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Defence in Scotland after 2014

Volume 577: debated on Tuesday 18 March 2014

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Gyimah.)

It is a privilege to have secured this important debate. Today is an important landmark for all of us in the United Kingdom as we head towards the referendum—it will take place in exactly six months. In exactly six months’ time, many people here in the Chamber and elsewhere will be knocking on doors, getting out the vote for our fellow Scots as they make a huge and life-changing decision about the future of our country and our nation.

One great problem we have is that we simply do not have enough information from the nationalists about what a future Scotland would be like in respect of a range of issues, not least defence. Disappointingly, not one Scottish National party Member could be bothered to turn up this evening, despite having had notice of this debate. That might be because they are too scared to come to defend their plans or because they do not yet know what their plans would be in an independent Scotland. I wish briefly to discuss three areas: my constituency, the Rosyth dockyard and the wider west Fife defence footprint; the wider impact on the defence industry across Scotland; and how Scotland would defend itself after a yes vote on 18 September.

Madam Deputy Speaker, you are very familiar with Scotland and, I am sure, with west Fife. You will know that the Rosyth dockyard is still the largest private employer in west Fife, employing about 2,800 people, the vast bulk of whom are working on the assembly of the two new aircraft carriers, the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales. That has been a long-standing project, one that we are particularly proud of in west Fife; we are the home of the construction of the Royal Navy’s new flagships. I see the hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) in her place and, obviously, Portsmouth will be the home of the carriers once they enter service.

I thank my hon. Friend for securing this important debate. As he will be aware, I was invited to Rosyth by Babcock Marine and witnessed the impressive building of the new aircraft carrier, the Queen Elizabeth. I also saw, in the basin, the shells of seven former nuclear submarines, which still have some contamination. Apparently they are to be dismantled from 2016 onwards, but has he had any indication as to who will bear the financial responsibility for dismantling them and cleaning up the mess?

I am most grateful to my hon. Friend, whose own constituency has a very strong defence footprint with Raytheon, which I might mention later. He is absolutely right to raise the issue of the seven decommissioned nuclear hulks, which are lashed against the wall in the basin, as it is unclear whose responsibility they would be if Scotland were independent. My understanding is that if they are determined to be fixed now in Rosyth, they would pass as a liability to the Scottish Government. However, if we believe they are part of the overall movable pool, a fraction of the 17 decommissioned submarines we have in the UK would be the responsibility of the Scottish Government. Either way, the Scottish Government would be stuck with a clean-up to do and would not know how to go about doing it. My hon. Friend is entirely right to have raised the subject. I hope that we can get some idea from Ministers in the two Governments over the next six months about how such ambiguity might be resolved before the referendum.

On the broader point about the two carriers, it is obvious that Portsmouth will be their home and the location in which their routine maintenance will be carried out. That is the correct decision. I remember one of the earliest times that the hon. Member for Portsmouth North and I debated that maintenance with the former Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath (Mr Brown), in November 2010. As the Under-Secretary of State for Defence, the hon. Member for Ludlow (Mr Dunne), who has responsibility for defence procurement, said yesterday at Defence questions, Rosyth is clearly in prime position to provide deep maintenance. Babcock’s business plan is based on that assumption.

I congratulate my hon. Friend on securing the debate, and I believe that there will be many such debates over the coming weeks and months about Scotland’s future after the referendum in September 2014. Is he as alarmed as I am by the recent press release by Babcock and the trade unions at Rosyth, which stated that without defence contracts, it would be impossible to sustain Babcock’s presence, and therefore its work force, in Rosyth?

My hon. Friend is entirely correct. He is as perceptive as ever, because I was about to come to that point. Without that deep maintenance work, the Babcock business case is destroyed. Last week, Babcock’s industrial unions warned that 800 job losses would result. I pay tribute to the full-time convener, Raymond Duguid—one of my hon. Friend’s constituents—for his work and for the productive way in which the work force at Rosyth dockyard engage with the management. They are all on the same side; they all want to serve the customer, the nation and the Royal Navy. They have a shared concern, which it is important to highlight. Again, it is disappointing that not one SNP Member could be bothered to turn up for this important debate.

The work force and management have made it clear that there will be significant job losses, which will place the long-term viability of the yard under threat. I hope that the Minister will set out the Ministry of Defence’s vision for the future of the defence industry in West Fife. In the neighbouring constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath, there is a BAE Systems plant at Hillend, which makes parts for the Typhoon aircraft. In addition, my hon. Friend the Member for Glenrothes (Lindsay Roy) has Raytheon, a significant employer, in his constituency.

I commend the work of the House of Commons Defence and Scottish Affairs Committees, which have both looked at the implications of independence. Both Committees’ reports are useful, worthy and thoughtful pieces of work, and it is fair to say that they have reached similar conclusions. Many high-tech, specialised electronics companies such as BAE Systems and Raytheon would not be able to stay in Scotland unless specific guarantees were provided to the rest of the UK Government. So far, it has been clear from the SNP’s utterances that that is unlikely to happen. At a time when we are all pulling together and trying to secure, for example, new orders for the Typhoon in the middle east—we still hold out hope that we will also be successful in India and in Europe—it is slightly bizarre that the SNP is not engaging in a positive manner to help to secure those jobs in Scotland.

We cannot possibly discuss industrial strategy in Scotland without talking about the future of the Clyde. Incredibly difficult decisions had to be made, as part of the terms of business agreement, about the future of Portsmouth and the Clyde. I know how passionate people on the south coast are about the region’s, I think, 400-year history of shipbuilding, but the decision has been made to build the Royal Navy’s Type 26 frigate on the Clyde. We are seeing that arrangement developing, with the process of ensuring that Scotstoun, in particular, is ready to take on the work.

The SNP’s White Paper is a load of fiction. It says not only that an independent Scotland would buy the Type 26 but that the rest of the United Kingdom would build its Type 26s in Scotland.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for securing this debate. Is he aware that the commercial sector has expressed considerable interest in building ships in Portsmouth? We have proved that we can compete not only with Scotland but with Dubai and with other shipyards around the world. Our shipyard facility and a skilled work force would stand ready to pick up orders for offshore patrol vessels, Type 26s and beyond if Scotland became a foreign country, as we would clearly wish to retain our sovereign capability.

I am grateful for that helpful intervention, which demonstrates something that the SNP will not acknowledge—namely, that there are and will continue to be alternatives to the Clyde. It is absolute nonsense to suggest that English MPs with shipyards in their constituencies would simply say to the Ministry of Defence, “Go on, give that multi-million pound order to another country, even though we have pressing needs in our own yards.” There is no way that English MPs would do that, be they in Plymouth, Appledore, Portsmouth or Barrow—or, indeed, on Tyneside. And how could we forget the Jarrow yard or the Birkenhead yard? There is no shortage of space for these construction contracts.

Speaking as one who represents a constituency on the banks of the Clyde, I can tell my hon. Friend and the hon. Member for Portsmouth North (Penny Mordaunt) that there were no celebrations there when Portsmouth was losing out and the Clyde was gaining. There is a connection and a deep sympathy between all the shipbuilding industries around the country.

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. That was not a day of celebration. There are genuine ties between the various yards. They share a common union body—the Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions—and they campaign together to protect and sustain this crucial industry, which is in our national interest.

Harland and Wolff in Belfast does not have the capacity to produce ships, as it has diversified into the oilfield sector, but there is capability there. We very much want to be part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and I want to place on record that we pledge our yards to be used in the service of the Royal Navy.

There is obviously no shortage of firms to carry out this work. I see that my hon. Friend the Member for Ochil and South Perthshire (Gordon Banks) is in the Chamber. He was gracious enough to take me along to see a company in his constituency, Vector Aerospace. He has been a real champion of that company. It is inconceivable to me that the British Army and the Royal Air Force would continue to send Chinook parts to Perthshire for repair, if Perthshire were to be in a foreign country, when they could have the work done elsewhere in the United Kingdom. I say again that it is disappointing that not one SNP Member is here tonight. Perhaps that is because they are fearties, but they should be here to make their case, and to explain to the people of Scotland what the implications of independence are for defence and the defence industries.

I have said quite a lot about manufacturing, so I shall turn now to the so-called Scottish defence force. Over the past 12 to 18 months we have seen the SNP changing its position and rewriting documents. It went from being outside NATO and completely opposed to it, to being a full member, without even having to apply. It then changed its policy again. When the Minister for Transport and Veterans, Keith Brown, appeared before the Defence Committee last July, he admitted that an independent Scotland would have to apply for NATO membership. That was then flatly contradicted by Alex Salmond, who continues to put around the lie that somehow Scotland would automatically be a member of NATO. It would be helpful if the Minister could tell us what he thinks about those contradictory positions. SNP Ministers say one thing when they are under oath in front of a Select Committee and then say something completely different when they are safely back in Scotland and they think that no one is paying attention to them.

There are some serious concerns about the ability of Scotland to defend itself given the SNP’s plans. It was quite clear from when the Defence Committee took evidence that, in order to maintain simple air defences, Scotland would need, according to Air Marshal Iain McNicol, the equivalent of two squadrons of Typhoon aircraft. The SNP now claims that it would inherit a number of aircraft from the Royal Air Force. That is based on the argument, with which I have a huge amount of sympathy, that that is what happened in Czechoslovakia when it broke up. A proportion of aircraft went to the Czech Republic and a proportion to the Slovak Republic. Even under the most generous of assumptions—the Ministry of Defence has done the figures and they were used by the Secretary of State last year—Scotland would have only eight Typhoon aircraft. It would have to spend more than £1 billion purchasing additional Typhoons.

The same is true with regard to the Royal Navy. Again, the SNP is making contradictory statements. It claims in its party policy that it wants a squadron of submarines, yet in its White Paper, there was no mention of submarines. Perhaps like many other SNP policies, that has sunk beneath the waves.

The SNP has also claimed that it would need 15,000 regular personnel. Although the Minister and I may disagree on aspects of the strategic defence and security review, I am sure that we agree on the correct way of approaching a defence policy. One needs to set out strategic aims and threats, what posture needs to be adopted and what personnel and equipment numbers are needed to effect that posture. Then one needs to put together the money. What the SNP has done is to pick a random figure of 15,000. At no point has it provided any coherent explanation as to what it is, nor has it explained from where the troops would be recruited. Where would these air men and women, sailors and soldiers come from? The SNP claims that it is entitled to those members of the armed forces who have some sort of Scottish qualification.

Is the SNP not also claiming that, in order to keep the same level of work force at Faslane, it would base the Army, the Navy and the Air Force in that area—putting all its eggs in one basket? How defensive is that?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. The SNP proposes to put its joint headquarters command for the three services at Faslane. The best and most optimistic estimate that the Defence Committee was able to make of the total headcount of the conventional Navy that the SNP would create under the joint headquarters command is that it would only, at most, provide approximately 4,500 personnel at Faslane, compared with the 8,000 who are there now. That force will get bigger over the next year as the Astute-class moves to Faslane. The SNP’s numbers just do not add up.

The other point that has not been touched on is training. If we were to assume that within the 15,000 head count, about 8,000 to 10,000 were Army, the SNP would need approximately 200 officer cadets every year to populate its officer corps.

Sandhurst takes only 120 international students a year at the moment and the SNP is silent on where its officers will be trained. Are we going to see “MacSandhurst” in the Glen? Are we going to see “MacDartmouth” or “MacCranwell”? Will the SNP come back to the Minister after independence begging for places at Sandhurst, Dartmouth and Cranwell? Those are the unanswered questions.

Finally, on the issue of cap badges, the SNP claims that it is entitled to all the Scottish regiments but has never quite explained what it means by a Scottish regiment. The 1st Foot and the Blues and Royals might disagree, but arguably the oldest regiment in the British Army is the Coldstream Guards. Coldstream is a fine Borders town only a few miles from England from which General Monck set off to restore the monarchy in 1660, hence its name being given to the guards unit formed in the new army. It would appear that the SNP would argue that it is entitled to the Coldstream Guards, except that the Coldstream Guards predate the British Army as they date from 1660. I know that I am in a room of knowledgeable historians who would all be able to tell the House that they were part of King Charles II’s English army. Even at that simple level, the SNP has no basic understanding of what a Scottish regiment is.

What happens to all those Scots who are serving in other regiments? They might not wish to come back to the Scottish defence force. What will happen to those men and women who are serving in so-called Scottish units who are not lucky enough to be from Scotland? What will happen to our fine Fijians? We have the finest Fijians in the Scottish battalions. Would they be forced to adopt the Scottish defence force?

In short and in conclusion, the SNP’s plans are incoherent, they do not add up and they are dishonest. The SNP owes it to the people of Scotland to set out the reality before 18 September so that people can make a choice. Tonight, young, brave Scotsmen and women are serving in the armed forces around the world—in Afghanistan, the Falklands or elsewhere. I hope we will always remember how proud they are to serve our nation.

It is a pleasure to contribute to the debate and I thank the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) for introducing it. He made his case very clearly. When I became aware of the debate, I sought the permission of the hon. Gentleman and of the Minister to contribute.

There can be few Members in the Chamber who do not know where I stand on independence. My designation says it all: I am a Democratic Unionist, with a greater emphasis on the Unionist as I am proud to be a member of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Together we are stronger and better as a nation. The four nations come together as one. I always think of that when I walk into Central Lobby and see the four flags: we are all together, four flags and four nations as one, in Central Lobby in the centre of the greatest democratic process in the world, here at Westminster. It gives me great pride to walk through the door and have the opportunity and privilege of seeing that.

I am very fond of my Scottish colleagues. They know that, and I agree with them on many issues. I am disappointed that they are not in the Chamber tonight. I wish they were, as I would be keen to hear their views.

My ideal applies also to the Scottish question and the reason is clear: the Union is in all our best interests, including that of the Scots. Many issues have been flagged up that emphasise the difficulties with independence, and the one that is of great concern to me is defence, and in this debate we are considering defence in Scotland after 2014. Although I support the devolution of most matters and believe that the regional Assemblies should have power, I have always held that decisions on matters of national security should be taken at the national level. That is why they are taken in Westminster.

The second world war showed the difficulties of a nation sharing a land border with a nation that is not on its side. We in Northern Ireland know that better than any others. The actions of the Republic of Ireland in its neutral stance to Germany were not helpful to those suffering the Belfast blitz bombings. The strength of mainland Great Britain lies in the fact that it is an island, united in core principles and values, and defence is a major part of that.

Motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 9(3)).

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—(Mr Gyimah.)

The first time I was interrupted in that way I thought that my chance to speak was over, but now I know the process and I am pleased to be able to continue my contribution.

I do not always agree with Government reports or policies. I agree with many things, but not with everything, as right hon. and hon. Members will be aware. But I read with great interest the report “Scotland analysis: Defence”. It states:

“In the event of a vote in favour of leaving the UK, in the eyes of the world and in law, Scotland would become an entirely new state. If Scotland were to become independent, therefore, it would leave the UK and its existing arrangements, and would need to establish its own defence arrangements as part of forming a new state.”

That is a frightening aspect, not simply for the rest of the United Kingdom but for Scotland itself.

As I said earlier, I am fond of the Scottish nationalists. I have affection for them and we agree on many things. We disagree intensely on their position on independence. I am always reminded of the film “Braveheart” in which that well-known Scotsman Mel Gibson plays the lead role. Let us be honest: if it were as bad as it was then, with the English stealing their land, burning down their houses and abusing their ladies, I would be the first to jump to their support. But it is not. We are in a different situation. We are in a democratic process, and we as nations together in the United Kingdom are better for being united.

With that mind, I will read a further section of the report. Hon. Members will forgive me if they are fully aware of the information, but it is important to repeat it so that the people of Scotland can be fully aware of all the real issues and not get caught up in the dream that independence will mean that they can pick and choose how involved they will be in defence, in the currency or in any other matter. There seems to be that perception. The hon. Gentleman made it clear. The Scottish nationalists are not here to put forward their case and we wonder why. Is it because they are not sure what their case is? Is it because they do not want to deal with the head over heart issues, of which this is one?

The report states:

“Scotland is home to major bases for critical UK military capabilities and other essential facilities, including for military training and testing. As at 1 July 2013, there were 11,100 Regular Armed Forces (7.5% of the UK total) and 4,000 MOD civilian personnel (7.6% of the UK total), from across the UK and beyond, at around 50 MOD sites throughout Scotland, as well as an estimated 2,200 trained Volunteer Reserves (10.3% of the UK total). There are also an estimated 11,500 Cadets (85% of the UK total).”

I am honoured to speak in this House on behalf of the Northern Ireland cadets. It continues:

“Although defence reforms mean that the overall number of Regular Armed forces personnel across the UK is decreasing, by 2020 the number in Scotland is set to increase to 12,500 (8.8% of the UK total).” —

a rise of 1.3%.

“And as part of the UK Government’s plans to increase the size of the Reserve Forces, by 2018 there will be an estimated 4,250 trained volunteer Reserves in Scotland (about 12% of the UK total).”

I am most grateful to my colleague from the neighbouring constituency of Strangford for taking an intervention. The hon. Gentleman will know that a number of companies from Northern Ireland provide essential maintenance for the MOD in Scotland. Has he had an opportunity to speak to any of the senior management of those companies to ascertain their views about the proposed ridiculous decision to become independent in Scotland?

I have not had that opportunity personally, but I have through third parties. I know that my friend and colleague, the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon), has businesses in her constituency that have clearly told her and their staff that Scottish independence would have a detrimental impact on them, and some of my constituents work for those companies as well.

The report continues:

“On current UK Government plans, by 2020 Scotland will be home to one of three Royal Navy main bases, including all its submarines, one of the British Army’s seven Adaptable Force Brigades and one of three Royal Air Force fast jet main operating bases.”

That is the role Scotland can play in defending the whole of the United Kingdom— Northern Ireland, Wales, England and Scotland: all of us.

I know that the hon. Gentleman spoke in the recent debate on cyber-security. We know about the many hard, physical aspects of defence, but cyber-security is a growing area of concern that is consuming more and more time, resources and money. He spoke at great length and with great knowledge about the subject, so I wonder whether he would care to devote a part of his speech to it today and underline the cost implications and the implications for a country that would not have the same level of defence in its interactions in the cyber world.

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his intervention. Cyber-security is clearly an important area. Many Members contributed to that debate, and I am no more knowledgeable on the matter that anyone else, but I understand its importance and the potential costs. There is a bigger picture, and I feel that the Scottish National party has unfortunately not taken it into consideration in its quest for the referendum. It must do so very honestly and very quickly.

The defence issue for Scotland is massive. To me, it fully underlines the need for the Union. However, personnel issues must be considered. On a more personal level, the Army base at Ballykinler, just outside my constituency, is due to lose some of its regiment, with the knock-on effect that 300 jobs in the area are at stake. However, the Ministry of Defence has assured me that the base will remain open. That follows lobbying by Members of Parliament and the local council. If that was to be replicated across Scotland, how many jobs would be lost? If Northern Ireland was to become independent—thank the Lord it will not, so long as the people of Northern Ireland have the decision to stay in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland—those jobs would be lost.

My parliamentary aide has a friend who is based in Scotland in the Scots Guards, along with her husband. She has already said that, should Scotland become independent, she will transfer to England, because she feels that there would not be the capacity for job security and that the uncertainly for her and her husband would be too great. That is what my constituents are telling me. That will be replicated many times if Scotland becomes independent. There is the potential that it will lose many good men and women who are seasoned officers. How much will that weaken its defences?

In conclusion, we are very fortunate to have the contribution that our Scots brothers and sisters make in all the services—the Air Force, the Royal Navy and the British Army. We are very pleased to have them as comrades in arms. What is very clear, however, is this: we are better together, safer together and stronger together, and together we must remain.

I start by paying tribute to the men and women of the British armed forces, particularly those serving overseas, and particularly, if non-Scots will allow me on this occasion, the men and women from Scotland who serve so gallantly in our armed forces, as they have done since the Act of Union and as I firmly believe they will continue to do.

I congratulate the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife (Thomas Docherty) on giving us this opportunity to debate defence in Scotland after 2014, when he and I sincerely hope it will be, as it is now, part of the United Kingdom. I also congratulate him on his timeliness in holding the debate, because, as he said, today is exactly six months from the date on which the referendum will be held—an extremely important date for all of us in the United Kingdom, whether we live in Scotland or not.

May I lay my cards on the table? Despite my Scottish antecedents, I had the disadvantage of being born English, and I represent an English constituency, but I am British first, and I believe passionately in the Union that has made this country so much greater than the sum of its parts. I cannot begin to think of a country that is split up in the way envisaged by the Scottish National party, and I share the hon. Gentleman’s concern that that party did not see fit to be represented this evening at all.

The issue of defence is particularly important for the people considering how to vote, because, unlike things such as free child care, it is most certainly not devolved. In other words, this issue will be determined on 18 September. It is the prime duty of the Government of any state to safeguard national security and to protect their people from threats internal and external. That is why pages 232 to 251 of the Scottish Government’s 649-page tome are so very disappointing—19 pages of disappointment.

Her Majesty’s Government believe that people in Scotland will choose to stay part of the UK. We will continue to argue the case for the close-knit family that is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. From a defence perspective, the arguments for Scotland remaining in the UK are overwhelming. The UK’s armed forces are counted among the world’s very best. Our integrated approach to defence and security provides the best possible protection for all parts of the UK, underpinning our international influence and sustaining our defence industry. I want Scotland to continue to contribute to, and benefit from, the full range of UK defence capabilities, including our extensive defence engagement, which project influence, make us a force for good, and maintain competitive advantage.

May I assure the Minister that I am not scaremongering but posing a question put to me by people who work at Raytheon, a company that employs 600 people in my constituency? They are asking whether there is an issue about the confidential contracts that are engaged in between the parent company in the USA and Raytheon UK, and whether there is any risk to, or uncertainty about, their jobs in the future.

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman raises that point. In fact, I have been flicking through the press cuttings for today which had something to say on the matter. The Scottish edition of The Times has the headline, “Businesses get ready to leave in event of independence vote”. The Scottish edition of the Daily Mail says, “An uncertain future is our biggest worry, say business bosses”. The Herald says, “Business leaders ‘concerned about uncertainty over referendum’”. I do not think it needs me to say what that all adds up to. Taken with the remarks of business leaders from all sectors currently, and I suspect increasingly as we approach 18 September, it means that our concerns over jobs in Scotland in the event of independence are mounting almost by the day. I know that the hon. Gentleman, as the Member of Parliament for an area that depends heavily on our defence industry, will feel extremely strongly about this and will continue to make representations on it over the next six months.

Further to that point and the point the Minister made about that work of fiction, the Scottish White Paper, was he as surprised as I was that the only mention of Rosyth in the whole document was as a possible future supplementary naval base? There is no mention at all about ship maintenance. Would he care to speculate on why the SNP would do that?

I have given up speculating about the SNP, but I agree with the hon. Gentleman that it is somewhat odd, even in the simple 19 pages on defence in this remarkable 649-page document, that Rosyth should feature so poorly. That is truly remarkable and I think the hon. Gentleman’s constituents are entitled to draw their own conclusions from that.

I believe that Scotland should continue to benefit from every pound spent on UK defence. We of course have one of the largest budgets in the world at £33.5 billion this year. The £2.5 billion grudgingly conceded by Mr Salmond for both defence and security simply pales in comparison.

As part of the UK, Scotland will continue, as it has done for 300 years, to play an integral part in all aspects of UK defence. As UK citizens, Scots will continue to be employed in world-class armed forces, and Scotland will continue to be home to critical high-end military capabilities across the defence piece. In fact, on our current plans, the defence presence in Scotland will increase over the coming years. As the hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon) has pointed out, by 2020 Scotland will be home to one of the Royal Navy’s main bases, including all of its submarines—I will come back to submarines in a moment—as well as to one of the British Army’s seven adaptable force brigades and one of three Royal Air Force fast-jet main operating bases.

At a time when the overall number of our regular armed forces personnel is necessarily decreasing, the number based in Scotland is set to increase from about 11,000 now to 12,500 by 2020, which is about 8.8% of the UK total.

UK defence generates economic benefits for communities throughout Scotland though jobs, contracts and support services. Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde is the biggest employment site in Scotland, with about 6,700 military and civilian jobs, increasing to 8,200 by 2022.

The hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife has eloquently described the importance of defence to the east coast, and every constituency in Scotland has people whose livelihoods depend on defence and that are subsequently at risk.

Scotland, as part of the UK, will continue to benefit from a strong, established global network of international relationships and alliances that would be unavailable to an independent Scotland, at best for years and possibly indefinitely.

I thank the Minister for his strong and robust response to the debate. During her intervention on me earlier, the hon. Member for North Down (Lady Hermon) outlined the importance of defence contracts to many businesses in Northern Ireland as well. The ripples caused by independence would affect not just Scotland, but Northern Ireland.

I agree entirely with the hon. Gentleman, who has anticipated my next point, which is that the UK has geopolitical influence that few states of a similar size can match. That influence would be put at risk in a dramatic way were this country to be split in two. Together, undoubtedly we punch well above our weight. Apart, we would certainly be diminished, with substantial geopolitical consequences that would reach far beyond these shores. It is interesting that many of our partners are watching this situation very closely indeed—even more closely, I have to say, than many of our own citizens on these islands—because they fully understand what is at stake in September.

Because we are together, the UK is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, a leading member of the European Union and a founder member of NATO. It is central to the “Five Eyes” community. The benefits for Scotland’s defence industry as part of the UK are especially important to the hon. Member for Dunfermline and West Fife, as he has pointed out.

The scale of our defence spending is a key factor in sustaining those indigenous defence industries. The Ministry of Defence spent more than £20 billion with UK industry in 2011-12. Over the 10 years from 2012-13, it will spend almost £160 billion on new equipment and data systems. That spending sustains a substantial industrial footprint in Scotland, from complex warships to the latest high-tech innovations in aerospace engineering, defence electronics and electro-optical systems in companies based throughout the country, employing thousands of people in high-skill and relatively high-salary positions. Many of our prime contractors—Babcock, BAE Systems, Rolls-Royce, Selex ES, Thales, Raytheon and QinetiQ—have sites in Scotland. The defence sector in Scotland employs about 12,600 people, with 4,000 jobs in Scottish shipyards being directly linked to the aircraft carrier programme alone.

The SNP may be able to marshal arguments in support of independence, beyond its cynical offer of free child care, but even its ex-parliamentary candidate Colonel Stuart Crawford asked rhetorically whether the Scottish Government White Paper would provide at least some answers. In the event, we were left little the wiser from its 649 pages.

John Swinney’s secret admission that his defence budget would be less than the £2.5 billion asserted by the SNP is interesting, but let us generously assume that that is the figure. That would be for both defence and security, presumably including intelligence and cyber, but it is only about 7% of the UK’s combined budgets for defence, intelligence and cyber, and it is significantly less than Scotland’s population share—if we are counting, which we are not.

It is not clear what level of security and protection the £2.5 billion would provide, but it would for sure be less than Denmark’s or Norway’s. The SNP plans are simply unaffordable, and I can only conclude that it would end up with its starting point of 7,500 soldiers. So much for restoring all Scotland’s historic regiments. Confounding Colonel Crawford’s hopes, the White Paper seems to offer more questions than answers.

It is clear that an independent Scottish state would have to wait in line for membership of the international organisations that the Scottish Government have hitherto believed Scotland would automatically join. If it wished to be a member of NATO, all 28 member states would need to agree unanimously to its accession, which is hardly likely, given the Scottish Government’s attitude to the strategic nuclear deterrent that lies at the very heart of the alliance’s strategic concept. It seems unlikely that the “Five Eyes” community would really bang on the door of a newly independent Scotland.

Companies based in an independent Scottish state would no longer be eligible for contracts that the UK chose to place, or to compete domestically, for national security reasons under article 346. All our complex warships are designed and built within the UK for reasons of national security, so as a foreign country, Scotland would no longer be eligible. Where companies in Scotland could continue to compete, they would be bidding in a cut-throat international market dominated by major economic powers. The sustainability of the defence industry in Scotland and the thousands of jobs that depend on it would therefore be cause for considerable concern.

The Scottish Government have shown a little bit of leg in the 19 pages on defence in their 649-page doorstopper, but there is no link between their defence wish list and the budget proposed to cover it. Their £2.5 billion—remember that that is our generous assessment—would be nowhere near enough to pay for their stated requirement and, like the hon. Gentleman, who is eagle-eyed, I notice that the figure does not cover their 2012 plans for conventional submarines, which were not mentioned in the following year’s White Paper. The Scottish Government say that they would have expensive platforms, such as Type 26 frigates, Typhoon jets and maritime patrol aircraft, and presumably the wherewithal to process and act on the data that MPAs generate, and would continue to operate all current major military bases, but the sums do not add up.

That is not to suggest that an independent Scotland could not build a defence force. Of course it could. However, what the Scottish Government are saying about what that force would be like is simply not credible—it is incredible. Whatever defence force an independent Scotland could develop, it would not come close to replicating the level of defence and security that comes from being part of the UK, which defends the country not on a regional basis, but as a whole.

The Minister is making a compelling speech. I do not know whether he has had the chance to look at the evidence of Air Vice-Marshal Nicholl to the Defence Committee. He said that if he were to start again as a young, aspiring pilot, he would not wish to join a separate Scottish air force, because he would not have the same opportunities that he had in the Royal Air Force. It was a Scot who said that. Does the Minister agree that a problem for the SNP is how it would recruit people? Why would people want to serve in the services if there were such restricted opportunities?

We have to imagine what Scotland’s defence force would look like with £2.5 billion or less. It would be very small indeed. It follows that the high-tech, high-end capability to which I have referred will simply not be available in Scotland. It seems inconceivable that the sort of men and women who join our armed forces would be attracted to such a proposition. I fear that the air vice-marshal is correct in his assertion. I hope that people in Scotland who are tempted by a career in the armed forces are not faced with the conundrum of whether to join a Scottish defence force or the armed forces of the United Kingdom. That would be a great pity for them and, potentially, a huge waste of talent. Traditionally, Scotland has provided some of the very best people in our armed forces. The loss to defence in this country in the event that Scotland went independent would be felt not least in the manpower and capabilities that those men and women provide.

Scotland’s defence and the UK’s best interests will be served by a strong no vote on 18 September. I suspect that the SNP knows that and would dearly like to park defence and security, so that it can focus on things like free child care, which it already has the power to grant, even if that will be pre-empted by tomorrow’s statement. I do not think that it is by chance that there are no SNP Members here tonight. They are concerned about their defence and security offer to the voters of Scotland on 18 September and would like to talk about something else. I do not intend to let the Scottish Government get away with their obfuscation and litany of half-truths on one of the major determinants of nationhood. My helpful advice to the SNP—I do try to be helpful where I can—is to admit that Scotland’s defence and its defence industry would be a casualty of independence and, in the six months remaining to it, to campaign on something else.

Question put and agreed to.

House adjourned.