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Volume 580: debated on Monday 12 May 2014

1. What assessment he has made of the effects on the defence and security of Scotland of being part of the UK. (903943)

Scotland is an essential part of the UK’s defence. Our integrated approach protects us all, underpins our considerable international influence and clout, and sustains defence industries which employ around 12,600 people in Scotland. Together, our defence and security effort is truly world-class. Why would anybody want to unpick it?

My hon. Friend will know that the Scottish Government’s White Paper proposes that Scotland’s territorial waters should be protected by two warships and no submarines, and he will also be aware that Scotland comprises about 50% of the UK’s total territorial waters, currently protected by some 17 warships and five submarines. Does he agree, therefore, that the proposals set out by the Scottish National party in the White Paper represent a significant diminution in the protection of Scotland?

The Scottish Government claim they will spend £2.5 billion on defence, but their Finance Minister John Swinney’s leaked memo on Scotland’s budget says at paragraph 50:

“I have made clear to the Defence Workstream that a much lower budget must be assumed.”

I very much doubt, therefore, that the Scottish navy would have even the two complex modern warships to which the Scottish Government aspire. Moreover, their White Paper makes no provision for refuelling and reprovisioning at sea. It implies that they will leave that to the Royal Navy, underlining the point that we are indeed better together.

23. The Minister may or may not be aware that on the Glasgow coat of arms it says, “Let Glasgow flourish.” Does he agree with me that voting no in the Scottish independence referendum will mean that shipbuilding on the Clyde will flourish, and that Glasgow will be all the better for it? (903965)

I absolutely agree with the hon. Gentleman. Some 12,600 jobs in Scotland are linked to the defence industry. It is impossible to imagine that the jobs to which he refers will be sustained in the event of independence, given the very small number of ships that the Scottish Government would purchase, and article 346 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union, with which I know he is familiar.

18. Further to the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Central Devon (Mel Stride), according to SNP plans, under independence the Scottish air force would have 12 Typhoon jets, if costed properly. Would that not be a considerable reduction in the number of jets that are currently based in Scotland, and a huge reduction in the total number of jets currently available to protect the air approaches to Scotland and, ultimately, what would be left of the UK? (903960)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Scottish Government tell us that they would have 12 Typhoons, which means four that are operational at any one time. That is no substitute for the Royal Air Force, and neither does it come close to what is provided by the allies, which the Scottish Government like to pretend they will match: Norway has 57 jets and Denmark has 30. The Scottish Government have also made no provision for air-to-air refuelling, without which the scope for covering Scotland’s extensive air space will be dramatically reduced.

The Ministry of Defence is responsible for ensuring that Scotland is a maritime nation with no maritime patrol aircraft and no ocean-going vessels. The MOD is also responsible for the closure of two out of three air bases in Scotland and the disproportionate cut to personnel and spending, while at the same time committing to Trident, which the majority of people in Scotland oppose. May I appeal to the Minister and the Secretary of State to come for more day trips to Scotland so that people can contrast the appalling reality of MOD decisions in Scotland with the ludicrous scaremongering of the UK Government?

The hon. Gentleman says that there are no ocean-going vessels, but he has forgotten the submarine service, which, for a Scottish MP, is a huge omission. He talks about maritime patrol aircraft, but he says nothing about how he would analyse the data that maritime patrol aircraft are designed to collect. He talks about two warships, yet he tells us in his White Paper that the only way he can refuel them, and thus extend their scope, is by relying on the Royal Navy.

As someone who was born in Glasgow and at one stage lived close to Yarrows, as it then was, my hon. Friend will understand that I have a particular interest in the future of shipbuilding on the Clyde. Were Scotland to become independent, improbable though that may be, can he conceive of any circumstances in which the Government of the rest of the United Kingdom would wish to place orders in what would then effectively be a foreign country?

We have not ordered warships from another country for 100 years, outside the two world wars. Article 346 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union makes the situation clear: it would not be possible to order such vessels in the event that Scotland and the United Kingdom became foreign countries to one another.

There is not a single costed commitment to build or purchase any defence equipment in the SNP’s manifesto—or “White Paper”, as they like to call it—over and above existing UK Government plans. In fact, a letter from the Deputy First Minister indicates that the frigates they refer to are actually four of the 13 that we expect and hope the UK to order later this year. Are not the jobs of those working in the defence sector in Scotland, which are reliant on UK contracts, some of the most at risk if Scotland becomes independent from the rest of the UK?

I am not sure about the figures that the hon. Lady cites, which I think are optimistic. What I would say is that £2.5 billion is 7% of the £33 billion to £34 billion that we currently spend on defence, and Scotland represents 8.4% of the UK population. I think we can all do the figures ourselves and realise that Scotland gets a very, very large chunk of the defence cake; furthermore, it benefits from every single pound of the £34 billion that we spend on defence every year. It is inconceivable that Scotland would be better defended in the event that it became independent.