself.

November 28, 2013

Poking holes in the proposed Scottish defence plans

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:07

Sir Humphrey says he’s neutral on the political issue of Scottish separatism, but he has a few professional criticisms of the fleet plan contained within the white paper:

At a most basic level, the paper appears to fall foul of what can be described as the ‘fantasy fleet’ syndrome so often found on the internet. In other words, people have taken an order of battle, hived of a reasonable sounding level of equipment and assumed that this would make a good defence force. That’s a great theory, but in reality its likely to be far more complicated than this.

For starters, the British Armed Forces are the product of hundreds of years of evolution, procurement and support. They operate a closely integrated set of equipment, underpinned by a well developed training network, and supported by a very complex set of support contracts to ensure availability. Due to the numbers and amounts of equipment in service, costs can be calculated using economies of scale, and planned workflow, in a way that smaller sized support cannot.

A nascent SDF would find itself operating a truly eclectic collection of units which are not necessarily the most appropriate for its situation. For instance, the proposal that the Navy takes on two Type 23 frigates seems a little odd. The Type 23 is one of the worlds most advanced anti-submarine warfare escorts, and designed to be a submarine killer par excellence. To use it to best effect requires a well trained crew, who have a range of extremely specialised skills. Assuming that no one is forced at independence to join the SDF, the challenge will be recruiting and retaining a core of niche skills to actually employ the vessel in her intended manner. This includes the engineers, weapon systems maintainers, the warfare department and those with the skills and experience at all ranks and rates to use the vessel in its intended manner.

[...]

Similarly, the issue of maintenance will be a complex one. There are no T23s based in Scotland, which means that a great deal of money will be spent creating a permanent support facility for the class in Scotland. In these circumstances the SDF will need to negotiate and establish support contracts, similar to the ones used by the RN, and pay to put in place the complex web of support arrangements in order to keep the vessels available for service. In a small procurement and support budget, it is hard to see where the money will come from for this sort of activity.

The sheer running costs of the vessels will also be a challenge — on average it costs about £20 million per year (source THEY WORK FOR YOU) to keep a Type 23 at sea, and about £3 million for MCMVs and patrol craft. To keep the Scottish Navy afloat, you are looking at an annual running cost of around £60 million — before you consider salary costs of the crew and the shore support infrastructure to go with it. On a relatively small budget of £2.5 billion, it is easy to see how much of a cost it would be just to keep the ships at sea, let alone deploy them.

In a sense, the white paper’s defence plan does appear to have been drawn up with an eye toward “order of battle” and “table of equipment” that would create — on paper, anyway — a scaled-down version of the RN, RAF, and British army. That isn’t the sensible approach for an independent Scotland’s defence needs. The first thing they should have done is analyze what practical tasks their defence forces would be required to undertake, then consider the most cost-effective way to build and equip an organization to accomplish those tasks.

When I was a child, I was obsessed with toy soldiers. I had hundreds and hundreds of them from various eras from Roman versus Celt down to 8th Army versus Afrika Korps. When setting up my “battles”, it was always the soldiers with the cool kit who got to be the heroes: stirring combat poses and cooler weapons were my selection criteria. When I moved on to building models, the same characteristics dictated the particular models I built: more heavily armed ships, bigger tanks, more weapon-studded aircraft. The authors of this portion of the white paper appear to have had similar childhoods … and they’re still influenced by the same selection criteria. What sense does it make for Scotland’s defence forces to operate Type 23 frigates and Typhoon aircraft? They’re cool kit, but do they accomplish the primary protective duties for Scotland cost-effectively? Almost certainly not.

Scotland has a large coastline and significant offshore assets to protect, but it isn’t likely to need the hugely expensive (and admittedly very capable) kit that the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force need to accomplish their wider tasks. Scotland’s navy is much more likely to end up resembling a strong coastguard than a battle fleet, and their air force will probably not be equipped with top-of-the-line fighter aircraft (especially not F-35 or Typhoon fighters) as they would eat a hugely disproportional share of the defence budget for capabilities the Scots don’t actually need.

I strongly suspect the best course of action for Scotland (in the event of a successful independence vote) would be to negotiate a short-to-medium term deal with the rest of the UK to provide military units to Scotland as an interim solution while a sensible Scottish organization was built-up to take on those roles. It might sting the pride of nationalists to admit that they can’t afford to take on the full trappings of an independent state immediately, but it would be far more practical (and far less expensive) than carving off “their share” of the UK’s existing military.

November 27, 2013

Scottish defence, in a post-independence world

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:35

Think Defence has posted a portion of the Scottish Independence White Paper dealing with defence issues. This includes an outline view of what is thought to be required for Scotland’s (non-nuclear) military establishment at independence:

Maritime forces

One naval squadron to secure Scotland’s maritime interests and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and contribute to joint capability with partners in Scotland’s geographical neighbourhood, consisting of:

  • two frigates from the Royal Navy’s current fleet
  • a command platform for naval operations and development of specialist marine capabilities (from the Royal Navy’s current fleet, following adaptation)
  • four mine counter measure vessels from the Royal Navy’s current fleet
  • two offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) to provide security for the 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). However, as the Royal Navy only has four OPVs currently[263], a longer lead time for procurement might be necessary
  • four to six patrol boats from the Royal Navy’s current fleet, capable of operating in coastal waters, providing fleet protection and also contributing to securing borders
  • auxiliary support ships (providing support to vessels on operations), which could be secured on a shared basis initially with the rest of the UK

These arrangements will require around 2,000 regular and at least 200 reserve personnel.

Land forces

An army HQ function and an all-arms brigade, with three infantry/marine units, equipped initially from a negotiated share of current UK assets, and supported by:

  • a deployable Brigade HQ
  • two light armoured reconnaissance units
  • two light artillery units
  • one engineer unit deploying a range of equipment for bridging, mine clearance and engineering functions
  • one aviation unit operating six helicopters for reconnaissance and liaison
  • two communication units
  • one transport unit
  • one logistics unit
  • one medical unit

Special forces, explosives and ordnance disposal teams will bring the total to around 3,500 regular and at least 1,200 reserve personnel.

Air forces

Key elements of air forces in place at independence, equipped initially from a negotiated share of current UK assets, will secure core tasks, principally the ability to police Scotland’s airspace, within NATO.

  • an Air Force HQ function (with staff embedded within NATO structures)
  • Scotland will remain part of NATO‘s integrated Air Command and Control (AC2) system, initially through agreement with allies to maintain the current arrangements while Scotland establishes and develops our own AC2 personnel and facility within Scotland within five years of independence
  • a Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) squadron incorporating a minimum of 12 Typhoon jets based at Lossiemouth
  • a tactical air transport squadron, including around six Hercules C130J aircraft, and a helicopter squadron
  • flight training through joint arrangements with allies

In total this would require around 2,000 regular personnel and around 300 reserve personnel.

Civilian support

In addition to military capability following a vote for independence, the Scottish Government will establish core government capacity for defence functions, such as strategic planning, oversight and policy functions for defence and security. Given the importance of ongoing shared security interests between Scotland and the rest of the UK, we will ensure a partnership approach during the period of transition to independence.

Following a vote for independence, priorities for the Scottish Government capacity dealing with defence will be planning for the strategic security review to be carried out by the first Scottish Parliament following independence, based on the most recent UK National Risk Assessment and input from Scottish experts and academic institutions.

I linked to a couple of posts by Sir Humphrey on this issue that are also worth considering.

October 10, 2013

Defending an independent Scotland

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:33

Sir Humphrey has read the British Ministry of Defence paper on Scottish options in a post-independence scenario and has a few thoughts:

The paper nicely highlights the reality that you cannot slice up defence assets and turn them into a coherent military force – ORBATs may look impressive, but dividing them into something more meaningful is particularly difficult.

Additionally the paper highlights the issue of how one takes a world class military, optimised for power projection abroad, and then carves off a smaller chunk of it to focus on missions for which it was not designed. For instance, the idea that Scotland would keep running a modern air force built around Typhoon seems interesting, but where does the pilot training pipeline come from, how is this affordable and what happens when the Eurofighter nations move to upgrade their aircraft? Is it truly feasible to imagine a relatively small Scottish Defence Force being able to shoulder the burden of paying the costs of sustaining an increasingly obsolescent Typhoon fleet, which is no longer at the same standard as its multi-national peers?

The problem facing a newly independent Scotland seems to be that the UK military assets are simply not appropriate for what will be a low level defence force in a relatively small country. Stripped of the recruiting, support and logistical contracts and pipeline that have sustained the equipment, one can imagine a future Scottish Defence Force burdened down with legacy equipment which requires expensive training and support to run properly, and which is too expensive to meet what will be a very small budget.

One could almost argue that rather than take much UK military equipment, it would be more sensible for Scotland to instead take a large cash payment and procure a low level defence force (with UK forces providing sovereignty assurance in the interim) which better meets their specific needs. So, procurement of low level OPVs, simple vehicles and so on – in other words start from scratch with something that is feasible, and not take on equipment that is designed for a very different role.

Update: His look at the SNP’s proposed military structure from last year is also worth reading:

At the moment, the current policy seems to be that on separation, those army regiments deemed Scottish will become part of the SDF. Similarly, an equivalent amount of manpower, roughly 1/8th of all UK military assets and personnel will be offered to the Scottish Government. In broad-brush terms, this leads to an Army of about 10,000 troops, 5,000 air force and 4000 navy/marines (say 19,000 overall).

Here is where the fun really starts. Firstly, the armed forces do not neatly break into component parts which can be divided up. An infantry battalion may have 650 people on its strength, but there may be many more from supporting arms such as REME and so on who will be there to maintain and support weapons and equipment. Do the SNP want to take the supporting arms too?

Secondly — how will they attribute manpower against specialisations — the RN for instance has a deeply specialised manpower structure, made up of composite branches – it’s not just a mixy blob of 30,000 sailors looking good and drinking rum prior to catching the eye of hairy women with tattoos, it’s a collection of branches and capabilities.

[...]

The author knows relatively few individuals who would willingly wish to transfer to any SDF. Most of the Scots personnel he knows are immensely proud of being Scottish, but are also equally proud of belonging to something much greater in the form of HM Armed Forces. They relish the challenge offered by soldiering in a military that has a track record for being employed aggressively overseas. How many of them will willingly want to transfer to a SDF that is unlikely to be used in any similar manner?

The SDF is going to have a challenging initial few years — it will inherit people at all levels, but probably not enough for any one role. It’s going to take time to grow personnel into the jobs required of them, and even if it started recruiting on the day of independence, it would still take 5-10 years to grow the critical mass of SNCOs and junior officers needed to manage and lead the organisation.

June 16, 2013

Not from the Scottish Tourist Board

Filed under: Britain, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:40

For more great reasons to love Scotland, click here.

May 26, 2013

More on Scotland’s proposed “child protection” scheme

Filed under: Britain, Government, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:25

Last week, I linked to a story about the Scottish government introducing a new “child protection” program that would assign a “named person” as guardian for every child. Christopher Booker has more on this rather disturbing Big Brother initiative:

We are familiar with the idea that state employees are expected to take an interest in a child’s welfare, from health visitors to teachers at school. But this proposal that local authorities should be empowered to appoint an official to act as a personal “guardian”, or social worker, to oversee every aspect of a child’s life from birth onwards is a world first.

In fact, the Bill is remarkably vague about the powers to be given to these “named persons”. Will they be free to arrive unannounced at the family home to check on how a child is being treated by its parents, when it goes to bed, what food it is given, what political or religious opinions it is being brought up with? In other words, the Bill gives no idea of how this hugely ambitious scheme, estimated to cost Scotland’s local authorities up to £138 million a year, will work in practice. And most worrying of all, to anyone familiar with the failings of our existing “child protection” system, is how often the most damaging errors can arise when professionals are charged with reporting to social workers their suspicion that something in a child’s life might be amiss.

In too many of the cases I have followed where children have been removed from their families for what seems to be no good reason, their nightmare began with a report by a teacher or a doctor that got some overheard remark or slight injury absurdly out of proportion. Too often, such suspicions then harden into allegations that are never properly tested against the evidence, and the damage is done. However admirable, in theory, the thought of appointing a “guardian” to watch over every child might seem, experience suggests that, in practice, this may exacerbate those weaknesses in our existing “child protection” system, which make a mockery of the noble aims it was set up to promote.

May 19, 2013

Scottish government assigns state guardians to all children

Filed under: Britain, Government, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:02

The SNP has introduced brand new form of interference in the lives of Scottish families:

Under the “scary” legislation, known as Getting It Right For Every Child or GIRFEC, every child aged under 18 will have a ‘Named Person’ with the legal right to ensure they are raised in a government-approved manner.

It will also mean that sensitve personal details about every child — even down to the names of their pets — can be recorded, stored and shared on a central database.

Incredibly, GIRFEC has already been adopted by almost every local authority in Scotland and yet most people — including some MSPs — have no idea of the full extent of its Big Brother-style interference.

[. . .]

For children under five, the state guardian will usually be a health visitor, while for school-age children it will usually be the headteacher or deputy head.

They will have to record “routine information” about their charges, which is then stored in a vast database, and can raise concerns about a child’s wellbeing that could ultimately result in them being taken into care.

Marion Samson, headteacher at Westquarter Primary and Nursery in Falkirk, is a ‘Named Person’ who says her role is to “challenge” families who are not bringing up their children properly.

However, in response to her profile on the government’s Engage for Education blog, one teacher – giving her name as Sian Dawson — described GIRFEC as “quite a scary notion”.

She wrote: “Perhaps the Scottish Government would be far better tightening up the processes surrounding child protection for those who actually need help rather than not trusting the majority of families to do a good job.”

According to a Scottish Government training document seen by this newspaper, the specific aim of GIRFEC is to undermine parents and give the “community” a greater role in raising children.

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