[Actually, that’s not right; we keep on harping on about ‘defence’ in the UK when in fact an awful lot of our military is primarily geared towards offence. But I digress.]
One of the posters being shared on Facebook today suggests that we all need to vote No to preserve the £1.8 billion of defence spending within Scotland.
Now I am not quite sure what this figure relates to but it follows a day or so after a previous post from the same source that claims 840+ (does that mean 841 or 903 or 1025? – sources would be nice…) defence companies work out of Scotland and indicates that they would be automatically lost if Scotland goes independent. (I wonder how many of those companies actually make more money out of exporting military technology overseas – the UK military does NOT support all the defence companies in the UK and the UK is a major exporter of arms all over the world and is not too picky about who it sells stuff to either: example 1; example 2; example 3.)
There is so much that could be written about defence but I am going to concentrate entirely on the economic arguments today so I would like to refer you all to an inconvenient (for the No campaign) fact. I apologise it can’t be summed up in a nice photograph of a plane but what you are looking for is Table 2.5 on page 22 of Government Expenditure & Revenue Scotland 2011-12 which shows that in the period 2007-2012, Scotland contributed, on average, over £3.1 billion per year on defence, nearly double what the No side claim we will lose if we become independent. So where has that £1.7 billion gone? To other parts of the UK, primarily England, that’s where!
In Scotland’s Future (the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence) they outline that they envisage Scotland spending £2.5 billion annually on defence (and it will be primarily for defence, not offence as is the case in the UK at the moment – see page 237 for that figure but page 232 onwards spells out the current state of military affairs in the UK and Scotland’s share of it) so it rather appears that if you want MORE money spent on military matters IN Scotland then you need to vote Yes. Business for Scotland have also summarised the military state of play in the UK and Scotland.
If you don’t want more money spent on defence in Scotland then you still need to vote Yes because all Westminster parties are committed to replacing the Trident nuclear missile system to the tune of £100 billion, of which Scotland will have to contribute in the region of £8-9 billion (based on population share) and will get to have them stored and operated from a base 30 miles from our largest city. Yay. (Have a read of this letter regarding the ‘benefits’ to Helensburgh of having Faslane on its doorstep.)
If we vote Yes, Scotland will get the choice as to how much money it spends on military matters (in Scotland or buying from any number of overseas suppliers as the UK already does). We will get to choose whether to increase military spending or to decrease it in line with democratic will of the Scottish people. We will get the unique opportunity to be a world leader by getting rid of the nuclear weapons stored in our country (going totally nuclear free like New Zealand is also a possibility, though unlikely at the moment) and we will get to choose how our military is used. We will get to choose whether to keep participating in the global arms trade or whether to take a moral stand against the issue. Most importantly, we will be able to make a choice and will have the democratic power to make those choices reality, something that cannot be said if we vote No and remain in the UK.
Voting NO means that we are committing to spending vast sums of money on more nuclear missiles and supporting a military infrastructure that has seen its troops in action every single year for at least the last 100 years (1967 or 1968 – sources differ – was the one year in this period in which NO British servicemen were killed as a result of enemy action). Voting No means that Scotland will continue to participate in exporting arms and ammunition all over the world whether we like it or not. Voting No may (and,based on recent history, probably will) result in military spending in Scotland continuing to decrease while Scotland’s contribution to UK spending remains the same.
It is a strange paradox but voting Yes means both a cut in spending on the military AND an increase on the military spending within Scotland that will benefit the Scottish people. Now that is what I call the ‘Best of Both Worlds™’.