First Minister sets out vision on defence

Independence will allow Scotland to set defence priorities that reflect Scottish needs and develop the right capabilities to meet them, First Minister Alex Salmond said today.

In the third of a series of keynote speeches the First Minister is making over the summer, Mr Salmond focussed on Scotland’s defence needs and the difference between current capabilities based around maintaining the UK’s perceived prestige and Scottish priorities.

The First Minister reaffirmed the commitment that Scotland would remain part of a wider defence union as a non-nuclear member of NATO and stated that only through independence can we ensure Scotland never again takes part in illegal wars.

Highlighting the opportunities independence brings to deliver priorities that meet Scotland’s needs as a maritime nation the First Minister criticised the UK approach which is seeing billions spent on nuclear weapons while the protection of our seas is neglected.

Speaking in Shetland, First Minister Alex Salmond said:

“Independence will allow Scotland to devise more appropriate capabilities – based on our modern needs and those of our neighbours and allies.

“Although an independent Scotland will work closely with the rest of the UK on many issues – we will no longer be tied to UK policies which are overwhelmingly rejected by most people in Scotland.

“It is inconceivable that an independent Scotland would have taken part in the illegal and costly invasion of Iraq – costly not just in terms of money, but in terms of human life. And an independent Scotland will no longer keep Europe’s largest concentration of weapons of mass destruction within 30 miles of our largest city.

“Independence would enable us to make our own decisions on Trident and overseas deployments. It would allow us to develop new capabilities and we could create a new more consensual approach to defence strategy.

“At present what we have, we don’t need. And what we need, we don’t have. Our current naval capability is based on prestige, not performance.

“The navy does not have a single major surface vessel based in Scotland. The largest protection vessels stationed in Scottish waters are those of the fisheries protection vessels run by the Scottish government.

“It is absurd for a nation with a coastline longer than India’s to have no major surface vessels. And it’s obscene for a nation of five million people to host weapons of mass destruction.

“An independent Scotland would prioritise having the air and naval capability needed to monitor and secure our offshore territory and resources – our oil and gas resources, fisheries protection, and safeguarding our coastal waters.”

Mr Salmond continued:

“Our view is that in an independent Scotland, the Government should work with Parliament to reach a consensus on Scotland’s defence strategy. This approach would build on the example of the cross-party Danish Defence Commissions.

“Rooting decisions in consensus – and this point goes beyond defence issues – isn’t a soft option. It is about being responsible as a nation. It is about taking tough decisions for the long term, instead of seeing priorities change and costs rise with every single shift in the political weather.”

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