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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE To be published as HC 643-ii
HOUSE OF COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE THE
FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE
FOREIGN POLICY IMPLICATIONS OF AND FOR A SEPARATE SCOTLAND
PROFESSOR MALCOLM CHALMERS and PROFESSOR WILLIAM WALKER
SIR RICHARD MOTTRAM and PROFESSOR SIR DAVID OMAND
Evidence heard in Public
Questions 90 - 154
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Taken before the Foreign Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 4 December 2012
Richard Ottaway (Chair)
Mr Bob Ainsworth
Mr John Baron
Sir Menzies Campbell
Mr Frank Roy
Sir John Stanley
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Professor Malcolm Chalmers, Research Director, Royal United Services Institute, and Professor William Walker, Professor of International Relations, St Andrew’s University, gave evidence.
Q90 Chair: I welcome members of the public to this afternoon’s sitting. This is the second of four evidence sessions for the inquiry by the Committee into the foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland. The session aims to cover security and intelligence aspects of Scottish independence that could affect the remainder of the United Kingdom. There will be three panels of witnesses.
Our first witnesses are Professor Malcolm Chalmers, the research director of the Royal United Services Institute, better known as RUSI, and Professor William Walker, the professor of international relations at St Andrew’s university. Gentlemen, welcome, and thank you very much for coming along this afternoon.
May I start with a fairly general question? The Foreign Office’s written submission to us states that Scottish independence could give rise to security and strategic implications for the whole of the United Kingdom. What is your interpretation of that statement?
Professor Chalmers: It is a very general statement. I think that the security implications of Scotland’s separation from the United Kingdom would depend on both the process by which separation was achieved and the nature of the state that the two successor states wish to achieve. On the first, on the process, what is happening in 2014 is a referendum but, even in the event of a yes vote, there is no indication when the separation would be achieved and under what circumstances. We would be in a very different scenario if there was a mutually agreed process between London and Edinburgh-between the UK and Scottish Governments-which successfully negotiated the nature of separation before, and told other states what that was, rather than a scenario in which there was division and conflict, with separation and the process of trying to get there taking place in an acrimonious fashion. That is important because, on issues such as EU and NATO membership, not only the fact of whether both states are EU and NATO members but the sort of members that they are will depend critically on whether London and Edinburgh in this scenario can resolve all their many differences, to which I am sure we will come in discussion.
That is the process, but as to where you might end up after the two states came into existence-Scotland as a new state, and the RUK succeeding the UK-much would depend on what the foreign and security policy of the two states was. My expectation would be that the political leaders in the RUK would wish to preserve their foreign and security policy as close as possible to that of the larger UK, which they succeeded. That cannot be taken for granted, but that is likely. The greatest complications in that regard might take place in relation to the relationship with the EU, because there is some uncertainty about the UK’s future in relation to the EU.
On Scotland there is maybe more uncertainty about where a Scottish government would go. We should not make the mistake of thinking that a future Scotland will adopt policies that are exactly the same as those of the SNP today. We don’t know what its policies will be, but certainly it is plausible that an independent Scotland would want to pursue defence and foreign policies not dissimilar to those of countries like Norway, Denmark, Ireland, and other north European countries of comparable size.
In that scenario-the UK more or less wanting to stay as something quite similar to what it is now, and Scotland wanting something like a north European country, whether in NATO or outside but probably inside-I suspect the interests of other countries, certainly those naturally sympathetic to the UK, our European allies, the United States in particular, would be in stability; in having a smooth transition which preserved what they already had in terms of EU and NATO coverage and ensuring it didn’t rock the boat given all the other problems they have. They wouldn’t want a situation where Scotland was seen as a source of instability, which would be the case if Scotland was left outside, or chose to leave itself outside organisations like the EU and NATO, and might form alliances and relationships with others who have not been the UK’s traditional friends. There is a lot of uncertainty-there would be a significant period of uncertainty in this process-but I think that is the broad direction in which the process would probably go.
Professor Walker: I would not disagree with Malcolm. I think everyone can imagine security and strategic issues being raised, and I am sure down in London there is some anxiety about it, but my expectation is, come a yes vote, the interest in both Edinburgh and London in co-operation would be great. The international interest would be in the two settling any differences, and as Malcolm says, maintaining stability.
In the last couple of months I have been talking to quite a lot of foreign Governments, both their representatives in Edinburgh and also in London and elsewhere, about the international reaction to this, and the reaction does vary. There is anxiety in some places, particularly about the secession issue and Spain and Catalonia and all that. I think that the great interest is maintaining stability. If a co-operative relationship can be established between the rest of the UK and Scotland, it does not need to be destabilising. There are going to be some very difficult issues, but there is an interest in maintaining the status quo, maintaining the special relationship if you are the United States, and maintaining NATO commitments in the North Atlantic and so on. Which is not to say there are not some very difficult issues; Trident is one of them, which we will probably come to in this discussion. Overall, I would be quite optimistic that things can be worked out between the two Governments.
Q91 Chair: Professor Chalmers, picking up on the theme of Professor Walker, do you think that the rest of the United Kingdom’s international standing will be affected by Scotland leaving us?
Professor Chalmers: It would be bound to be affected to some degree. The more acrimonious the process of separation, the greater the damage would be. There would be a perception that the UK was distracted from its wider international role by having to deal with constitutional issues back home. The longer the process of separation and arguing about issues continues, the greater that damage would be. An important element of the UK’s soft power is its period of continuous constitutional rule going back a long time. If that were brought into question that would again be damaging. On the other hand, the more the UK shows itself capable of handling the issue in a mature and relatively unemotional way, the more that is to the UK’s credit.
I think we already see a contrast between the way we are handling this issue within our country and the way it is being handled in Spain. Nobody in the UK talks about military coups or Scotland not having the right to self-determination if the Scottish people wish it. We are now going through, I suspect, a couple of years in which this issue is going to be analysed extensively from every single direction, and quite rightly, too. That is to this country’s credit and may to some extent ameliorate the damage.
There will be a loss. Scotland has been at the heart of the UK for a very long period indeed and it is bound to lead to some reputational damage externally. I think it is bound to lead to some loss of self-confidence among our elite where Scots and others have been intertwined in a joint enterprise internationally and domestically, which will have to be disentangled. I don’t know what the psychological impact of that on the individuals concerned will be but it should not be underestimated.
Q92 Chair: Professor Walker, do you agree with the soft power point?
Professor Walker: Yes, I suppose so.
Q93 Rory Stewart: To follow up on that again. A lot of the countries that we are focused on over the coming years, such as China, Russia, India and even some of the countries in the Middle East, have very strong views on the question of allowing bits of their territory to separate. The remaining prestige of Britain is partly connected with the idea of a particular conception of British power. Do you think that there is a risk that if you were Chinese or Russian or Indian looking at a Britain that had lost Scotland that you would feel that something had been diminished, beyond the mere loss of a few million people and territory; that somehow you were dealing with a smaller, less important country that was losing its way?
Professor Chalmers: There may be a risk but if you look at the UK’s position in the recent past in relation to other processes of separation-you could look at Sudan, Yugoslavia or others-the UK has not had a record of opposing separation in all circumstances. We have had a rather pragmatic record of recognising in some cases that it is better for international stability if states split up. If you are Chinese with, perhaps for understandable reasons, more absolute commitment to the maintenance of existing borders, of course this is yet another example, this time in a pretty secure and stable state, of states breaking up. That is obviously something that there would be a concern about. I am not so convinced that the UK’s reputation would be significantly diminished as a result of that.
Professor Walker: To add to that, I think you are correct in your instinct that it will be diminished somewhat in their eyes. It links a bit to the issue of the UN Security Council. In my view, it would be most likely that the rest of the UK would be recognised as a successor state, including in the UN Security Council. However, in the medium and long term it would increase the perception of states around the world that this is not a representative body. If you have a diminished UK still with a position of permanent membership of the UN Security Council along with France, in the short run there will be an adjustment to the rest of the UK taking up the seat but in the long run it increases the perception that this is not a representative body and needs change.
Professor Chalmers: May I add one point? For a country like China or India it would be part of a wider perception of where Europe is going. If a division of the UK was accompanied by an increased risk of separatism succeeding in Belgium, Spain, Italy or elsewhere, it would perhaps add to the perception that Europe’s relative power was declining.
Q94 Sir Menzies Campbell: You talked about uncertainty, and I was just thinking about the sorts of things that might constitute that uncertainty. You mentioned the European Union. Supposing, for example, that there is a very narrow majority in favour and then there is a legal challenge. Interesting questions would arise as to whether that should go all the way to the Supreme Court, which is based in London but is a United Kingdom court. Supposing there was a threat generally to national security, like an increased threat from al-Qaeda or something of the kind, or supposing there was an economic chill and there was a substantial run on the pound, which after all is expected to be the currency north of the border as well as south of it. That simply emphasises not only the problem of uncertainty but the range of uncertainties that could make a contribution to what you already describe. Would you agree?
Professor Chalmers: I think that is right. Once separation had taken place, the Government in London would no longer have responsibility for Scotland in relation to any of the issues you have mentioned-economic uncertainty or, indeed, security uncertainty. There would be a continuing and strong incentive for co-operation, just as there is between the UK and France or the United States and the UK, but it would not be taken for granted.
In terms of legal challenges, if we got into a situation in which the result of the referendum was not seen as clear by everybody concerned, that would clearly be a major source of uncertainty and there would be very strong interests in resolving that uncertainty one way or another rather quickly. If it was not, I think it would become such an all-consuming focus for the UK in not knowing where it was going.
Professor Walker: To add to that, small states, above all else-more than major states-require stable frameworks. Scotland would be vulnerable, becoming a new state in a very, very turbulent world. I suppose the most important stable framework for it would be the rest of the UK, in the first instance, and I am sure it is not lost on the Scottish Government that it needs a stable, confident rest of the UK for Scotland to thrive in future, and beyond that the European Union, NATO and other kinds of institutional frameworks.
Q95 Mr Baron: May I ask you gentlemen to focus for a moment on the extent to which a separate Scotland might rely on co-operation with the rest of the UK in pursuing its foreign policy, particularly its defence policy? The SNP has not been too forthcoming on plans, although I know that they are going to make further details available prior to the referendum. We have got some bare bones to pick at, however. I think it is a £2.5 billion budget, with 15,000 regular troops and 5,000 reservists.
Just looking at those plans, if you compare a separate Scotland with a country such as New Zealand, those defence forces are significantly more than what New Zealand has, which is a useful starting point. Then look at the fact that the 4th and 5th Battalions of the Royal Regiment of Scotland are 20% under-recruited and recruit a lot from Commonwealth countries. I know it is very early days, but given those comparisons and those facts, how feasible are the SNP’s plans at the moment? What implications are there in their stated wish to have some sort of co-operation agreements with the remainder of the UK when it comes to their foreign and defence policy?
Professor Chalmers: The geopolitical situation an independent Scotland would be in would be quite different from that of New Zealand. The SNP at its recent conference-very narrowly, admittedly-agreed that in their view Scotland should be a member of NATO. That reflects the fact, which also applies to non-NATO countries in Europe, that security for countries in Europe today depends to a very large extent on co-operation with others. A paradox of modern Europe is that it is precisely because of that intradependence that small states can go off on their own, as it were, as they can rely on others to an extent that they could not in the 18th and 19th centuries.
What does that mean in practice? I think it means that, like other small NATO member states, an independent Scotland would have some unique national security and defence responsibilities-things that other countries could not do for it, which it would have to do for itself, albeit in co-operation with others-but there would be many other areas in which there would be pressure on it to contribute to multinational operations. For example, in Afghanistan today, just about every NATO and non-NATO European country is represented at some level, so one imagines that a similar width of operation would also apply to Scotland in the future. You can construct from that the sort of choices that an independent Scotland would have to take in terms of its armed forces.
If Scotland were to be a member of NATO and the issue of Trident-basing in Scotland was resolved for some significant period of time-we will come to that later-my instinct is that an independent Scotland might find that it also wants to maintain for some long transition period significant UK conventional forces. The transition to producing independent Scottish air forces, for example, would be quite lengthy, because that is a costly and difficult process. For things such as maritime patrol and air patrol, there would be some advantage in co-operating with others, which in the case of Scotland primarily means co-operating with the rest of the UK. That would not necessarily be an easy process and lots of things would have to be sorted out.
On the £2.5 billion budgetary figure that the SNP has produced, once you allow for the inclusion of security spending-it is not defence spending, but defence and security spending-the figure is more or less comparable with the sorts of budgets that Norway and Denmark have as a proportion of GDP, which is about 1.4%. That is more or less what other NATO countries of a similar size and national income spend, so that level of spending is pretty realistic. I am rather more sceptical about whether you can produce the range of forces that the SNP talks about from that money. I think they would have to make some much harder choices than they have been prepared to make between the different parts of those forces.
Q96 Mr Baron: Before Professor Walker comes in, can I just sharpen the question? I suppose I was getting at this: can you envisage a gap between what the remainder of the UK would be willing to co-operate on by way of maintaining security, and what Scotland could afford by way of doing that? On patrolling and being able adequately to defend its airspace, which is a very costly business at the end of the day, do you envisage that there could be a gap between what we would be willing to co-operate on and what the Scottish economy could afford? I look at some of the figures and I think they are very ambitious in what they are hoping to achieve for the money they are willing to put down.
Professor Chalmers: I think that that is an excellent question, but there is not a definite answer. Part of the answer lies in what Scotland is prepared to pay and how it decides to use the money, but part of the answer depends on what the rump of the UK is prepared to continue to devote to the defence of Scotland, recognising that there is a common interest in patrolling the air and sea around these islands.
When you talk to Norwegians and Danes with an interest in what is happening in Scotland, one of the things they say is that when things are going well, co-operation seems seamless and we can rely on others to come to our defence, but when things go badly and there is a shortage of resources, countries inevitably prioritise their own needs.
Q97 Mr Baron: With respect-and I want to bring in Professor Walker-you are sort of ducking the question a little bit. I am asking for your best guess. Can you envisage gaps or not? Is there a possibility there? If Scotland was to become separate, the rest of the UK would still be roughly the eighth largest economy in the world. It would have a defence budget that is the equivalent of France’s, for example-without Scotland.
Professor Chalmers: Yes.
Mr Baron: So I think we have the capability, within certain parameters, to defend our airspace. The question I pose to you is: if a separate Scotland decides to go its own way, could there be a gap between what we would be willing to put in to Scottish defence, so to speak-because of the mutual benefit-and what the Scots could afford? Is there a possibility of gaps?
Professor Chalmers: My answer to your question is yes. That was why I drew the parallel with Norway and Denmark, who are very well aware that there may well be circumstances in which the UK, the US or others are not prepared to come to their defence as expeditiously as they would like.
Professor Walker: I would just like to add that one can see that the Scottish Government are working towards the idea of having a different kind of foreign policy from what has been the practice down in London. This is about looking out at the world in a rather different way, and not thinking about big expeditionary forces and not playing this major global power role that the UK has tried to play for a very long time. I think that they imagine, rightly or wrongly, that they just do not need so much to defend themselves and that, in fact, perhaps the UK exaggerates the amount of expenditure, resources and capability that it needs to defend itself.
There is a desire, I think-again, it may not be realisable-to put foreign policy first, and to try to allow the new defence posture of a UK to be driven by its foreign policy interests, in the way that it re-imagines Scotland as a small state in alliance with Nordic countries and others who are looking out towards the north Atlantic. Where I think that they have not really worked things out is in terms of exactly what the NATO expectation is, and also about the north Atlantic-I think that they have a fairly benign view of the north Atlantic-and exactly what the United States would expect of Scotland, in co-operation with all these countries.
This is an evolution, and I would say that it is fairly remarkable how far they have come in the last year-or the past two or three-in terms of adjusting their posture on defence, and beginning to think more about themselves co-operating with others, having to make concessions and working it out in due course. You have to accept the statements that the SNP made recently as being work in progress. They are trying to identify a posture for themselves that seems to serve their vision of what a Scotland might be in the world and that is also compatible with what UK and NATO interests might be. I think it is evolving in that direction. Internally, within Scotland, that is of course very difficult for them, because there are a number of difficult topics for them in Scottish politics.
Q98 Mike Gapes: To follow up John’s question, may I press you on the issue of airspace? At present, some NATO countries-and, in fact, non-NATO countries-protect Iceland’s airspace. Some NATO countries-Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania-also have their airspace protected by other NATO states. Is the expectation that the UK, the US, Norway or someone else will somehow protect Scotland’s airspace to some extent?
Professor Chalmers: Shall I answer that?
Professor Walker: Yes, you answer that-[Laughter.]
Professor Chalmers: William gives me all the easy questions.
I do not think that there is one fixed expectation. The SNP is attempting, in very rough terms, to draw up some ideas in advance of a referendum of what things might look like. Of course, the answer to your question would depend not only on Scotland, but on whether others were prepared to help in that regard. It is also the case that there is some expectation of mutual assistance between members of NATO.
My expectation is that, in the scenario we are talking about, there would be some role for a Scottish air force, but the more expensive the assets and capabilities involved in that, the more there would be pressure for Scotland to look to the British Royal Air Force-the UK Royal Air Force-to play a role. You could envisage the co-location of Scottish and UK forces at Lossiemouth, for example, for an extended period working together rather than entirely separately. That is a benign scenario and, as Mr Baron quite rightly suggested, the more difficult the crisis, the more of a question mark there might be about how automatic that mutual assistance would be.
Q99 Mike Gapes: In that context, when the SNP voted by 426 to 332 to change its position on NATO, I understand that the resolution said that Scotland would "inherit" its treaty obligations with NATO. Does that mean that the assumption is that Scotland would automatically continue as a successor state within NATO, or would it have to apply to stay in NATO? In that context, I understand that that also said that it would be subject to agreement that Scotland would not host nuclear weapons. Is it both assuming an assumption that it will stay in NATO while, at the same, negotiating a new relationship with NATO? Can you clarify what it means?
Professor Chalmers: I think you will have to ask members of the SNP what their statements mean, but perhaps I can comment on the substantive issue. The issue of inheriting membership of NATO is the same sort of question as inheriting membership of the EU, the UN or any other international organisation. You already have had people much more versed in international law than me giving evidence to you, but my understanding is that, in every one of those cases, it would be subject to the political agreement of the other states concerned. A new member state of NATO could not come into being without the agreement of the existing members of that alliance.
To come back to something I said earlier, I also think that there would be a period of time-perhaps an extended period of time-between a yes vote in a referendum in 2014 and the two states coming into existence. That could be in 2016 or 2020-we do not know when. One of the items on the agenda during that period would be a situation in which membership was created. However, of course, for Scotland to become a member of NATO, as the SNP statement seems to suggest, there would need to have been negotiation about the terms of that agreement. In both NATO and the EU, other member states are in most cases likely to buy into the argument that they want to maintain things as they are, as much as they can. The more that Scotland says, "Ah, but we want to have an opt-out from fisheries policy," or, "We want to have a special clause on Faslane," the more the prospect of a smooth transition might be called into question.
Q100 Mike Gapes: Professor Walker, do you agree?
Professor Walker: NATO does not speak with a single voice. There are all sorts of divisions of opinion within NATO. My surmise would be that NATO would want Scotland to be part of it, in due course, but, of course, not on any terms. There would obviously be consultation and debate, and there are consensus rules to be considered. It would probably take a bit of time before the position of Scotland and its exact terms of engagement with NATO were settled.
Q101 Mike Gapes: Would that mean that Scotland would be out of NATO for a period, or would it mean that Scotland would be in NATO, yet would still have nuclear weapons on its territory while the negotiation continued for however many years?
Professor Walker: I am not quite sure what the legal position would be. I guess that there would be an expectation that Scotland would carry on behaving as if it were part of the community, but it probably would not have a separate seat within NATO for a time. It would have to be settled. There would be negotiations around this and, in due course, some settlement would be reached. I imagine that the neighbouring countries-Norway and so on-the other European countries and the United States would want Scotland to be part of NATO. It would have to negotiate the terms, however, and the issue of nuclear weapons would be an important one, but not the only thing.
Q102 Mike Gapes: The remainder of the UK would have, in effect, a veto. Every member state would have a veto, because it has to be a unanimous consensus position.
Professor Walker: Assuming that the rest of the UK was regarded as the successor state, which I am sure that it would be, that would be the case.
Professor Chalmers: I think that that is a plausible scenario, but another-and I think rather more plausible-scenario is that there would be a significant period of time between the referendum and the actual separation to separate states. That period of time would be used by the Governments in London and Edinburgh to negotiate a settlement on all the main issues between them, and one of those issues would be membership of the EU and NATO.
In that context, it is quite feasible to envisage a situation in which the separation into two states would coincide with both states being members of the UN, NATO and other organisations. That is entirely plausible, and one of the reasons why it is plausible is because I do not think that other member states in the EU and NATO would want to leave a vacuum in which, for some period of time, the rest of the UK continued in the EU and NATO, but Scotland did not. Given that Scottish territory is, right now, part of those organisations, I do not think that they would see that as being in their interest.
Q103 Mike Gapes: May I ask one final question about the implications of a non-nuclear Scotland-presumably with no RUK nuclear weapons based on its territory-for the standing and status of the rest of UK within NATO?
Professor Walker: I will have to unpack that question, as there are a whole lot of other questions under that heading. Are we coming on to the issue of nuclear weapons?
Mike Gapes: We will move on to that later. This question is specifically about the implications for the status of the rest of the UK within NATO.
Chair: This section is just on NATO. We will come on to nuclear weapons.
Professor Walker: But are you saying that the rest of the UK keeps its nuclear weapons, but has them somewhere else-
Q104 Mike Gapes: My assumption is that the rest of the UK is the successor state. That includes the successor state’s weapons and all the rest of it. What does that mean within NATO for the standing of the rest of the UK?
Professor Walker: Forgive me, Chair, but I am still not very clear about the question. Do you imagine that the UK takes back the nuclear weapons?
Q105 Mike Gapes: I imagine that they are the UK’s nuclear weapons, and that if Scotland wishes not to have them on its territory, they will remain RUK nuclear weapons that will be based somewhere, but not in Scotland.
Professor Chalmers: Perhaps we will come on to the timing of relocation because, as I am sure you understand, it will be a difficult and lengthy process. I think that a situation in which separation resulted in the UK no longer being able to maintain its current nuclear capability-
Mike Gapes: No, that is not my question.
Professor Chalmers: I understand that.
Q106 Mike Gapes: My question is simply about the status and standing of the rest of the UK within NATO and the North Atlantic Council, as a nuclear weapon state in Europe, and the implications of Scotland’s separation for that for the rest of the UK.
Professor Chalmers: Providing that it can maintain its existing nuclear capability, I do not think that it would be substantial. The question is whether it could.
Q107 Mike Gapes: And you doubt that it could.
Professor Chalmers: Of course.
Chair: I want Frank to finish on NATO, and then we have a couple of supplementaries.
Q108 Mr Roy: Can I just ask a question in relation to navy shipbuilding capability? I ask specifically with regard to Govan, Scotstoun and Rosyth where, at the moment, we are building aircraft carriers. Many of my constituents are employed on that contract. If Scotland were separated from the rest of the United Kingdom, how would it affect that navy ship-building capability?
Professor Chalmers: I think that the order base for naval ships from the Scottish navy will be of a much smaller magnitude than that from the UK currently. Therefore, while it no doubt could maintain some jobs, certainly the capability that exists right now in Scotland is far more than would be necessary to service a Scottish navy. One of the main questions would be how far projected orders for the Royal Navy of RUK could maintain some of that capability. We do not know but, clearly, particularly in relation to new orders-there may be some contractual issues in relation to inherited orders-there would be a strong disposition politically, I suspect, given the nature of the politics of shipbuilding right now in the UK, for future orders to be placed in the rest of the UK, if that was possible.
Q109 Mr Roy: So what if there was an extra order for another aircraft carrier in an independent Scotland, for example?
Professor Chalmers: I suspect that we are not going to be building a third aircraft carrier in any case-
Q110 Mr Roy: Well, a first one for an independent Scotland.
Professor Chalmers: I think it is pretty clear that Scotland could not afford an aircraft carrier of its own-it is hard for the UK to afford two aircraft carriers. I think there will be an issue in relation to Type 26 orders. If there are not already contracts placed with Scottish shipyards, the chances of future, post-independence contracts going to Scotland for that particular ship will be much diminished.
Q111 Mr Roy: Okay. Sorry, I went off at a tangent, so can I come back to Scotland’s place in NATO? As a NATO member, what sort of role would we-Scotland-be expected to play in NATO, and how would it compare with that of the rest of the United Kingdom? If Scotland was independent and a member, what sort of role would it have, and how would it compare with the present role of the United Kingdom?
Professor Walker: I think Scotland will see itself as helping NATO to protect the northern waters and also the maritime frontiers. It would presumably want to help NATO maintain whatever facilities it has in that connection, and would be providing capabilities to allow NATO members to do their job. It would also imagine itself as contributing some troops to foreign activities, as long as the Scottish Government and people thought that that was worthwhile and justified, but not as participating in the nuclear contribution to NATO. As an adjustment, probably the key thing here is the Scottish Government’s claim that they would be making decisions as to whether troops in the Scottish forces would be sent abroad-it would not decided here.
Q112 Mr Roy: You said earlier that Scotland would more or less have responsibility for northern waters, but how would that balance itself out? If the Scottish Government said, "We are a nuclear-free zone," that presumably would also include Scottish waters, so what happens with a big aircraft carrier from the United States that might well have nuclear capability on it? How would that balance out? If the Scottish Government are saying, "We are in, but the absolute is that we are a non-nuclear area," how do they square that circle?
Professor Walker: I do not think they do. There is a serious issue there, because Scotland would find itself in the position of New Zealand. The position of the United States is that it will not declare when there are nuclear weapons on its ships. Scotland might be welcoming American-
Q113 Mr Roy: On the other hand, that is presumably the same for Norway as well.
Professor Walker: I do not think they have a ban on American ships visiting their ports.
Mr Roy: They do have a ban on nuclear weapons.
Q114 Sir Menzies Campbell: I think you have put your finger on the lack of logic of saying, "We want to opt out of nuclear weapons", but of joining an alliance that has in its strategic concept the statement that deterrence is based on both conventional and nuclear means. No doubt there may be other questions, but that is a question that I have been asking the SNP and to which I have not yet got an answer.
In all the discussion about NATO, have you found any reference to article 5? Article 5 provides that an attack on one is regarded as an attack on all. Have you found anything in the expressions of opinion or apparent policy conclusions of the SNP that suggests that they recognise article 5 and its implications?
Professor Chalmers: We are not the best people to talk to as interpreters of SNP policy, but-
Sir Menzies Campbell: Even a passing reference.
Professor Chalmers: I will do my best. The SNP’s defence policy statement, a copy of which I have here, says, "On independence Scotland will inherit its treaty obligations with NATO." Putting to one side what we said earlier about whether they will inherit automatically, nevertheless, that is a reference to treaty obligations, and, of course, the mutual security guarantee is at the heart of NATO. So yes, of course, if Scotland were to be a member of NATO it would have to be committed to coming to the defence of others. I think that that is absolutely clear, and vice versa. However, as we also know, how that is interpreted in practice can vary, and no member state in NATO bases its security on the idea that that is entirely automatic. Without any question it is something that countries have got to work for. That is why they contribute to NATO-to reinforce that guarantee so that they are seen as doing things even when it is not in their immediate interest.
Q115 Sir John Stanley: Professor Chalmers, you rightly said that the issue of Scotland’s admission into NATO as an independent state would be a matter for the existing NATO member states. As you know, they act by consensus, which is of course a euphemism for unanimity. Do you consider that, among the existing NATO member states, there may be one or more that would actually veto, and say no to Scottish NATO membership? For example, Spain, as we know, has deep concerns about any forms of international recognition from breakaway countries, and for example has refused to give any international recognition to Kosovo. Could the Scottish wish to become a NATO member state effectively not be realised as a result of the position taken by countries such as Spain?
Professor Chalmers: I think it is possible. I do not think it is likely, providing the scenario we were talking about was one in which London and Edinburgh had agreed all the issues between them and were not raising the possibility of NATO, or indeed the EU, importing problems into their ranks. I think that countries in Europe are well aware of the problems that Cypriot membership of the EU raised, because problems were brought into the organisation without the Cypriot political issues being resolved. I think that the Kosovo issue actually comes more into that category than the category in which I would put Scotland-UK or indeed Czech-Slovak relations. I confess my ignorance on the issue, but it would be interesting to ask whether Spain raised any objections to South Sudanese separation from Sudan, where there was agreement from both parties to that happening.
Chair: I think you have got us there.
Professor Chalmers: That is something I would have to give you a note on. The issue for Spain in relation to Kosovo, as I understand it, was partly because Belgrade did not consent to the recognition. There was a dispute, and in that case the Spanish took the decision, as have several other EU states, that they should not properly recognise the seceding party. Of course, if we ever got to a situation in which Scotland sought to separate without London’s permission, absolutely, I think that Scotland would not have any chance whatever of joining NATO.
Professor Walker: May I just add to that? I do not think a comparison with Kosovo is terribly helpful. They are very different circumstances. In my view, if, through impeccable democratic processes, the Scottish people voted for independence and London conceded to that, I cannot imaging the Spaniards vetoing an application to join the European Union. They may make life awkward, and insist on the country going to the back of the queue or something, in order to send their own signals, but I cannot imagine that in reality they would stand in the way and take that kind of strong line.
Q116 Sir John Stanley: You said the European Union. Did you mean the European Union, or did you mean NATO?
Professor Walker: I meant the European Union, because I think that that is actually the primary issue here, in relation to Spain. It is not NATO.
Q117 Sir Menzies Campbell: Not even after the events of this week?
Professor Walker: I do not think so, no. I think that in advance of the referendum they will want to send strong signals that they will make life very awkward. However, I cannot imagine that in the event, if there really was that referendum-this is my own personal opinion-and it was impeccable processes and all the rest of it, they could stand up and say, "You cannot join." I cannot imagine that.
Chair: Professors Chalmers and Walker, I am warned that there will be a vote in the House in a second. We will keep going, but I have one eye on the clock.
Q118 Mr Ainsworth: Let us come to Trident in the context of, first, the rest of the United Kingdom. There would be a lower population, a lower tax base to carry the costs, and the costs of relocation would be billions, we are told. The time scale for relocation will potentially be many years or even decades. In practice, the rest of the United Kingdom could be forced to become a non-nuclear power, could it not?
Professor Chalmers: This is one of the most difficult security issues in relation to Scottish separation and it would have to be resolved at least in broad outline before you could have a wider agreement to move forward. Having said that, if there were to be agreement on this issue, it would open the way for agreement on many others. The issue is substantial and very important. It would take many years at least for relocation to successfully take place, not only because of the cost issues, but because of the considerable safety and security issues that would have to be resolved at any new base. William and I have written about that in the past and looked at previous decisions and why it ended up in Scotland historically.
Q119 Mr Ainsworth: And that was because of geographical location and configuration-water depths and all that stuff.
Professor Chalmers: And, indeed, the need not to be too close to population centres in relation to missile warhead storage facilities. It is not by any means clear sitting here right now, with the information that I have, that an alternative location could be found, but it is possible that it could be found. It is unlikely that you would know that in the immediate aftermath of a referendum, but even if you believed such a location could exist, it would take a period of certainly more than a decade and perhaps significantly longer for relocation to take place.
There are two possible times at which you might think of relocation. One would be when the submarines were replaced in the early 2030s and the other might be when the missiles are due to be replaced in the early 2040s. I think that is the sort of time scale that you might be talking about for that to happen. Were an independent Scotland, or indeed a Scottish negotiating team post-referendum, to say, "No, it has to be out within two, three or four years", that would not give time for relocation to take place, so it would not be possible unless the RUK managed to find some arrangement with France or the US to base outside the UK altogether, but there are many difficulties with those options too. Without that, the UK would no longer be able to operate a submarine-based deterrent and it would have to consider other options, such as aircraft basing, for example, to maintain an operational nuclear arsenal.
Q120 Mr Ainsworth: And those alternatives were looked at in the White Paper in 2006 and were ruled to be pretty impractical for a nation of this size.
Professor Chalmers: They were ruled to be less preferable than the existing option. There is more of a question mark over whether the UK would, in a scenario in which the SSBN option was ruled out altogether for the reasons that we discussed, seek to invest in air launch capability, rather than becoming a non-nuclear state. It is quite possible that it would go for another option in that scenario.
My basic point is that a scenario in which Scotland asked for these weapons to go very quickly-within the order of two or three years-would throw a big spanner in the post-referendum negotiations. Whether RUK would then veto membership in NATO and the EU, I do not know. They may not go that far, but it would certainly raise a lot of questions among Scotland’s other allies-our prospective allies-as to what the nature of its foreign security policy was.
Professor Walker: I, personally, do not regard the Trident decision of 2007 as terribly stable, anyway. It seems to me that, come 2015-16, serious questions will have to be asked about affordability, even without the Scottish-
Q121 Mr Ainsworth: Even where we are now?
Professor Walker: Even where we are now. The Liberal Democrat-led investigation in the Cabinet Office into alternatives-it seems to me that there is already a debate going on within Government about alternatives, even though the Conservative party may not back it very strongly. So I think, as a background, I do not regard the Trident decision as necessarily being very stable, but, of course, the timing of all this is out of kilter, because it probably would not come back into public debate until after the general election in 2015.
The difficulty seems to me to be that, come 2014, if you do have a yes vote, and then you have to have a negotiation between the two sides on some kind of framework agreement on basic principles, there will be an expectation of having a decision on the future of Trident at that stage. And at that stage, it seems to me that the SNP and the Scottish Government could not concede to indefinite basing of Trident in Scotland. Politically, it would be impossible within Scotland for it to get away with that, without damaging itself enormously. So the position it would arrive at would be looking to some kind of phase-out and the debate would be over the length of time.
In due course, it would not surprise me if the Scottish Government and the Scottish people actually acclimatised themselves to it staying there much longer, because to some extent it is just a symbolic issue and has been, really, a symbolic issue for quite a long time. Mind you, it is for the UK, too, in some ways symbolic.
There is an issue to do with timing and what actually is negotiable in the immediate aftermath of the referendum.
Q122 Mr Ainsworth: Let us assume for a moment that there was a problem with one or other of them-insurmountable costs, location or timing-and the two countries fall out with each other. Let us reflect on the impact on the rest of the UK’s standing and position in the P5, with Scotland trying to join international communities at the same time as the UK’s standing within those international communities was being brought into question. The impact of that would be considerable, would it not?
Professor Walker: Yes, I would agree with that. You are absolutely right. For Scotland, a small state, to be coercing the UK into giving up its nuclear deterrent, when that was part of a NATO-I cannot imagine it being able to do that. At the same time, internationally, may I say, for the rest of the UK to be trying to coerce Scotland into providing a permanent home for a nuclear deterrent, that too, internationally, would not go down very well, I don’t think. When so much of the debate internationally-NPT context, and so on-is upon disarmament, to have a nuclear-weapon state coercing a non-nuclear-weapon state into hosting its nuclear weapons for ever would not go down very well, either.
Professor Chalmers: May I add something to what William said, with which I agree? The Irish President is often brought into play here. As part of the condition for Irish independence, they agreed to treaty ports for the Royal Navy, and the Royal Navy stayed in Ireland until 1938. But the 1938 decision is also significant in this. When we came to 1938, when the Royal Navy was facing its biggest challenge, that was precisely the moment at which the Irish said, "No, we want to maintain neutrality in the coming war. These ships have to go." The relevance of that for today is that I think there would be ways found, in this scenario, to manage this issue in the short term, because Scotland would not want to be seen to be pushing the much bigger power on which it would rely. But would the RUK want to continue to base its only nuclear deterrent in a foreign country on which it might not be able to rely in times of intensified threat? After all, the nuclear deterrent, if it is ever to be relevant, will be in times of existential crisis, not in the sort of period we are talking about now.
Q123 Mr Ainsworth: I want to bring one other aspect into these problems, which is the United States of America. They are the leading player in NATO and the ultimate guarantor of our security in extreme circumstances. What would their attitude be if Scotland were to say, "Wait a minute. Another country’s nuclear weapons staying in our country for decades? We are not having that." Surely considerable pressure would come to bear on the new Scotland in that scenario.
Professor Walker: It depends on who you mean by "they" when you refer to the United States. I am sure that the Pentagon and some aspects of the military community would be very unhappy with that situation. However, I am not sure how much the United States overall would mind, particularly when it is reshaping its defence policy and reducing its nuclear deterrent right down.
One aspect is that the United States itself is behind the UK in terms of Trident replacement. The nuclear community in the United States would be pretty unhappy with the UK delaying Trident replacement or going to another system because to some extent it is looking to the UK to keep certain capabilities alive in the United States and show the way in terms of replacing the old systems. Generally, I am sure that the United States would be looking to Scotland to be pretty flexible on this. At the same time, I think that, given its international standing and worries about the NPT, it will be looking to the UK to be flexible as well. It will be looking for flexibility all round. It basically comes back to what Malcolm and I have been saying. There will be a lot of pressure on both countries to come to agreements on these kinds of things; it will not be easy, but at least to come to some kind of agreement on it.
Chair: Our time is virtually up for this session. I have one more group of questions and a couple of supplementaries. I would be grateful if you could keep your answers brief.
Q124 Rory Stewart: Very briefly, just on some technical issues. The existing international commitments under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty appear to suggest that there may be problems with continual basing. Could you reflect very quickly on that?
Professor Walker: Under article I of the NPT, a nuclear weapons state is legally entitled to locate its capability on another state’s territory, provided that the capability is kept under its control, so that is not a difficulty. There may be some other issues. It would be unprecedented for a nuclear weapons state to place all its capabilities in a non-nuclear weapons state under the NPT, but legally it is still conceivable.
Q125 Rory Stewart: Articles I and II of the treaty prohibit the transfer of nuclear weapons to non-nuclear weapons states. Is that a problem with re-supplying or maintaining those nuclear weapons?
Professor Walker: I don’t think so, no.
Q126 Rory Stewart: Finally, this is a very vague question but when do you think Scotland might become nuclear-free post-independence, assuming an independent Scotland? What is your best guess?
Professor Chalmers: That is a very tempting question. My instinct is that it would most likely be some time in the 2030s, but possibly later.
Professor Walker: My view is that it would happen in conjunction with the UK giving up nuclear weapons, if it happens at all. The key decision is down here in London, not up in Edinburgh.
Q127 Sir John Stanley: Going back to the beginning of our SSBN programme with Polaris, Faslane was chosen for compelling reasons, which made it superior to any other location in the British Isles. There were reasons of profound importance about the land security environment and, perhaps more importantly, relating to the SSBN operational requirements. Looking around the whole of the coastline of England, could you tell us whether there is any other location that comes anywhere near matching the land security requirements and, most particularly, the SSBN operational requirements, which are currently met at Faslane?
Professor Chalmers: I think the simple answer to that, in relation to England and Wales, is probably not.
Mr Ainsworth: And Northern Ireland.
Q128 Sir John Stanley: I specifically couched my question in terms of England.
Professor Chalmers: In relation to England, the alternatives that have been talked about-they were talked about at the time and were highest up the short list-were Devonport and Falmouth. There are problems in relation to both. I think the strong preference of the Royal Navy in the scenario we are talking about would be to remain at Faslane and Coulport for as long as possible, or indefinitely, if that is achievable. If that were not possible, the question would be whether you could meet minimal requirements in relation to operations and site security at some combination of Devonport and Falmouth. I do not know the answer to that question. You might have to have significant population relocation, for example. There would be an issue about how seriously you treat any possible ASW threats from potentially hostile nations. You may think they are less serious now than in the past, but could you guarantee that in 20 years’ time? There are a whole range of issues. The initial premise of your question is absolutely right. The current location, even putting aside issues of cost, would be preferable for the Royal Navy.
Q129 Mike Gapes: I have one quick question. Given that they are in Scotland, isn’t the most sensible thing, if the rest of the UK wishes to keep nuclear weapons, that they are based in France?
Sir Menzies Campbell: In the Seine or something?
Mike Gapes: France has got nuclear weapons. We could share the base.
Professor Chalmers: One of the criticisms of the current UK-French nuclear arrangement is that it already introduces a degree of asymmetry into that relationship because the new facility is being built in France, and nothing comparable is being built in the UK. That would introduce a much higher degree of asymmetry into the UK-French nuclear relationship, which I am sure that many in France would welcome but I think the UK would find increasingly uncomfortable.
Chair: Thank you very much, Professor Chalmers and Professor Walker.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Sir Richard Mottram, Visiting Professor, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Professor Sir David Omand, Visiting Professor, Department of War Studies, King’s College, London, gave evidence.
Q130 Chair: The next session is now slightly different than billed. We were going to have our two witnesses separately. The combination of Sir Richard Mottram arriving a few minutes early and the vote interrupting us means that we can have you both together. That is a double bonus for us. So our two guests are Sir Richard Mottram, Visiting Professor, Department of Government, London School of Economics and Political Science. But more to the point, he has had a distinguished career as a civil servant in the Government for many decades. Professor Sir David Omand, Visiting Professor, Department of War Studies, King’s College, London, also has a lifetime of public service. Gentlemen, a warm welcome to you both.
I will start with a general question about security and cybercrime. As you know, or you may not be aware, the Government made an announcement about this on Monday. If an independent Scotland is going to be able to protect its own interests and tackle cybercrime, what is the minimum security and intelligence infrastructure that would be needed, and how would that compare to the level of support that they currently get up there?
Sir Richard Mottram: As a minimum they would need to create two sets of things: a policy capability at the centre of the Scottish Government, which would not be difficult to achieve; and then, more importantly, a capacity to understand the problem and to tackle it, which, in the context of the UK Government at the moment, involves a number of agencies, including-principally, obviously-GCHQ, of which David used to be the director. They would need a mini-GCHQ to both protect their information and consider other things that go with this. There is an issue for them, which we will keep coming back to. These things can be done because we can think of other countries that do this that are of a similar scale to Scotland in terms of population and economy. Obviously you are creating all the time small-scale things out of something that at the moment is much bigger and can reap economies of scale.
Q131 Chair: Sir David, you wanted to make an opening statement. You can wrap it into your answer.
Professor Sir David Omand: Let me just declare an interest as I am a Scot, born and schooled in Scotland, but with a lifetime of service in the United Kingdom.
Sir Richard Mottram: I am English, so we balance each other.
Professor Sir David Omand: I agree with what Richard has said. It depends what level of security in the cyber-domain a Scottish Government would feel it appropriate to aspire to. The United Kingdom Government in its cyber-strategy has said that we will be a leading player. The highest standards of cyber-security will be necessary for economic reasons. I cannot imagine a Government in Edinburgh would want to take a different view. As Richard says, that means you then have to have access to technical capability linked to some serious intelligence capability. The smaller nations in NATO can access some of this through the NATO arrangements which the Americans are underpinning. There is some NATO research capability. To get to the sort of level that I would think appropriate, much more than that would be needed. It would be expensive and that overall value you would get from two centres rather than one would be less.
The statement yesterday by the Cabinet Office Minister emphasised the importance of GCHQ in providing that deep technical assessment. Whether an independent Scotland would benefit from that and from the American underpinning of it is a bigger question about the relationship in the whole intelligence sphere between an independent Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom and, indeed, the United States.
Q132 Chair: Would it take a long time to set up the level of security and infrastructure that we think we need?
Professor Sir David Omand: The Scottish universities have excellent computer science departments. There are very advanced companies north of the border-SELEX Galileo is one-which no doubt could be harnessed. But it would take years to build up the capability. I have some doubts as to whether it would be feasible to do it to the requisite standard. A much more sensible way would be to try to construct a relationship of sharing with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Sir Richard Mottram: I absolutely agree with that but the Scottish Government as a minimum would need to have its own cryptographic capability and so on if it is going to keep its own secrets. One always has to be a little bit cautious about how long it takes to create successful new organisations. Organisations have a long history. They have a huge amount of tacit knowledge. They have a culture which they draw on. If you took GCHQ as an example, it reflects this huge history and all the networks it is engaged with. I don’t mean technical networks; I mean people networks and so on. You cannot create that overnight. It might be that the Scottish Government could persuade some people with significant UK Government experience to work for it. I don’t know. I have not looked at the composition of the organisation and whether that is feasible. But one has to be cautious about how quickly you can create an organisation of this kind which is very complicated and has all these international links.
Professor Sir David Omand: It is part of our history that we helped both Australia and Canada develop significant capability over a period of very many years, lending them staff and in some cases providing even the director of their communications security and communications intelligence organisations until they were able to stand on their own feet, which they do now. That is an enterprise which the United States stood fully behind. Again, it comes back to what is the context within which this work is being done.
Q133 Chair: On that very point, are you able to say-if it is classified, obviously not-how long it took to reach that level of performance?
Professor Sir David Omand: I think you would be better off asking the authorities.
Q134 Chair: From what you are saying, you are suggesting that in the early days of independence, there will be a bit of a lacuna here. If the rest of the UK received information about an imminent threat or a cyber-attack, who are they going to pass that information to?
Professor Sir David Omand: May I make a general point before I answer the specific question? When you do a security assessment, it is important not just to concentrate on the most likely outcome, but to look at what might go wrong and then how you might operate and manage the risk, and then de-risk if possible some of the lower-probability but necessarily higher-impact scenarios.
The most likely thing would of course be that the rest of the United Kingdom and Scotland would have arrived at a sensible set of arrangements. The Strathclyde police today have a very effective special branch that is used to working very closely with MI5. Arrangements could no doubt be evolved. I do not think that it is right and responsible to rely just on hope. You would need a degree of certainty that the capacity was there in an independent Scotland to manage serious risks of that kind, for example from terrorism.
I just need to remind you perhaps of Dr Bilal Abdullah, the doctor in Paisley, who, with his colleague, loaded up a Jeep Cherokee with propane gas and crashed it into Glasgow airport. The gang had previously failed to murder a large number of young people by putting two car bombs down the road in Haymarket. That operation was conducted as a joint operation, with the full support of the police north of border, a national security service that was able to operate across as a national capability, supported by the national capabilities of the other British intelligence agencies and the data provided by partners and allies. You have to work that through as to how on earth that would work with an independent Scotland if they had not built themselves a security service, a capacity for co-ordinating intelligence and the right kind of intelligence-sharing arrangements. In my view, all of that would be necessary.
Sir Richard Mottram: Briefly, to emphasise David’s last point, if they are going to exercise the prerogatives of being a separate country, then at the heart of being a separate country are the security considerations, so one would expect that they would create, in advance of becoming a separate country, some intelligence capability plus the assessment capability plus the capacity to persuade other countries that they could have confidence in giving them very sensitive information. If all that is in place, then you can do that. I actually dealt with the event that David talked about, and there was marvellous co-operation between people in London, the police and the political authorities in Scotland.
As long as you have mutual confidence, you can deal with these things, but if you do not have mutual confidence, those sorts of incidents would become very difficult. For instance, there was very close co-operation and flexibility between the Metropolitan police and the Strathclyde police. You would have to put all that in place, and people would have to be confident. If they were confident, then, within limits that we can discuss, information would be passed on.
Chair: That is very helpful; thank you.
Q135 Mr Baron: With regard to the previous witnesses, the Committee asked the question as to whether there would be gaps, when it came to the defence of a separate Scotland, between what the rest of the United Kingdom would be prepared to commit to by way of co-operation and what Scotland could afford. There was a feeling that there were gaps there that needed to be discussed, although we do not know the full policy that is evolving from the SNP itself. Air defence is one example of that. When it comes to security, notwithstanding the fact that there is a lot of sharing of information for the mutual benefit of the countries involved, do you envisage, or can you identify at this very early stage, whether there would be any gaps between what London would be prepared to share and what Scotland can afford to put in place by way of the infrastructure necessary for what we think we could reasonably expect a Scottish intelligence system to look like?
Professor Sir David Omand: This is of course all hypothetical, and dependent on a yes vote in a referendum.
Mr Baron: We are peering into the future, I know.
Professor Sir David Omand: There would, of course, initially be a large number of gaps. Part of the negotiation that I would imagine would take place would be London saying very firmly to Edinburgh, "Here’s part of the deal: for our security as well as your own, you are going to have to make certain arrangements." That would cover the ability to detect and deal with serious crime and organised crime that is cross-border; it would obviously have to deal with terrorism; there would also be broader issues, such as biometric passports, and all of that. All of that would have to be nailed down before independence.
What I think would be very difficult would be to envisage an independent Scotland that had gone to the United Nations General Assembly and said, "We are now an independent state," without these sorts of things being nailed down. The only way your earlier points can be satisfactorily answered would be if an agreed position-agreed between the United Kingdom and the putative Scottish Government-were presented to the European Union, to NATO, to the Commonwealth, to the International Telecommunication Union so that Scots can make international phone calls, and to many other international institutions. That position would have to be agreed. If it is not agreed, the risk of something going quite seriously wrong in those organisations increases very markedly.
So, yes, there will be those gaps. They will have to be identified. What cannot be allowed is that they persist after the point at which, say, a proposition is put to NATO. I think that the NATO integrated military structure and the Supreme Allied Commander, who has a responsibility for defending that airspace, will look at what the arrangements are and how it is going to work, and who is going to fly the planes that will ensure the integrity of the airspace for which he is responsible.
Sir Richard Mottram: Unfortunately, I did not hear the earlier evidence, but I would just make two brief points. One is that, in relation to defence capabilities, even at the present UK level, you can see really serious problems in the cost of military equipment and its operation: that road to absurdity that, in our previous life, David and I used to worry about, which is that you get smaller and smaller capability costing more and more and more, and very small numbers of units. If you put that in a Scottish context-this is perhaps what was being discussed earlier-it becomes very difficult to see how a Government with a GDP of that size could maintain a credible range of these capabilities, unless they are going to be of a very significantly different character. If they are of a significantly different character, where are they going to be sourced from and on what basis are they going to be obtained, and so on? That is one set of problems, which are really just matters of problems of scale.
When we come to things like intelligence co-operation, as long as a UK Government, or a rest of UK Government or whatever we call it, was satisfied, as I am sure it would be, that information could be passed securely, there would not be a problem in supplying terrorist-related information to the unified Scottish police force. That, of course, would be done through the channel of a newly created, mini Scottish security service of some kind that we can talk about.
What is more difficult, when one comes to thinking about gaps, is the fact that the present UK Government has very, very close relationships with a number of countries, including the United States, through which lots of information, on which the present UK Government operates a wide range of its policies, is passed to the UK Government because we are a privileged partner with those countries, because we in turn give them things of scale and value. That is essentially the deal. A Scottish Government, under any circumstance, will not be capable of doing that.
You will get into a very interesting question about the rules of the game, but not in relation to these very tight operational matters. If the UK Government discovers a terrorist threat in, hypothetically, Estonia or wherever, it passes on information, but we do not share with Estonia loads of other information that we have in our possession on which we draw in reaching policy decisions. The challenge for Scotland will be that there will always be gaps, because it will be on a different scale from the present UK Government in relation to all of these security matters. There is no way round that in my view.
Professor Sir David Omand: But that brings us back to an earlier part of the evidence you heard this afternoon. Getting the right relationship between an independent Scotland, the rest of the UK and the rest of the UK’s close allies in the intelligence field requires good will all round and assurances about the security of the information, how it might be used and so on.
The President of New Zealand has already been mentioned this afternoon. In 1985, New Zealand took a strong anti-nuclear stance. US warships were no longer able to visit New Zealand. The US cut off the putative US-Australia-New Zealand ANZUS arrangements for military co-operation. They cut off all intelligence relationships which, in turn, caused difficulties for us in turn, in maintaining an intelligence relationship with New Zealand. The US held up the signing of a free trade agreement between the US and New Zealand. They played hardball. It was only resolved two years ago by Hillary Clinton. In that intervening period, New Zealanders were in the cold.
That would be the worst possible start to an independent Scotland, and of course it could then prejudice the arrangements for entry into NATO. I point that out to reinforce my view that you cannot just assume good will and that everything will work. You have to nailed things down in advance.
Sir Richard Mottram: These arrangements are not just based on good will. They are based on interests of various kinds.
Q136 Sir Menzies Campbell: I think that you have answered the questions I was going to ask, with the-if I may say so-encyclopaedic answers you have given. I shall tease a couple of things out, if I may. From what you say, the effective basis of the intelligence relationships is confidence, familiarity and reciprocity. If you can offer all of those things to a partner, that partner will be willing to be a true partner.
In relation to confidence, the control principle has been a matter of some considerable controversy in recent times. I think that most people know, but for those who do not, the control principle is that if we are given particular intelligence, we do not use it in a way that causes its source, or anything of that kind, to be identified. That came up in the Binyam Mohamed case. I am asking you to draw on your experience, but I would guess that that kind of confidence arises only after a long period of fair dealing and understanding. If there was any question of the control principle not being observed, that is bound to have an impact not only on the nature of the intelligence, but, more significantly in the long term, the quality of the relationship. Have I made a proper assessment?
Sir Richard Mottram: I have previously appeared before Select Committees and nodded my head, and then somebody has pointed out that nodding your head does not do. The answer is, yes, that is a proper assessment. Yes, the control principle, in particular, is very, very important for the US, so it will absolutely want to be satisfied and will place an expectation on the rest of the UK-UK-minus, a horrible phrase-that it will absolutely fulfil its obligations on US-derived information. The rest of the UK would indeed have to do that. The issue is whether the Scottish Government could put in place arrangements-some of this is about people, and there are already plenty of people in the Scottish Government in whom Americans and others would have absolute confidence when dealing with them-that enabled that to happen, but over time it would be tested.
Professor Sir David Omand: It goes beyond the control principle, which is necessary but not sufficient for deep intelligence co-operation. Without it, no country will trust you with their secrets, but what we have with our close intelligence allies is a long-standing relationship of working on a joint enterprise in which it is not just the end product that is shared-joint operations are mounted and joint technology is exploited. Would the United States be prepared to move from Five Eyes to Six Eyes? Probably.
Q137 Sir Menzies Campbell: But only after a passage of time.
Professor Sir David Omand: Only after a passage of time, and perhaps Washington would ask what role this new nation is playing in the NATO enterprise. As you heard from Professor Walker, the new nation might say that its foreign policy would make it difficult to join in certain NATO enterprises. All those things connect together.
Sir Richard Mottram: At that point, I think Six Eyes would not be on the table.
Q138 Sir Menzies Campbell: The geographical relationship of an independent Scotland with the rest of the United Kingdom is inseparable, not to put too fine a point on it. If you were a potential terrorist, it would not matter to you whether you carried out a terrorist act in Middlesbrough rather than Perth. Our fine legal justification for separation would not matter very much. It would be an identification of what was, in theory at least, once Great Britain. That being so, it argues for the notion that you really must have some kind of relationship between the rest of the United Kingdom and Scotland if each is to be properly protected.
One of the issues, as you know, that was raised during the Commonwealth games was the risk of displacement. London is crawling with security, so what do you do? You go off somewhere else where, to coin a phrase, there is a soft underbelly. If there is any suggestion that one part of the association-I am using a neutral word-is weaker than another, it is ripe for exploitation, is it not?
Sir Richard Mottram: It is, yes, but I have been assuming, subject to the point that David made earlier about how you have to think about things going wrong, as well as things going well, that an independent Scottish Government would have to put in place a domestic security service, probably modelled on the one that we currently have in the UK. Then there would be issues about how they organise the rest of their intelligence capability and so on. They would build on police co-operation, but that is not a great issue because there is deep-seated co-operation between police forces in England and Wales, and in Scotland. It will change a bit with a unified police service, but I am sure that that can be made to work. That would be a requirement. The difficult issue arises over the border.
Q139 Sir Menzies Campbell: A permeable border. There are many ways of getting from Scotland to England, as Sir David knows, being a Scotsman. Some were used to drive rustled cattle 200 years ago.
Sir Richard Mottram: In someone’s constituency.
Q140 Sir Menzies Campbell: There really has to be some sort of system for monitoring, at the very least.
Professor Sir David Omand: The answer is that the only sensible thing would be for Scotland to have an opt-out of Schengen. We know that new members of the European Union are expected to take on the acquis. That includes the euro and Schengen, although as Sweden has shown in respect of the euro, you can say yes but not necessarily implement it very quickly. Again, this comes back to my point. It depends on the level of agreement that has been achieved between Scotland and the United Kingdom, so an agreed position can be presented to the EU. Without an opt-out from Schengen, you would have the nonsense of 20-mile tailbacks of trucks on the M74. You would have border posts and biometric checking along Hadrian’s wall. It does not make any sense, so the two parts of the island really have to have a common border system.
Sir Richard Mottram: Just to add one point, we can think of another version of this, which is the relationship between the United States and Canada over counter-terrorism. Over the years, it has been a very sensitive subject in both Canada and the United States because of concerns that Canada would be the soft underbelly, to use a cliché, for people coming into the United States. Just as the United States cannot be indifferent to how Canada goes about its business, including its counter-terrorism and its intelligence capabilities, both of which are significant-this has caused a lot of trouble over the border in various ways because of this concern-a rest of the UK Government or a UK-minus Government would absolutely have to have confidence in the way in which Scotland was ensuring that it was not a soft way into England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Professor Sir David Omand: The United States has a very strong interest in this. If Scotland wanted to continue a visa waiver system, the United States would insist that it be biometrically defined, and the watch lists at the Scottish ports would have to be equivalent to those at today’s British ports. Otherwise, you would very quickly get into a feeling that Scottish security was not as high. If I might offer the Committee this observation, the security aim for the period after independence, were that to come about, should be to so arrange matters that security on both sides of the border is not diminished. It is not self-evident to me that that goal can be met, or that it can be met at reasonable cost.
Sir Menzies Campbell: Thank you.
Chair: That is particularly helpful, thank you.
Q141 Mr Ainsworth: Turning to critical national infrastructure, looking at things from the point of view of the risk of the United Kingdom, how bound together are we? How much would the rest of the UK have to worry about what was going on in Scotland in terms of that?
Professor Sir David Omand: I have never seen that model.
Sir Richard Mottram: I just thought, "gulp". It is a very interesting question. What are the dependencies of the rest of the UK on Scottish-provided resources of various kinds? I am not sure that I know the answer to that question, but it is a very good question.
Q142 Mr Ainsworth: But we would have to ask it post an independence referendum.
Sir Richard Mottram: Yes. It is also true to say, as you know from your time in government, that we were a bit slow in thinking about this for the UK as whole, so that is also an issue. But yes, my understanding is that the Government are increasingly focused on these issues, and you would need to map those dependencies.
Professor Sir David Omand: The three areas that I would look at would be electricity, telecommunications and finance, in terms of the information systems that the banks use and how easy it would be to separate these out.
Q143 Sir Menzies Campbell: And oil pipelines.
Sir Richard Mottram: Yes. I do not know the answer to your question, but it is a very important point.
Q144 Mr Ainsworth: I think you were both in for the earlier conversation about Trident. It would seem that Trident would have to stay, if it is going to stay, for around a decade while an alternative is found-if an alternative can be found. Obviously, that would involve security considerations. How profound would they be for the rest of the United Kingdom?
Professor Sir David Omand: My hunch is that that is a deal breaker. I do not see a feasible alternative site at reasonable cost. The cost would presumably fall on the Scottish Government as part of the overall settlement, which in itself would have to be made clear to the Scottish people before the referendum-that a big bill would be attached to that particular part of the policy.
My fear, and it is a genuine fear, is that that would precipitate the UK out of the nuclear business. The reaction from our NATO allies, from the United States and from France would be hostile. Again, that creates exactly the wrong kind of environment for an independent Scotland to try to establish itself in the international community, NATO and the European Union. I may be taking too pessimistic a view, but that is my fear.
Q145 Mr Ainsworth: If we tried to get round that, despite the political problems with the Scottish Government-
Professor Sir David Omand: If I were in Edinburgh, I would start drawing up a 99-year lease.
Q146 Mr Ainsworth: What if we tried to get round the huge costs of the alternatives and everything else, with the Scottish Government, despite the political problems, saying, "Well, keep it here then"?
Professor Sir David Omand: It that was all that stood in the way of successful Scottish independence, perhaps we might see a lease being offered.
Q147 Mr Ainsworth: And the security considerations of the UK’s deterrent being in a foreign country.
Sir Richard Mottram: In the earlier discussion, you covered all the things about international law, the NPT and all of that, so we needn’t go back over that. The consideration that we ought to have in mind is that, if the Scottish Government wished to create a rather hostile environment in all sorts of ways, they could. This is why I think it is a very difficult problem to get one’s mind around: if you were the rest of the UK Government-the UK-minus Government-you would be concerned that over time, even though you had an agreement, they could made life difficult in the way in which the system was operated, for the personnel, and so on. It is difficult to judge how realistic that is, but I do not think the local Scottish population-
Q148 Mr Ainsworth: It is not sustainable, is it?
Sir Richard Mottram: It is very difficult to see how it is sustainable. The point I was going to make-I do not wish to cast aspersions on the local Scottish population, as I am sure they would not get engaged in this-is that there are all sorts of pressure groups of various kinds, and you could see the Scottish Government being in a position in which they say, "Well, we tried to live up to our obligations, but it is just very difficult," et cetera. It is difficult to see how it is sustainable. Equally, I agree with David-I have no inside information of any kind on this-that it is not at all obvious that there is an alternative site for a deterrent of the current kind.
Professor Sir David Omand: You have to add in geology, as well as the deep water and all the considerations of safety zones, and so on, that went into the choice of Coulport for weapons storage.
Q149 Rory Stewart: Bringing us on to a conventional example, since 2008 there has been a plan to close all the defence munitions sites in England, with the exception of Kineton of Warwickshire, and instead spread our risk by having our alternative defence munitions sites in Scotland. We were talking about risks, and given the possibility of Scottish independence, what would be your professional advice on whether it remains sensible for the British Government to push ahead with a plan to close defence munitions sites in England and assume that they will be able to spread their risk by having one site in Warwickshire and other sites in Scotland?
Sir Richard Mottram: I was not aware of that, but if I were still in the British Government, I would go a bit slow on that plan.
Q150 Rory Stewart: We have not touched on human intelligence and the problems of creating a Scottish external intelligence service-a Scottish equivalent of SIS. On a budget, presumably approximately 8% of that currently available to the British Government, is it really feasible to assume that the Scottish Government would be able to set up the full infrastructure for human intelligence gathering, for the training of their officers, for the running of their agents, for the operations of overseas stations, and for cryptography, to reinforce this?
Sir Richard Mottram: No, obviously not. There is a second question then, which is could they do anything? And the answer to that is yes, they could, because we can think of sister intelligence agencies-like, for example, in New Zealand-which are now part of Five Eyes, as David said, and which have a fairly narrow range of functions. I certainly do not wish to be disobliging about them in any way. They operate on quite a limited budget, and probably less than an assumption of 10% or 8% of the roughly £2 billion that we currently spend in the UK.
So yes, you can have something. It obviously will not bear any relationship to the scale of the network that is currently operated by SIS and the range of information that it derives.
Professor Sir David Omand: The smaller NATO allies-Norway and Denmark, for example-mostly maintain an external service and security services. They organise them in slightly different ways. As Richard says, they would not say that they are global services in the way in which SIS is.
Q151 Rory Stewart: We tend to assume that, for reasons of self-interest, the British Government would invest heavily in developing the capacity of the Scottish Government for these functions. We have largely assumed that on the basis of the way in which we treated Australia and Canada. Is it not possible that that history is to do with the history of the cold war and our particular Commonwealth or imperial relationships with those countries? If Scotland were to leave the realm of the United Kingdom in a more unpleasant way-the implication politically to Britain is not that this is some great ally to whom we have imperial obligations in the context of the cold war, but instead a country setting itself up self-consciously with different attitudes towards the United States and towards nuclear weapons, and setting itself up, as it were, as a form of Norway-is it not possible that there might not be the political will to devote the resources, time and energy to developing a Scottish intelligence security service?
Sir Richard Mottram: Well, I think if it was setting itself up as a form of Norway, the answer is that we would co-operate, because the UK Government has a very deep relationship with Norway that goes back a long time, including in all areas of defence and intelligence co-operation. So if it is Norway, fine.
Professor Sir David Omand: Norway spends a large proportion of its national income on defence.
Sir Richard Mottram: Your question was more about if it is not really like Norway. So if it set itself up, as it would have every right to do, with a different international orientation, which potentially created very significant difficulty in relation to the United States, then, as David said, I cannot think why the UK Government would facilitate such a process and underpin it. I would think that the UK Government would have a very narrow definition of what they would want to do. Where they had a direct interest in things such as counter-terrorism, yes, they would do something, because that was in their interests. Otherwise, they would probably be quite awkward.
Q152 Rory Stewart: Is it possible that setting up an independent security intelligence service is more difficult and more costly today than it was in the past? Is it that, in a sense, Norway, Canada and Australia had the advantage of setting up their institutions at a time when the costs were slightly more limited? The costs of technology and the expectations mean that the start-up costs-not the running costs-might be much more considerable than they would have been 50 or 60 years ago, meaning that they could pose a real barrier.
Professor Sir David Omand: I agree with that observation. The overheads would, of course, be high relative to the expenditure, as it were, on the front line-higher than they would be today in the case of the overall United Kingdom. So efficiency, as it were, would go down.
Sir Richard Mottram: This is partly because although we have an idea in relation to human intelligence and the domestic security services that they are people-based organisations, they are actually now massively information systems-based organisations. In a way, the key skill is information handling, and they have converged rather with the GCHQs of this world. Of course, the cost of the underlying technology in relation to something like GCHQ-I used to negotiate its budget-is somewhat eye-watering. This is the problem. It is not easy to put together something that is credible on the basis of just having a few people.
Q153 Rory Stewart: To conclude, so even if it were possible for the Scottish Government to afford the annual running costs of a reduced version, the potential costs of setting up from scratch a Scottish equivalent of GCHQ, SIS or the Security Service-without any real certainty of how much support and investment they would get from the United Kingdom or the United States to help them-could run into billions of pounds and have serious implications for the first months of that organisation.
Sir Richard Mottram: I would be cautious about that, because they would not do that, would they? Essentially, they would establish a very basic system, with a very limited set of aims which, for the reasons of economies of scale that we have discussed, would not be very efficient, and they would muddle through. The Government in the rest of the UK would focus on the things that had to be absolutely right. The interesting question would then be: is the capability that they created capable of underpinning the vision of the Scottish Government about Scotland’s place in the world? We have not talked about that, but there is a sort of paradox here. You could imagine a cheap and cheerful system that sustained a cheap and cheerful country, with very limited international ambition and very limited focus on the rest of the world, but that is not really Scotland’s history.
Professor Sir David Omand: Mike, that is exactly my fear-that a Scottish Government might decide that they did not want to make these investments, so overall security, on both sides of the border, as it were, would then diminish.
Q154 Sir John Stanley: If you were both individually charged with advising the British Government on the security risks to the UK of Scotland becoming an independent state, what would be the top risks that you would highlight?
Sir Richard Mottram: If one thinks about the current national security strategy and the tier 1 risks, the one to which we would potentially be much more vulnerable is in relation to counter-terrorism. Then there is a set of issues that is really about the capacity of the rest of the UK entity to sustain its contribution in international conflicts.
The issue for Ministers would really be: "You now have quite an awkward choice, because you’ve lost potentially up to 8% or 10% of your population, GDP or whatever. What are you going to do? Are you going to downscale your other capabilities?" Logically, if one believed that they were optimised-I do not necessarily do so, but leave that to one side-by downscaling them, you are increasing your vulnerability in relation to other risks in the national security strategy, including your capacity to contribute to dealing successfully with international conflict of various kinds.
Professor Sir David Omand: I agree with that. An independent Scotland would reduce the United Kingdom’s population back to where it was in about 1971. The United Kingdom would still be perfectly capable of looking after itself. The problem comes if Scotland becomes a weak link. Both in counter-terrorism and, I would say, in cyber-security, if that is the easy way into the United Kingdom, you have a net loss of security on both sides of the border. That would be my fear.
May I make a final point, which is to draw attention to the distinction between nationhood and statehood? We have been discussing an independent state for Scotland, but you could have an independent nation within a federated United Kingdom and avoid all the problems that we have been discussing this afternoon.
Chair: If you want to elaborate on that point in a letter, Sir David, we would be very interested to have it. Thank you both very much indeed. I am only sorry that the Division bell has curtailed proceedings. I think that we have finished the session, however, so I will not ask you to come back. On behalf of the Committee, thank you very much.