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Scottish Affairs Committee - Minutes of EvidenceHC 140-vi
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
Scottish Affairs Committee
THE REFERENDUM ON SEPARATION FOR SCOTLAND
Tuesday 9 July 2013
Evidence heard in Public Questions 3453 - 3580
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Taken before the Scottish Affairs Committee
on Tuesday 9 July 2013
Mr Ian Davidson (Chair)
Sir James Paice
Examination of Witness
Witness: George Grant, Associate Fellow, Henry Jackson Society, gave evidence.
Q3453 Chair: Welcome to this meeting of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee, Mr Grant. As you know, we are investigating the proposal for separation for Scotland. We have been covering a wide range of areas, as well as the processes involved in separation. We have had a particular focus on defence. In that context, we read your report with great interest. I am glad to see that you have brought a bundle of copies along with you, presumably suitably autographed, for those who do not already have one. Can I start by asking you to introduce yourself and to tell us about your background and why the Henry Jackson Society commissioned you to write your analysis of SNP defence policy for an independent Scotland?
George Grant: My name is George Grant and I am an associate fellow with the Henry Jackson Society. First, I thank you all for inviting me here today. My background is that I was a research fellow with HJS for a few years, until April last year, when I moved to Libya-I had done a lot of work on the conflict there-to help to set up a new newspaper as deputy editor. I was also the correspondent for The Times. Unfortunately, I was chased out of Libya, on account of an investigation I was doing, by some rather unpleasant people, so I came back to the UK. I have a background in defence analysis; I have done a fair bit of work on defence and strategic issues. Having returned to the UK, HJS asked me whether I would be interested in writing a report for it on this particular issue. I was very glad to do so.
Q3454 Chair: Fine. Apart from the criticisms from the SNP and their colleagues, which we will come to in a moment, how has the report generally been received? Are there any major criticisms that you now take on board, or points where you have thought, "Maybe I did get the balance wrong there"?
George Grant: Sincerely not. I have been very pleased by how positively the report has been received. I was very careful, in fact, to make sure that I sent it for review ahead of publication to a number of people from the political, military and academic fields, so that they could provide any criticism and constructive feedback ahead of publication. They did so. I should also state for the record that I sent a draft of the report to the SNP several weeks ahead of time.
I have actually been disappointed by their response. The issue is not that they are critical-they have every right to be-but their complete dismissal of the whole thing and all of its analysis and findings, which rather supposes that they want to send a message to the public that they believe that their defence strategy really is watertight, and that any criticism of it is unjustified or, worse, part of this thing they call project fear. I do not think that is a credible position to take.
Q3455 Chair: Can I come back to the first of the two categories, the outsiders, as it were-other groups or things like that? I just want to be clear that nothing has come forward that you regard as substantive criticism that does make you want to reflect. Is there anything where there is clearly a division of opinion between yourself and the people who have responded?
George Grant: No, not that I have been made aware of.
Q3456 Chair: Okay. You can understand why we want to clarify that. Can I come back to the question of the SNP’s response, on the issue of procedure? You sent them a draft of the report several weeks in advance.
George Grant: Yes.
Q3457 Chair: Did they respond to that, or did they respond only once the document was published?
George Grant: They responded only once the document was published. I sent them the document, first, because I would have welcomed any constructive feedback from them. It was, in fact, my explicit intention not to try to take the hatchet to the SNP with this report. I am fully aware of how politicised this debate is-how easy it is to be written off as pro-Union or pro-independence. I was very keen to be neither. I think the strength of criticism within my report for the SNP’s proposals is a sincere reflection of my view that they really are quite severely lacking, but I would have welcomed some constructive feedback from the SNP.
The second reason I sent it to them, of course, was because I was very keen to get SNP representation on the panel for the launch that we did in Edinburgh on 2 July. Angus Robertson, the SNP defence spokesman, had agreed to be interviewed for the report but made it fairly clear that he was not going to be part of the panel debate. In fact, I pretty much offered to organise that debate around his schedule. SNP central, as it were, were also informed so they could send a replacement, but they never did.
Chair: That is interesting, because we find ourselves in the same position. There is an SNP member of the Committee who never turns up and has never participated in any of the discussions that we have had about defence. Obviously they have decided, as you say, that withdrawal from the argument is a better position to take.
We are going to raise a number of areas with you. It would probably be helpful if, as we go, you raise any points that the SNP made that you think were constructive or positive or had some merit, rather than our asking you for a list of those at the beginning. I also ought to say now that at the end we will give you the opportunity to raise any additional points that you want to make that you feel we have not covered.
Q3458 Sir James Paice: Good afternoon, Mr Grant. Thank you very much for what I think is an extremely good analysis of the situation. Congratulations on that. Can I ask you about something that probably matters as much to those of us who represent English constituencies as it does to Scotland-the division of assets? The report makes the point, which seems to be generally accepted, that we are looking at something like £7.8 billion being Scotland’s share of the £92 billion for the whole of the UK. However, you make the point in your report that "the SNP may agree to some form of financial settlement that would see Scotland fairly compensated for its contribution-whilst it had been part of the UK-towards assets which it would not inherit come independence." Can you clarify that-in as much as you can clarify what the SNP mean by it? What was your interpretation of what that meant, bearing in mind that the reverse would also then be the case-that, presumably, the remainder of the UK would be able to claim compensation for those bits that it did not keep, if that happened?
George Grant: Certainly. This was one of those parts of the report where I was, in fact, trying to be as constructive as possible about the SNP’s proposals, because of what I felt was the somewhat opportunist response of people such as Philip Hammond and Liam Fox in just saying that you can’t have one eighth of an aircraft carrier, or half a submarine, or whatever it was. Clearly that is not what the SNP mean. What they mean is that Scotland, as part of the UK, has contributed x amount to the upkeep of the armed forces but there are assets that it would not wish to inherit, such as the nuclear submarines and the aircraft carriers, and it would therefore want some form of financial remuneration instead of the physical assets. That is what I understood the SNP to mean by that.
Q3459 Sir James Paice: What is your reaction to that?
George Grant: I think that it is certainly a fairly reasonable starting point for negotiations.
Q3460 Sir James Paice: But are you assuming that it would take its £7.8 billion-worth of assets? In other words, if Scotland got its £7.8 billion-worth of assets, which is 8.4% of £92 billion-and granted that that does not mean a bit of a ship or a bit of tank-is there any justification, based on that split, for Scotland seeking compensation for the fact that it did not get an aircraft carrier or, obviously, part of Trident?
George Grant: As I said, as a starting point in negotiations I think it probably is reasonable. If Scotland were to become independent, the question of the financial settlement would encompass a whole range of issues, not just the armed forces. This would be just one of several things it would be negotiating. If Scotland is not going to inherit certain assets, and it is quite clear that it is not, obviously there has to be some other mechanism by which it feels that it will be recognised for its contribution. I do not see that as a bad starting point for negotiations.
One of the issues I would have, of course, is that the armed forces cannot just be divvied up in that very simplistic way. That is where the criticism that the Defence Secretary made-in a very simplistic way-has some merit, because these things are built up as an integrated whole. As I said, I think there will be an awful lot of that. The UK will turn round and say, "You might want that, and you might be entitled to that, but it will be very difficult for us if you take it." An independent Scottish Government might say, "Okay, so what are you going to give us in return?"
Q3461 Sir James Paice: I follow your argument, but I am slightly unclear as to what justification there could be for their asking for compensation, if they got their fair share of the assets in value terms?
George Grant: If they got their fair share in value terms, there would not be one.
Q3462 Sir James Paice: That is my point.
George Grant: What I am saying is that I think it is exceedingly unlikely that they would just be given 8.4% of the physical assets-because, as I said, they are bound up as an integrated whole. I have very little doubt that you would struggle to break it down in such a clear way.
Q3463 Sir James Paice: Okay. Can we take it on to the impact of the choices they would then make as to what individual UK assets they would take, whether that would be ships, fast jets or even force numbers, and the impact that might have on an independent Scotland’s defence budget of £2.5 billion? How much impact on that budget do you think would result from the choices they made regarding their share of the assets?
George Grant: We are putting the cart before the horse a little bit here. This is one of the big problems with their defence strategy, such as it is. I do not think it is particularly useful to go about saying, "I want to have that, that, that, that and that," without giving any clear reasons for why you would need those things. You have to define what sort of country you are going to be in the world, what your foreign policy objectives will be, what you think the risks to your national security would be and-this is a really important point-what prioritisation you will give to certain things.
Once you have done that and, secondly, once you have worked out what your limitations are in economic and geographical terms, you can start saying, "Having considered all of that, this is what we would want and this is what we would not want." I do not get a sense that the SNP have done that particularly. They have just said, "We would want conventional submarines. We would want fast jets. We would want to have 15,000 men," but I do not really see quite why they would want those things. I do not think they have been clear on that point.
Q3464 Sir James Paice: Do I conclude from that that you think the £2.5 billion defence budget that is part of their claim is in itself a false figure, because until we know what they want to do, and with what, it cannot be an accurate figure?
George Grant: Precisely.
Q3465 Sir James Paice: So that could be dramatically out. I do not want to put words in your mouth, but are we talking half what it could be or double what it could be?
George Grant: It all depends on what they would actually want to do, what sort of assets they think they would require to do that, and what they would be willing to pay for those things. On the face of it, it looks reasonable. I think this is what the SNP’s defence strategy all boils down to. On the face of it, £2.5 billion looks reasonable. I calculated that it is about 1.7% of Scottish GDP; the NATO average is about 1.6%. On that basis, you could say that it is reasonable, but personally I would criticise countries generally-not just an independent Scotland, or the SNP-for doing this. I think that the UK has been slightly guilty of not having a proper national strategy either-but that is a totally different question, for a different time. I think that is the wrong way to go about it, so I do think it is an arbitrary figure.
Q3466 Sir James Paice: It seems to underlie your comments so far that you just do not think that the SNP have really thought through-or, at least, made clear publicly-what their policies would be and, therefore, what assets they would want and so on. Do you think they know themselves and have chosen not to disclose it, or do you think that it is a very unthought-out situation?
George Grant: In my view, the central problem with the SNP’s defence strategy is not that they have sought to deliver a properly thought-through defence strategy that nevertheless has some deficiencies, but rather that they have put forward a series of suggestions designed to help win the independence referendum, as opposed to actually defend Scotland. That is the central conclusion of my report.
Sir James Paice: I think that covers the question.
Q3467 Chair: Can I come back to the question of assets? You divide assets into fixed assets and, as it were, moveable assets. Clearly tanks can be allocated according to negotiations, but bases, in a sense, cannot. If we assume for a moment that it is not the UK Government’s intention, as I understand it, to share bases, is it a reasonable starting point to assume that each country-the UK and a separate Scotland-would inherit those bases that were in its territory and would be allocated the sunk costs, as it were, associated with those bases? For example, the Faslane and Coulport facilities, into which huge amounts of money have already been sunk, would be assessed as being allocated to a separate Scotland and would count on its side of the ledger. Similarly, bases in Portsmouth and elsewhere in the rest of the UK would be allocated to the UK’s side of the ledger. Would doing that not mean that Scotland was to some extent handicapped by the disproportionate amount of sunk costs in Faslane and Coulport?
George Grant: I think that as a starting point for negotiations that is not an unreasonable position. I hate to be coy about this, but it is not my job to try to presuppose what the negotiating position of the British Government or an independent Scottish Government should be if independence were to come about; it is simply to look at the feasibility of what the SNP have proposed. They have not really given any serious mention at all to this. I think this is all something that would be bound up in the negotiations.
Q3468 Sir James Paice: Does the asset register include values for these bases? Does the £92 billion for the UK’s defence assets that is in the national asset register include what the Chairman has referred to as the sunk costs?
George Grant: I believe it does, but I am not certain of that.
Q3469 Chair: In terms of experience elsewhere-any other occasion when discussions like this have arisen-is there a reasonable precedent for the physical bases being allocated on the basis of where they are, the moveable assets being shifted about, and the sunk costs being taken into account, or has nothing like this ever happened before, in your understanding?
George Grant: There are various different examples that one could give. Take the collapse of the Soviet Union. My understanding there is that, basically, whatever was in the countries at the time the Soviet Union came to an end was then inherited by those countries. Of course, that was rather unfortunate for what became the Russian Federation, because obviously a lot of its most advanced kit was on what was then its frontier.
I am not entirely sure how useful it is to compare something like that with what would happen come independence for Scotland. I think these are issues that would be negotiated in a much more sensible manner than that. As I said, ultimately it comes down to the fact that there is a fair point to be made that Scotland has contributed its share of £7.8 billion to the £92 billion-worth of assets. It would not take all of those mobile assets, and I can see the UK wanting to make use of some of the physical assets that would remain in Scotland; I am thinking in particular of the airfields. These are all things that would be up for negotiation. As for what is reasonable and unreasonable on the specifics, I am not in a position to speculate.
Q3470 Chair: Is it reasonable for us to expect these questions to be clarified when the SNP-or rather, the Scottish Government-produce their White Paper on the impact of separation, or is this something that we will never know until the negotiations actually begin?
George Grant: I suspect that what would come out of negotiations would be very different from any proposal going in. I was going to come back to this at the end, but the most important thing for the White Paper, as far as I am concerned, would be a little bit more clarity on just what you want all this stuff for. It comes back to the first point about having a proper national strategy. I am not so worried about specific detail such as what type of rifle and what bullets you are going to use. You can get to that detail once you have answered the big questions, but we are not even getting to these big questions.
I think they will be hamstrung, however, given that they have already set out a lot of headline policy positions such as, "We will have 15,000 men," "We will have a defence budget of £2.5 billion," and, "We will have conventional submarines". I imagine that the contents of their White Paper will just be an attempt to justify those positions, so I do not really know quite how much it will advance the debate, given that I am not entirely sure that some of those positions, when taken all together, can be justified.
Q3471 Lindsay Roy: We have all of that, yet if I read you aright, I think you are saying that there is a vacuum in terms of foreign policy. Would you like to elaborate on that?
George Grant: I am sorry-can you repeat the question?
Q3472 Lindsay Roy: We have all the details about submarines and so on, yet you are saying that there is a vacuum in foreign policy.
George Grant: Yes.
Q3473 Lindsay Roy: What would you expect to be in a foreign policy?
George Grant: Again, I am slightly loth to try to say what the SNP’s defence strategy should be; that is not my role. The headline positions that they have taken are that Scotland would be a much more regionally focused power-that it would be focused on the north European neighbourhood and so forth. All those things are fine, and the SNP have said that.
Where I think there is an issue is that there has been absolutely no effort made at prioritisation. You are asking me what their foreign policy should be. Some of the big issues would include: would Scotland seek to be proactively involved in UN peacekeeping operations or would it limit itself to disaster relief and so forth? Such questions will obviously impact on what sort of defence force you have. It is not really my position to say that it would be more sensible for an independent Scotland to take one of those positions or the other.
Q3474 Lindsay Roy: But you would expect a foreign policy and a defence policy to be aligned.
George Grant: Well, you would expect the foreign policy and the defence policy of the United Kingdom to be aligned, although I am not sure that they always are, but yes, I think that has to be the starting point. Unless you have a clear national strategy that starts by saying what sort of country you want to be in the world, what you think the risks to your national security are going to be and what you actually want to do, I do not believe that you can have a sensible conversation about the sorts of military assets that you want.
Q3475 Lindsay Roy: What information were you hoping to find from the SNP in their response?
George Grant: The purpose of this report was to advance the public debate and to continue a dialogue. I would have welcomed a little bit more of a constructive debate on the issue of NATO membership, for instance. As I said, really they have just tried to write the whole thing off, which I do not think is particularly helpful.
Q3476 Lindsay Roy: So they have been very defensive, if you will pardon the pun.
George Grant: Very defensive, yes.
Q3477 Lindsay Roy: Why should the SNP decide on foreign policy now?
George Grant: I think the important issue is that voters should have a clear idea of what it is that they are voting for; that is essentially the point. That is why I say that I do not think it is so important that we know the detail about every type of rifle and every type of bullet that a Scottish defence force might require. The SNP seem to think that, because those are the sexy issues, it is almost more important to say, "We want to have submarines and fast jets." I think that the most important thing is that voters know more or less what the likely outcome would be for Scotland. That is why I think it is important that the SNP give a little bit more clarity ahead of the referendum than they have done to date.
Q3478 Lindsay Roy: How would the threats and risks to an independent Scotland differ from those to the rest of the UK?
George Grant: This is an enormous question. I am not geared up in the report to provide a full risk assessment for an independent Scotland.
Q3479 Lindsay Roy: Can you give us a summary of some key points?
George Grant: Yes. I have looked at the risks that the UK believes it is likely to face and taken some of the points that the SNP have made, particularly relating to cyber-security, terrorism and so forth. It is my conclusion that many of the risks that the UK currently faces would not be diminished in an independent Scotland in the way that some people think they would.
A specific example is the issue of terrorism. There seems to be a view that is quite widely held that the terrorist threat to the United Kingdom is directly related to the UK’s overseas foreign policy and that an independent Scotland, by virtue of dissociating itself from that foreign policy, would automatically be at reduced risk, or threat, from terrorism. I think that there is a case that foreign policy will be a contributing factor-although I certainly do not think that nations should alter their foreign policy based on how likely they think it is to provoke a violent response from individuals-but it is pretty simplistic just to assume that the terrorist threat to Scotland would be significantly lower by virtue of its being an independent country.
Q3480 Lindsay Roy: If you will bear with me, I will use the analogy of a jigsaw. What you are saying, in effect, is that some of the corner bits and side bits are missing and that we have other pieces that we do not know exactly where to slot in. Would that be a fair assessment?
George Grant: Yes, I suppose so, if you want to put it like that.
Q3481 Chair: Can I clarify how the SNP responded to your criticisms of their line on foreign policy?
George Grant: They did not.
Q3482 Chair: So they did not respond at all to that.
George Grant: No.
Q3483 Chair: So, in a sense, you did not have a response to their response, since they did not make one.
George Grant: Correct.
Q3484 Chair: Can I go back a step, then, to the asset register and related matters-the division of assets? What was their response to your coverage of those points?
George Grant: They are very fond of talking about the national asset register. Their response was: "The Henry Jackson Society…report makes no mention of the billions of pounds of assets, both in defence and in security. According to the most recent National Asset Register the UK’s defence assets were worth £92bn. Scotland’s 8.4% population share being worth £7.8bn". That was their criticism. This was clearly wide of the mark because, as you will have read in the report, I quote Angus Robertson making precisely this point, which led on to where we started with all this-whether or not it would be sensible to take a wholesale 8.4% share, or the financial remuneration, or whatever else would be the outcome of negotiations. So that was just incorrect.
Chair: We now turn to the question of NATO.
Q3485 Sir James Paice: Before we do that, could I stick to the issue of foreign policy-or threats, rather-particularly the point you make about cyber-threats? Your report refers to the Estonia experience. Can you elaborate for us on what difference whether Scotland is within the UK or not would make, in your perception, to the threat of cyber-attack on Scotland?
George Grant: You need to divide this out into various different areas. Cyber-attack is the deliberate malicious targeting of a state’s, generally critical, national infrastructure by another state or group. GCHQ is clearly integral to the fight against that. I think it would be very difficult for an independent Scotland to replicate that. On that issue, I am very clear in the report that it would really struggle.
Secondly, you have highlighted the point about Estonia. My point there was that, unlike in conventional military terms, where states can rely on other states to protect them from bigger powers-indeed, that is the whole raison d’être of NATO-that is not the case in the cyber-security arena. Estonia is a member of NATO. Had there been a conventional attack, article 5 of the Washington Treaty, which says that an attack on one is an attack on all, could have been invoked. As it was, Estonia was not even able to prove that Russia was responsible. I think I mention in the report that it managed to bring a prosecution against one individual about eight months later, and charged him 830 quid. So you are on your own.
That is the first thing-that is what people generally think about with cyber-attacks. The UK has invested an awful lot in this and is doing a huge amount. I know that GCHQ is engaging quite closely with the universities. However, there is what we would refer to as cyber-security more generally, which can be anything as simple as not leaving your laptop on a train to be picked up, or ensuring that when you upload your data on to the internet you do so in a way that is secure. Clearly these are issues on which Scotland would be able to develop a perfectly workable cyber-security strategy to minimise such threats. There will obviously be businesses that can provide cyber-security services to private individuals, businesses, companies and so forth. I cannot see any particular reason why Scotland could not do that.
However, the most important issue, which overarches all of this, and which I had not fully appreciated before I embarked on the research for this report, is the issue of scale. What I mean by that is the enormous difficulty that all states have in recruiting the requisite number of cyber-security experts. I mentioned in the report one of the experts I spoke to, who does a lot of work on trying to improve resilience in industrial control systems. In a country of 64 million people-the UK-there are just a handful who can do that. It was estimated that in 2010 just 1,000 people existed in the whole of the United States with the requisite skills for work in cyber-security, when they reckoned that they needed between 20,000 and 30,000. So it is an enormous issue, which all countries are struggling with. Certainly the view of the cyber-security experts I spoke to was that, by logical deduction, a country of just 5 million would therefore struggle even more.
Q3486 Sir James Paice: Can I come back to your point about GCHQ? Is there any reason why an independent Scotland could not continue to shelter under GCHQ?
George Grant: Yes, there is a very good reason, which is that nations are not in the business of just sharing their intelligence with other countries. That is something the SNP have said repeatedly. I mention in the report Baroness Ramsay, who is a respected former MI6 officer, now a Labour peer; I spoke to a couple of others who were not on the record. They were all very clear that this is a fundamental misunderstanding of how intelligence sharing works. Countries do not just hand intelligence over. There would be no privileged relationship for Scotland. Countries will share intelligence only when it is in their interests to do so. There may be many instances when the UK will deem it sensible to inform Scotland of these things, but it will not have automatic access to that intelligence. It does not happen anywhere in the world and I do not see why it would happen between the UK and an independent Scotland.
Q3487 Sir James Paice: Thank you very much. Can I move us on to the issue we have been slightly skirting round, which is NATO, or potential membership of NATO? In your report you make it clear that you see an inconsistency between the SNP’s attitude to nuclear weapons and their potential application to join NATO as an independent country. In their response they make the point that a large number of NATO members are non-nuclear. How do you react to that?
George Grant: My reaction is that in the report I spent a large amount of time explaining the difference at some length, which they have clearly chosen to ignore completely. There are several issues here, the first of which is that what the SNP are trying to do, they are trying to do unilaterally. There are other countries in NATO-specifically Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey-that have US nuclear weapons on their soil. I know of at least three of those-Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands-that have stated their desire to divest themselves of those weapons, but they have all agreed that to do so they must have the agreement of all 28 member states. That is the first point.
The second point is that although there are countries such as Norway that are anti-nuclear in principle, the SNP’s posture would, as I have said, have very practical ramifications. If you say you are against something in principle and you do not have any bombs, that is fine-it is a principled position-but this would have actual strategic consequences.
The third thing-this is one of the big issues-is the whole issue of docking in Scottish ports. There was some dispute about this among the SNP. Alex Salmond said one thing in interview; Angus Robertson said something else. However, when I made specific inquiries to Angus Robertson’s office, his special adviser sent me the transcript of an interview that Mr Robertson had given-to BBC Scotland, I think. I took it that it was fairly clear that they were very happy with that response. He said: "as a sovereign state: will we have nuclear weapons based in our country? [Will we] host them, or allow them to come to ports in Scotland? We don’t want that to happen. And, of course, that’s one of the great advantages of being a sovereign state…you can make these decisions." This is not a position held by any other NATO country. I think the strategic impact of trying to deny freedom of movement in that way would be extremely problematic.
In my report, I shied away from saying that Scotland therefore could not be in NATO; I am sure that you could negotiate these issues. I was interested to see that Stuart Crawford, who I believe has given evidence to this Committee, who wrote the foreword for my report, and who is certainly not known as the most virulent opponent of independence, has said on the record that he has spoken to American officials who have been quite clear that, on the SNP’s present trajectory, the US would veto Scottish entry to NATO. I cannot verify that, but that is what Stuart Crawford has said. He has said it publicly, and he repeated it at the launch of my report in Edinburgh on 2 July. So clearly there are some quite serious question marks around the SNP’s view that are disconcerting other members, not just the UK.
Q3488 Sir James Paice: I am still slightly puzzled about the issue of the existing member states who are non-nuclear. You gave a list of states, including Belgium and others, that have other NATO members’ nuclear weapons based on their territory, as the UK has weapons in Scotland. You then referred to Norway. However, are there not countries-in your report you refer to Greece and Canada-that have actually got rid of them and remain within NATO? I am struggling to see why Scotland cannot do that on independence.
George Grant: An independent Scotland has every right to do what it wants with regard to nuclear weapons. The point is whether NATO members would raise some fairly serious objections when Scotland came to submit its application. I think the important point here is that NATO operates on the basis of consensus: generally, one state does not make a very serious strategic decision like that without at least the tacit consent of other NATO member states. The big problem with the Scottish position is that they want to do it unilaterally.
You mentioned the cases of Greece and Canada, which I do raise in the report. There are similarities, but I do not think they can be used as proof-perfect precedents. In the case of Greece, those weapons were pulled out by the United States in 2001. That was done as part of America’s general draw-down of its nuclear weapons from Europe post the cold war. It was not forced on the US by demands from the Government in Athens, so that is quite different.
Canada is a really unique and interesting example. As I say in the report, it is one of the three countries that were part of the Manhattan project to build the bomb, along with Britain and America; nevertheless the Canadians chose not to have their own nuclear weapons capability. In 1963 they decided that they were going to acquire American weapons; that was a decision by their Government. Then, in 1984, they decided that they did not want those weapons any more. That is quite different from trying to impact fundamentally on the nuclear posture of another NATO member state.
The final point I would make on this-it is not a central point, but I think it is worth considering-is that all these other cases concern the United States of America, which has nuclear weapons based on a number of fronts. Even if one NATO member were unilaterally to decide that it was going to get rid of these things-as I said, I think they would not do that, and they have said they would not do it-it would not fundamentally compromise the overall United States nuclear deterrent. The difference here is that the UK has only one nuclear deterrent, which is based at Faslane. If, therefore, the whole negotiation about moving it is done in the wrong way, it could have very serious consequences.
I do not think it will be done in the wrong way. This is a point that I make in the report; I think that a lot of this is posturing for the sake of not disconcerting the SNP grass roots too much. I think that the SNP recognise as well as anyone how sensitive and serious these issues are, and that come independence, if independence were to come, they would negotiate this in a fairly sensible way-but they cannot be too accommodating in their public statements at the moment because historically they are an anti-nuclear party, which has taken a very strong view on this.
Q3489 Sir James Paice: If all this came to pass, how critical would it be for an independent Scotland to be in NATO-and for that matter, how critical would it be for NATO, particularly the UK, that Scotland was in NATO? Or would it actually not matter much to the rest of NATO whether Scotland was in or out?
George Grant: No. If we take the nuclear issue off the table completely and look just at the other things, I think there are very good geostrategic reasons why these countries would want Scotland in NATO and vice versa. In the report I mention some of them: its geographical location in the north Atlantic; the physical assets that it has; and the whole issue regarding radar. Those are just a few examples I give in the report of why other NATO members would want Scotland. Indeed, I am fairly sure that the SNP are being pretty open when they mention that other countries in NATO have had words with them and made it clear how important an issue this is, saying that they would like to see Scotland in NATO, and that they have revised their position accordingly. If I may say so, I think there is a large element of politics in it as well, in that they recognise that NATO membership is favoured by 70% of the Scottish electorate.
As for why Scotland would want to be in NATO, for all small countries-and even bigger countries such as the UK-it is the ultimate expression of collective defence. I am of the view that, although there are no existential threats to the UK or Scotland at this time, it is exceedingly foolish to calibrate your long-term defence posture on the basis that things will remain that way. It is notable that since the end of the second world war there has not been a single military conflict in which the United Kingdom has been engaged that was predicted beforehand. Secondly, why do we now have peace in Europe? It is in large part because of NATO and its ability to stand up to those threats. It was not the enlightened educational policies of Sweden and Switzerland that put a stop to a Soviet invasion of western Europe; it was NATO military hardware and the nuclear deterrent.
Q3490 Chair: Can I seek clarification on two or three points, and on the SNP’s reaction to your report? You said, unless I am mistaken, that Germany, Turkey, Belgium and the Netherlands all had US nuclear weapons on their soil, that they all wanted to get rid of them-
George Grant: I did not say that Turkey does. My understanding is that Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands have said that. Maybe Turkey has, but I am not aware that it has.
Q3491 Chair: Okay, but they have American nuclear weapons on their territory. As individual countries, they want to get rid of them, but it has been agreed that there has to be a consensus and no consensus exists. I want you to clarify by whom a consensus has to be achieved, because effectively that gives any one member of NATO a veto over anything happening in any of the other countries.
George Grant: Sure. I am not an expert on the internal procedures of NATO. Clearly consensus mainly means the acquiescence of the United States, as overwhelmingly the most important member of NATO. What would happen if all 28 member states said that they were happy for Belgium to remove its nuclear weapons, but Denmark, say, objected for some reason-although that would be fairly unlikely? I am not aware of the minutiae of how those negotiations work, but I imagine that they are dictated in large part by the desires of the United States, as overwhelmingly the most important member of NATO. The United States has made it very clear privately that it is very, very worried about the SNP’s current nuclear posture.
Q3492 Chair: I understand that; it reflects what I have been hearing as well. However, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands would ultimately have the right, presumably, to demand that those weapons left, even if that meant that they were expelled from NATO.
George Grant: Of course.
Q3493 Chair: So Scotland might very well have a choice whereby removal of Trident and membership of NATO were mutually incompatible, but it would still have that choice, and there would be no difficulty in exercising it.
George Grant: Absolutely. I will just say this in defence of the SNP’s position. I do not think that those two things have to be mutually incompatible; I just think it is a question of the way that it is done and the time frame within which it is done-not least because I cannot envisage a situation in which the UK would wish its independent nuclear deterrent to be based indefinitely in a foreign country. I am fairly sure that it would want to bring it south of the border, if it decided that it wanted to continue with it. As I said, it is a question of how it is done; it is a question of timing and a question of-
Q3494 Chair: Can I seek clarification on the question of timing? We have produced a report, "Terminating Trident-Days or Decades", of which you are aware, in which it is identified. Is there any reason why the SNP should not clarify now which of those extremes they favour, and outline to people in Scotland what line they are likely to pursue? At the moment they are saying nothing at all; effectively they are just saying that they want to move it out as quickly as possible, but safely. That could mean anything, since the definition of "safely" depends on the observer. Presumably "safely" to the United Kingdom would mean continuous at-sea deterrence, but it might not mean that to Scotland. Is it not reasonable that people should expect in the SNP’s paper, which is due in November or so, a clear statement of how quickly they would intend to have nuclear weapons removed?
George Grant: I think it is a reasonable position for people to expect that. I would be surprised if there were one, however, because in my view the answer to your question about why the SNP have been so coy on this is that they are fully aware that it would take many, many years to move it. That is not because in theory it cannot be moved very quickly; in this report I quote Lord West, whom I interviewed, who said that theoretically, if you were willing to enact emergency primary legislation, override local planning laws, spend billions of pounds and almost certainly lose the next general election, you could move it south within a matter of months, but that will not happen in practice.
I think that the SNP are fully aware that this is just one of many issues that they would need to negotiate with the UK, that as the smaller power-the demandeur, as it were-they will have a weaker hand, and that they have very little interest in totally poisoning the negotiating environment by trying to force the UK’s hand on this Trident issue, quite apart from all the NATO stuff we have already talked about, which would be yet another thing that would concern them. However, they are a party that until not so long ago said that it would want the immediate removal of Trident from Scotland, that has been a very anti-nuclear party and that held to the position that NATO membership was incompatible, from a moral perspective, with being an anti-nuclear country; a lot of their grass roots still hold quite firmly to those old positions. I think they have already aggravated many of their grass roots quite severely with the reversal of their position on NATO and they do not want to come out and say, "You think that a vote for Scottish independence is a vote for the removal of Trident. Actually, it will probably be here for a decade or more." That would be a very politically difficult thing for them to do, particularly with regard to their own base, and that is why, I think, they are not saying anything.
Q3495 Chair: If what you say is true-that they know that, realistically, they will have to retain Trident for at least a decade-it is a totally dishonest perspective for them to go before the Scottish electorate in a referendum suggesting that they would remove Trident if not in days, at least in a matter of weeks or months. I know that politicians are meant to be dishonest and all that, but surely this just about takes the biscuit for blatant dishonesty.
George Grant: You might very well think that; I couldn’t possibly comment.
Q3496 Chair: Could I clarify one point about NATO that Keith Brown made when he was in front of the Defence Select Committee? He indicated that in his view Scotland would not automatically be a member of NATO but would have to apply. Is that your view of the situation? As you know, they are arguing a different position in relation to the European Union.
George Grant: Yes, it is absolutely my position that they would have to apply to NATO.
Q3497 Chair: Going back to nuclear weapons, if the SNP chose in a new Scottish constitution to introduce a ban on nuclear weapons, how would that impact on negotiations with the rest of the UK, the United States and NATO?
George Grant: As I said, I think it depends on how the whole thing is done. They are quite within their rights to say that they want a ban on nuclear weapons, that they do not want them on their soil and that they want Trident removed. As I said, I think that if they did that in such a way as to impact substantively on the strategic capabilities of the UK and its nuclear deterrent, certainly in the short term, it would be frowned upon quite seriously by both the UK and the United States. It is quite within the rights of a sovereign Scottish Government to take those decisions; I just think that it would very much compromise their aspirations for NATO membership.
Q3498 Chair: You have just touched on the fact that they would have to apply to NATO, rather than being in it automatically. What do you think the reaction of the other members of NATO to that application is likely to be when we have the whole question of what is going to happen to Trident unsettled, presumably, at the time of application?
George Grant: Again we are drifting far into the realms of speculation. I am reluctant to try to presuppose what the SNP’s negotiating position would be and the circumstances in which they would submit an application for NATO membership, but I think it would be quite difficult to submit a credible application for NATO membership without first indicating to everyone’s satisfaction exactly how the whole nuclear issue would be resolved, given how important the nuclear deterrent is to NATO and its strategic concept. I do not think that you could go in half-cocked on this.
Q3499 Chair: Presumably the key phrase there is "to everyone’s satisfaction".
George Grant: Indeed.
Q3500 Chair: Can I explore further, because I am not sure I understand this entirely, the idea of Scotland saying that it would not allow NATO vessels or planes to arrive in its ports or at its airfields if they were carrying nuclear weapons? Surely there are some other countries that have said that as well. Perhaps they operate a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy; perhaps the United States has vessels that carry nuclear weapons visiting their shores but, since they are not asked, there is no breaking of any policy. Given that Scotland has said that it intends to refuse these, presumably it will have to ask. Presumably that policy just cannot be applied.
George Grant: I agree. "Don’t ask, don’t tell" was the point that Alex Salmond laid out. He said that obviously it is a moot point, because there would be a "don’t ask, don’t tell" policy, but that seems to be contradicted by what Angus Robertson subsequently said about the fact that they wouldn’t want these vessels docking in their ports. I agree that if you are going to have that policy, you need to know whether vessels are carrying nuclear weapons. That is something that the SNP would have to resolve.
Q3501 Chair: Presumably that is something that we could reasonably expect the SNP to clarify in their statement in November.
George Grant: Yes, I would sincerely hope so.
Q3502 Jim McGovern: Thanks for coming along, Mr Grant. I would like to move on to the subject of a Scottish defence force, which is quite well covered in your report. The SNP criticised the part of your report about the size and make-up of a separate Scottish army. Your report seems to indicate that between them the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards, the Scots Guards and the five battalions of the other regiment would comprise something like 4,500, which would be a third of their total armed forces personnel, according to the SNP. How do you react to their response? They seem to be saying that you have misunderstood their policy.
George Grant: No, they said that that I had misunderstood their policy regarding endorsing the Hawk as a fast jet that can do quick reaction alert. They have very clearly misunderstood that, because Angus Robertson said that to me, and I have him on record doing so. I do not think they said I had misunderstood their policy on the personnel count for the defence force, unless I have missed something.
Q3503 Jim McGovern: Maybe I have misunderstood their response, but certainly that is the way I picked it up.
George Grant: I am just looking through their response now. They do not mention specifically my criticism of the size of the army within the overall make-up of their defence force. That was the substance of my criticism.
Q3504 Jim McGovern: You also quote Philip Hammond, who said that, based on what he calls the tooth-to-tail ratio-support forces as compared with fighting units-14,000 of the 15,000 that the SNP have said would comprise a Scottish defence force would be needed to support it, which would leave a fighting force of 1,000.
George Grant: For an air force and a navy, yes. That is why I think that this is fairly inconsistent with what a Scottish defence force would actually need and what is realistic. I am certainly not alone in thinking that.
Q3505 Jim McGovern: You may be aware that I am the MP for Dundee West. Most people in Tayside and Fife have a link to the Black Watch, which was changed from a regiment to 3 Scots, as it is now called-the 3 Scots Black Watch. It would probably be quite a vote catcher for the SNP to say, "We will reinstate the Black Watch as a regiment." Other communities throughout Scotland would probably say, "Bring back our regiments as well." Do you think that is feasible?
George Grant: I certainly think that you can put a cap badge on anything, drape it in tartan and call it what you want. Whether that would bear any resemblance to what the Black Watch is currently is quite a different question. The problem is that they have mentioned their commitment to restoring all the Scottish regiments. As I say in the report, they are not clear about exactly what that would mean and how far back you would go. You can go all the way back to the 1881 order of battle.
Q3506 Jim McGovern: You have anticipated my next question. How far back have they set out?
George Grant: They have not been clear on this. Even if you just took all the Scottish regiments as they are currently-at least, what you can identify as Scottish named regiments-you would end up with this figure for your army of 14,000, out of a total proposed defence force of 15,000. I think that it is a piece of political posturing. As you have said, it would be very politically difficult for them to say that in the armed forces of an independent Scotland these historic regiments would be either reduced or dismantled-but I do not see that you could keep anything like as many of them in terms of personnel as exist at present. However, you can certainly rebadge something and call it what you want. So they can call their regiment the Black Watch, but I do not think that it would necessarily bear any resemblance to what we have now.
Q3507 Jim McGovern: But they could say, "We’ll have 15,000 personnel and just make smaller units. The Black Watch regiment will be 500 people," or something like that.
George Grant: But that is not a regiment. Do you know what I mean? But if they think the important thing is just to have something that is called the Black Watch, they can do that.
Q3508 Jim McGovern: I do agree with you; I am kind of playing devil’s advocate here. The media seized upon your interviews with armed forces personnel about whether they would choose to leave the British armed forces and join a Scottish army. What sort of responses did you get when you conducted these interviews?
George Grant: This was obviously something the media picked up on very heavily in their coverage of my report, which was fine. However, as I emphasised in the report, I was unable to get what I would call a fully empirical data set-that is, a broad survey interviewing several hundred service personnel, so that you could really get something scientific. Heaven knows, I tried all sorts of devious methods to do so, but unfortunately I was thwarted at each attempt.
Q3509 Jim McGovern: Thwarted by whom?
George Grant: Indirectly, by the Ministry of Defence. I do not blame them particularly, because obviously this is such a political hot potato. I approached various officers and said, "Look, I’ve got this survey." Every time I was told, "This is very interesting. We would certainly like to help, but this is a very political question. MOD is quite clear that we do not want to get too much into something where we can be used as a political football." I can understand that. However, I was able to speak to as many Scottish service personnel as possible and to ask them, where possible, to ask their men for their views.
The point is that, although that was more anecdotal and it was not a fully empirical data set, its inclusion in the report was merited by the near-unanimous response that the view in the regiment was that this was not something that most people would want. Had I felt that it was just a bit of an anomaly-a bit of pot luck that I have all those guys who happened to say this, but in fact there are thousands more who would say the exact opposite-I would not have included it in the report, but it was pretty well the unanimous response that that was the case.
Q3510 Jim McGovern: When you say that this is anecdotal, I imagine it was a two-way street, and that the people you did manage speak to, where you were not thwarted, probably asked you questions as well. What sort of questions were you asked?
George Grant: They would say to me, "Look, the big problem is that we don’t know what this defence force would be for." I am not the only one who says that there has not been any clarity on this: that is the view of serving personnel. They say, "That’s the first issue-we don’t know what it’s for. A second issue-this is certainly the view of our men-is that we imagine these would be much less mobile, active and deployed armed forces. That is not what most of our guys signed up for." You can take it still further in the case of much more asset-intensive service arms such as the Royal Air Force. Scots who joined up to fly Eurofighters are certainly not going to want to transfer to a Scottish defence force.
Q3511 Jim McGovern: It has been said quite frequently that it would be like the Home Guard-not quite Dad’s Army, but the Home Guard.
George Grant: That is not a term I would use, but there is certainly a feeling in the armed forces that came across to me very clearly that they are concerned about this.
Q3512 Jim McGovern: Did it feel as if they had enough information to answer the questions that you were putting to them?
George Grant: Yes. The essential question that I put to them was, "If you were given the choice, would you wish to remain with the British armed forces or join the Scottish defence force?" As I said, pretty much the unanimous response was, "We would wish to remain with the British armed forces, and we think that most of our men would as well." I would then ask them why. I have given you some of the answers-first, that they were not sure what a Scottish defence force would be for, but secondly, that they thought it would be much less mobile, active and deployed. The British armed forces are among the most respected armed forces in the world. I think their feeling is that a Scottish defence force would not match that.
Q3513 Jim McGovern: You are talking about the British armed forces. You touched on this in one of your earlier answers, but were the interviews you managed to conduct with other service personnel as well as with those in the Army? For obvious reasons, the SNP concentrate on the Army, because there is this emotive subject of the Black Watch and historic regiments, but did you manage to speak to personnel in the RAF and the Royal Navy?
George Grant: As you have rightly said, the big problem here is that the only identifiable Scottish parts of the British armed forces are the Scottish regiments. The RAF probably has as many Scots in it as the British Army does, but it is not divided up in the same way. My focus was on what the SNP focused on, because my report is an assessment of SNP defence strategy, so it looks at the views of service personnel within the Scottish regiments. However, I was also able to speak to a few guys from the RAF. I do not think I had anyone from the Navy.
Q3514 Jim McGovern: When you say that overwhelmingly there were doubts and concerns about a Scottish defence force-
George Grant: What I just said was not true: I did have someone from the Navy, and they were very sceptical as well.
Q3515 Jim McGovern: So that would apply to the three parts of the armed forces.
George Grant: Yes-to those people I spoke to.
Q3516 Jim McGovern: Those you managed to speak to.
George Grant: Yes.
Q3517 Sir James Paice: You refer to the clear identity of the Scottish regiments. How do you read the SNP’s position on the issue of choice? Are you under the impression that the SNP just expect the Scottish regiments to transfer, or do they envisage a real choice being given to all the personnel and a complete reorganisation of both the UK Army and a new Scottish army?
George Grant: You are absolutely right to raise that concern in the second half of your question. How would this work in practice? If a quarter of a regiment says that it wants to transfer and the other three quarters do not, what do you do? Do you keep all those people there, or do you just move them across and rebadge? As I said, they would have the naming rights for a given regiment, but an awful lot of the actual personnel who had previously served in that regiment would stay with the British armed forces. It is an immensely complicated question, because the British armed forces have not been designed to be divvied up in that way. That being said, the position that the SNP have given is that service personnel would be given choice.
Q3518 Chair: Is it reasonable for us to expect the SNP in their White Paper to tell us which regiments they would intend to resurrect, and what size these regiments would be? In a lot of what we are exploring, we are trying to make sure that people in Scotland know what they are voting for in a referendum-that they are not simply being asked to vote for a pig in a poke. It seems to me that it is reasonable to ask the SNP to say, "The following six regiments will be resurrected."
As you said-we intend to take evidence on this-we do not yet know how far back the SNP intend to go. Rather than leave this hanging, presumably they would be able to tell us, first, what regiments they intend to resurrect or introduce, and secondly, what they understand a regiment to be, in the sense of personnel. I very much take your point-which I have heard a couple of times before-that they could presumably rebadge a platoon as the Black Watch, a platoon as the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, and so on. It is then a question of what meets the objective that they have outlined of resurrecting Scotland’s traditional regiments. Are there any acceptable reasons why they could not do that for their paper in November?
George Grant: As I have said on several occasions so far in this session-I hate to sound like a scratched record-the first question they need to answer is "Why?" That is the problem. This is the whole issue with my criticism of their statements on the regiments. I think that it is just a political statement; it is just politically important for them to say that we will have these iconic regiments. They have not really given any clear idea of exactly why you would want to have that number of people.
I certainly do think that it would be sensible for them to clarify exactly how many men they would want. They have tried to do so already by saying that they want 15,000, but they have come unstuck because they do not give any real reason why they would want the different things within that. Consequently, when you tot up what it would mean numerically to have all the Scottish regiments, as they say they do, you find that it does not match the overall figure. I completely agree that it is something that they should include in their White Paper, but until they have given some clarity on exactly what will be the national strategy that should precede and guide those decisions, I think that that would just be a more detailed example of the same problem they have at present.
Q3519 Chair: But they would have the right-even though it might not be desirable-to establish Scottish armed forces under separation in a way that was completely incoherent but which met a number of political objectives, such as so many regiments, so many aircraft and so many ships, even though it was not designed for any meaningful purpose. Those are observations that people can then draw from the perspective they put forward, but people in Tayside and Dundee need to know whether the SNP intend to retain the Black Watch, what size it would be, and then-this is Sir James Paice’s point-what would happen if three quarters, or 90%, of the Black Watch decided to stay in the British forces. I do not know whether there would be a one-person, one-vote decision about whether the Black Watch would move, or whether the title would move, the individuals would remain and the Black Watch would have to be re-recruited from fresh. It is a question of how much of that detail we could reasonably expect to have before the vote on the referendum.
George Grant: I think we need to be careful not to create straw men here just to knock them down. Theoretically, post independence the SNP could develop armed forces designed for political reasons as opposed to strategic ones. To give the SNP the benefit of the doubt, they have said that they feel their defence strategy is actually designed to defend Scotland. My criticism is, "Well, if that if that is the case, what you have at the moment clearly does not fulfil that." Of course they would have the right to develop those armed forces, but it is unlikely that they would do that post independence; I think that they would probably try to be a bit more realistic.
Where my main criticism comes in is that what they are proposing ahead of independence-armed forces that very much are politically designed-is not being straight with voters. For such a momentous decision, voters need to have a clear idea ahead of time of what they are voting for. Giving the SNP the benefit of the doubt, I do not believe that they would seek, post independence, to establish armed forces purely to satisfy political concerns-but I do think that is what they are proposing at the moment.
Q3520 Jim McGovern: To pick up the point the Chair was making, we really do need some clarification. If independence, separation or whatever comes to Scotland and they say, "We are going to resurrect the Black Watch as a regiment," and a majority of the serving personnel who are in 3 Scots, the Royal Regiment of Scotland, at the moment say, "No, we want to stay in the British Army," what would be the outcome? Would there be a Scottish Black Watch and a British Black Watch?
George Grant: Who knows? You have asked me why it is important that these questions are decided beforehand. What is important is that voters have some clear sense of what they are voting for. There will be people who are directly affected, with jobs and so forth, but obviously the rest of the population need to decide, "Do I want to live in a Scotland that is part of the UK"-because that is what it means to have Scotland in the UK-"or do I want to be part of a Scotland that is independent?" You cannot make those choices, particularly on something as fundamental as your foreign policy and your defence and security, if you do not know what they would actually entail-what they would mean.
Q3521 Chair: Talking of jobs, can I turn to shipbuilding, in which I have a constituency interest? In your research, did you discover any evidence that would suggest that shipbuilding could survive on the Clyde in a separate Scotland?
George Grant: The evidence that I gathered from the experts I consulted was that it would be extremely difficult for the shipbuilding to continue. I believe that shipbuilding is one of the only areas left in the defence industry where one nation builds complete platforms. Eurofighter and the F-35 are platforms that are undertaken by a coalition of nations. Ships-in this they stand alone-still tend to be things that are built by nations alone. The UK is overwhelmingly the biggest market for the ships built in yards in Scotland. I have absolutely no reason to doubt the British Government when they say that under independence they would be very unlikely to continue to place orders for ships in a foreign country. For that reason, I have come to the view that it is unlikely that all those shipyards could stay open and in business in the way that they are now.
Q3522 Chair: There was a suggestion at one point that a Scottish navy that wanted submarines would want to have them built on the Clyde. Was that view repeated to you?
George Grant: It was not. I think that is extraordinary, if that is the view, because I believe the evidence from my report is that even procuring conventional submarines off the shelf is vastly expensive. Perhaps the Scottish navy would have a reason for having them but, based on the £2.5 billion that they are currently saying they would want to spend on their defence forces, it seems like a disproportionately large cost. My understanding is that actually building these things from scratch costs significantly more than that.
Q3523 Chair: So they would have to be bought. Presumably, if they were to be bought, they would have to be bought from somewhere like Germany.
George Grant: Yes, indeed.
Q3524 Chair: In terms of the ships that the Scottish navy would want to have, what do you think would be the suitable mix? Have you had any evidence that would lead you to identify what the suitable mix might be? In particular, would they want frigates, and if so, how many? Would these come as part of the package of dissolution? Would there be any particular orders that they would wish to place? Was any of that identified in your research?
George Grant: Again-I have to keep on saying it, because you keep on asking the question-what is your navy for? It is not my job to decide those questions, because the SNP have not made any decision on that, but until you have decided what your navy is for, you cannot say exactly what sorts of ships you would want to have. I suppose it seems a logical deduction that, given that they would have a much smaller defence budget and more locally orientated capabilities, they would want smaller vessels rather than huge great frigates. I cannot see any use for things such as the new Type 26 or, obviously, aircraft carriers. Things such as the mine countermeasure vessels that the UK has, patrol boats and corvettes would all be quite useful, but you have to have some clarity on what you want to do. If they want to send their ships all over the world and to participate in disaster relief operations, peacekeeping, NATO missions and so forth, maybe they will want some larger vessels. If, however, they are just going to confine themselves to fisheries protection, buzzing about the oil rigs and so forth, they will need significantly less than that. They need to give clarity on that before I can say what sort of ships they would need.
Q3525 Chair: Is it reasonable to expect an assessment in the White Paper of the sort of ships and the size of navy that the Scottish defence force would need?
George Grant: Yes, if they precede that with some clarity about what sort of country they want to be and what they want those vessels for. I do not think it is right just to say, "We want these vessels," without giving any reason why.
Q3526 Chair: That comes back to the point that I made earlier in the context of the regiments. If they are putting before the Scottish people a defence force that is incoherent, people can take a view on that, but at the moment they do not know at all how many ships there will be. It therefore seems reasonable to me that people in Scotland would expect them to say how many ships they are intending to have, irrespective of whether it fits an identified purpose. You said that at the moment there was an incompatibility, perhaps, between foreign and defence policy in the UK. I think we ought to extend that flexibility to a separate Scotland as well. It is not necessarily desirable, but it is within the rules, as it were.
George Grant: Yes, of course it is within the rules; I just do not think that it is desirable. As I said, the SNP have put forward a defence strategy that they are trying, with some vehemence, to claim is completely credible and reasonable. Their reaction to pretty much any criticism of their defence strategy has been to dismiss that criticism completely, which only reinforces the sense that they think that their strategy is beyond reproach. My job with this report was to look at that and see whether it was credible. I just do not think that it is.
Q3527 Lindsay Roy: Have you been given any indication of what the submarines would be for, how many would be required and what the cost would be?
George Grant: No, none. They have just said that they want conventional submarines.
Q3528 Lindsay Roy: Have you any idea how much it would cost to purchase a conventional submarine from Germany or Sweden?
George Grant: There are obviously lots of different types of submarine. My understanding is that they cost anything from £200 million or £300 million up to as much as £650 million. I believe that the Type 212 submarines in operation in the German and Italian navies cost about £300 million apiece; we are talking pounds here-I converted from dollars to pounds. They like to compare an independent Scotland to Norway. I understand that the Norwegians acquired their Ula class submarines for about £260 million apiece when purchased at the start of the 1990s, so they are quite significantly expensive assets to acquire.
Q3529 Lindsay Roy: And that does not cover the ongoing running costs.
George Grant: It does not. The view of others better informed than myself is that you would need a fleet of probably three or four of these.
Q3530 Lindsay Roy: Would that, in effect, breach the £2.5 billion budget?
George Grant: It is a vast cost, isn’t it? Yes, you can certainly see that.
Q3531 Chair: Did you get the impression that there was anybody in the Scottish Government or the SNP who understood what the Scottish defence forces having submarines meant?
George Grant: I did not really get that sense. To be fair to the SNP, one of the issues they have is that defence is not a devolved matter, so it is not something they focus on as a party of government in Scotland. However, it is something they need to focus on as a party of independence. Historically, defence has not been an issue they have really given much consideration to. I think that is profoundly ironic, given that the security of its citizens is the first duty of Government.
I understand that there are some civil servants quietly working behind the scenes on this issue for the Defence White Paper. Keith Brown has some responsibility for veterans, but really only Angus Robertson and his immediate associates are directly tasked with having views on this issue. There are members of the SNP who have their pet issues such as Trident, NATO membership and so forth, but it is much, much more difficult to find people who have some clarity on the whole gamut, as it were.
Q3532 Mike Crockart: The SNP motion talks about fast jets coming from current assets. It states that the Scottish defence force "will initially be equipped with Scotland’s share of current assets including ocean going vessels" and "fast jets for domestic air patrol duties". My understanding of current assets in terms of fast jets is that those come down to three types of aircraft: Tornado GR4, Typhoons and Hawks. Can we work through those in order to see whether they fit what we actually need? You keep telling us that we need to know what they are for before we can choose the kit; surely with a fast jet for domestic air patrol duties we have pretty much tied down what they need to be able to do, so we should be able to tell whether any of those three fit the bill.
George Grant: Sure. My view on this is that of the three, the only one that you would be able to use would be the Eurofighter Typhoon. The problem with the Tornado GR4 is that it lacks an air-to-air capability. Angus Robertson has been quite clear-I think sensibly-that Scotland would want to operate only one asset type for each capability, as it were, so it would not want to have two different jets to fulfil that capability.
Q3533 Mike Crockart: So it needs to be able to do ground attack and air to air.
George Grant: It needs to be able to do ground attack and air to air. The Hawk, which we can come on to if necessary-
Q3534 Mike Crockart: Can we deal with the Typhoon first?
George Grant: Let’s deal with the Typhoon first. There is this issue of what it will be for. The Typhoon is designed to perform a whole range of different air missions, not the least of which is air superiority. Then you have things such as suppression of enemy air defence and maritime attack. It is a quite serious jet that is designed for countries that have quite a serious role in mind for it. I think it would be overkill just to have it essentially on domestic air patrol duties. You could fulfil that function with something significantly less.
Q3535 Mike Crockart: So it would be a cost issue that would rule it out.
George Grant: I will give some examples. I have been criticised a bit for saying this, on the basis that other nations in Europe use fast jets. Last year Jane’s estimated that the cost per flying hour for Eurofighter is about $18,000. Compare that with the F16, which has been bandied about as a possible option for Scotland to procure, for which it is about $7,000, so much less. That is in service with Denmark, Norway and Belgium, among others. The Saab Gripen is another one that I have heard mentioned. I looked up the running costs for that, which are about $4,000 per hour. That is in use by countries such as Sweden, Hungary and the Czech Republic. So there are much, much cheaper options available.
I was interested that the SNP criticised me for saying that the Typhoon probably would be more than Scotland would want, or necessarily be able, to afford, but on the very same day Keith Brown said to the Defence Committee that the SNP-or Scotland, indeed-would probably find that the Eurofighter was beyond what they required. So there is now a bit of an inconsistency between Angus Robertson and Keith Brown. It is my view that the Eurofighter would probably be above and beyond.
Q3536 Mike Crockart: We were able to put a cost on submarines and frigates. What would be the cost of a Typhoon?
George Grant: I believe it is pushing $100 million a unit. We can compare that to the F16, which I think is between about $14 million and $18 million, so much less. The Eurofighter has been vastly expensive, as we all know.
Q3537 Mike Crockart: Can I come back to the F16 in a moment? We started by talking about a capability from existing assets. We have effectively ruled out Tornado GR4 and Typhoon, because of its cost and ongoing running costs, so we are left with the Hawk. There appears to be a difference of opinion around what the SNP have said to you on the suitability of the Hawk training jets. Do you stand by the quote you used on that in the report?
George Grant: Absolutely. I thought it was the most extraordinary objection for them to say that they had not said this. I rather feel that the SNP have made a mountain out of a molehill on this. They have said that they would want to acquire one of the three types; I was simply looking at those types and saying that I do not think that any of them are suitable. I have Angus Robertson on record saying that he felt that Hawk could do QRA-quick reaction alert-that Stuart Crawford had said that that was something that it could do-he says those two things separately in my interview-and that QRA would be a central capability that any fast jet in a Scottish air force would be able to fulfil. I came back quite hard on that, because effectively it was accusing me of lying. Again, I have had absolutely zero response from the SNP. I think the most sensible thing would be to let sleeping dogs lie on this. They can say, "Our view now is that it is not suitable." Fine; let’s talk about procuring from elsewhere. However, I do not think that any of the ones that the UK has would be suitable.
Q3538 Mike Crockart: Just to be clear, quick reaction alert is scrambling and finding incoming aircraft.
George Grant: And intercepting incoming aircraft-correct.
Q3539 Mike Crockart: Which the Hawk is singularly incapable of doing.
George Grant: The problem with the Hawk is that it does not have radar. I understand that there are variants of the Hawk that do have radar, but not the ones that we have. You cannot just stick it in the nose, for various reasons. It is fairly slow, so I imagine that any incoming aircraft would be rather more advanced, and it has very limited offensive capability. The wing commander I spoke to put it rather wryly in my interview with him for the report. The clue is in the name: it’s the Hawk T-T for trainer. The RAF website does not list the Hawk under its offensive or defensive fast jets; it lists it under training aircraft, along with gliders, propeller aircraft and so forth. The RAF does not see it as for that.
Q3540 Mike Crockart: Having established that existing assets would not fit the bill, can we go back to the point that you were making before about the F16s? You seemed to be making a case for their being capable of fulfilling the role of fast jets for a separate Scotland. Is that a runner? You have mentioned Norway and Denmark having fast jets. Is the F16 a potential solution for fast jets for a separate Scotland?
George Grant: I think it is probably one option. I have to state on the record that I am not an expert on all these different jet types. I looked closely at the specific capabilities and costs of the aircraft that the UK has because the SNP said they wanted to acquire those aircraft. I concluded by saying that if they do want one, they will have to procure elsewhere. I have looked into this, and F16 is a much cheaper aircraft. It is used by smaller European countries and is a multi-role fighter, so I suppose that in theory it would be suitable. However, I do not want to get too far into this, because it is not an area on which I am a real expert.
Q3541 Mike Crockart: You say it is multi-role. It was used in Libya, for example, so it would give a Scottish air force the capability-
George Grant: Yes, it certainly fulfils that requirement.
Q3542 Mike Crockart: Perhaps this is a leading question. As you said, frigates may be on a shopping list, but what are they really for? Do you think something similar applies to fast jets, and that they are really there almost as a totemic issue? Is it a case of saying, "These aren’t pretend armed forces, these are real armed forces-and to call them that we need fast jets; therefore we’ll say that we have to have fast jets"?
George Grant: Yes, that is what I think that is.
Q3543 Mike Crockart: One of the other options to fulfil that capability-I think that the First Minister has mentioned this-is to allow NATO to base fast jets on Scottish soil. Do you think it would meet the needs of Scotland and NATO for a UK sovereign base, for example, to remain at RAF Lossiemouth, perhaps, to carry out that domestic air role?
George Grant: The option of the UK retaining a sovereign base in Scotland-you gave the example of Lossiemouth-is something that various air defence experts I spoke to said would be potentially desirable from the UK’s position. I have no reason to dispute that, but if you are asking whether that would be satisfactory from the position of a sovereign Scottish Government, effectively they would be ceding control of their air defence to a foreign country. This really comes back to the much bigger issue, which is probably not one to go into here, of exactly what independence is for if you are not going to have control over your own defence force-which is, after all, the ultimate expression of what it means to be a sovereign state. That is a different issue, but I think that from a UK strategic perspective it would make sense.
Q3544 Mike Crockart: But presumably you could tick the box of having Scottish fast jets, through having Hawks, and then have a UK base at Lossiemouth to do the real work.
George Grant: Yes, but the UK would not automatically be on call to do all the things that a Scottish Government would want their air force to do. That air force would be reacting to threats to the UK’s security and operating in its interests, not at the beck and call of a foreign Government.
Q3545 Chair: Can we move on to Faslane? We have covered Trident reasonably well, but can I clarify the SNP’s response to your document in relation to the level of forces that would be in Faslane, and how you respond to their response?
George Grant: Sure. The point that I made was that placing the Scottish navy at Faslane would be unlikely to generate much in excess of 1,000 jobs. Their criticism of that was, "We would have far more people than that in our navy." That was not really my point; it was "How many jobs would you create at Faslane?" There are currently 6,700 people employed there. In my view, the reason why they have said they want Faslane as the base for their navy is that they are concerned about all those jobs. Strategically I cannot see that it makes much sense to have your navy in the south-west when and most of your threats and offshore assets are in the north and east.
Lord West offered his view of 1,000 jobs initially, so I thought that I had better look into this a bit more. For comparison, we looked at Denmark. By the way, it is not particularly helpful to use Norway as a comparison for Scotland. Norway has a defence budget of about £4.6 billion per annum, which is over £2 billion more than the SNP propose to spend, so I do not see that it is necessarily helpful always to be throwing in Norway as a comparator. Once you take out start-up costs, which will obviously be very significant, Denmark is much more similar purely in terms of its defence budget. I calculated that it spends around £2.6 billion, on current exchange rates, which is much more similar to the £2.5 billion that the SNP have said that Scotland would spend. It maintains two naval bases. One of them employs 500 personnel and the other employs 600 personnel. That seemed to tally with what Lord West and one or two others had said.
Even if you said-and I am not saying this-that you could have 2,000 or even 3,000 people employed for a Scottish navy, which I think is unlikely, that is still far short of the 6,700 who are currently employed at Faslane. That was really the only point that I was making. I was not in any way trying to call into question the Scottish navy more generally. Rather, it was a specific point that was contained in the chapter that was looking at the implications of Trident removal and the job implications for Faslane.
Q3546 Chair: But surely you are not comparing like with like, in the sense of comparing the SNP job figures with your job figures, because your job figures are concerned only with the navy. Surely the SNP have said that they would put all sorts of other things in there as well to try to keep up the numbers.
George Grant: They have said that they would have their armed forces HQ there, but let’s be quite clear about this: the sorts of people you need for your armed forces HQ will not be the same sorts of people you need for the maintenance of a fleet. I have no idea how many jobs a Scottish armed forces HQ would generate, but I certainly think they would be quite different sorts of people. I highly doubt that you could keep the same people on and just employ them at the armed forces HQ.
Q3547 Chair: How would you respond to the accusation that in the point you have just made, in particular, you are saying that you could not retrain people? Surely the SNP would say that you are just talking Scotland down and that, since Scots are little short of being the best people in the world, they could retrain as anything in a matter of moments. Therefore they would be redeployable and you are just being unduly negative, pessimistic, gloomy and despondent, and all the rest of it.
George Grant: I would object to that in the strongest terms. I am certainly not talking Scotland down. If I were to march over to the Ministry of Defence a few yards down the road and to go down to 10 offices at random and say, "Right, off you go up to Faslane. Please can you now work on the maintenance of our nuclear submarine fleet?" I think that would raise eyebrows, to say the least. Clearly the sorts of people you have working in a place such as the Ministry of Defence and the specific sorts of engineers, technicians and other weapons specialists you have working in a naval base are two totally different types of people. I cannot see that there is any controversy in saying that.
Q3548 Chair: I think you have possibly failed to understand that you are allowed to talk down staff in the Ministry of Defence but you are not allowed to talk down people in Scotland, because that is talking Scotland down.
George Grant: I am talking down neither staff in the Ministry of Defence nor the people of Scotland. Indeed, the two are not necessarily mutually exclusive.
Q3549 Chair: Did the SNP discuss with you the question of opening Rosyth? Your argument may be against having the Scottish navy in Faslane-with reskilled staff or not, as the case might be-in the south-west, when the need is in the north and east, but the SNP would argue that in fact there is no royal naval presence in the north and east at the moment and that, therefore, Scotland is being deprived. Whether they answer it simply in that way or by moving forces to the east, did you have any discussions with them that led you to believe that they were considering the option of having something in Rosyth or elsewhere?
George Grant: My understanding is that in the past the SNP have mooted using Rosyth. It is not a position that they have stated in their current foreign, security and defence policy update. Were they to use Rosyth, that might be more sensible. If they were to try to use Rosyth and Faslane, I suppose it stands to reason that you would have two smaller bases rather than one bigger base, so the whole jobs question would need to be recalibrated to take account of that.
Q3550 Lindsay Roy: We spoke earlier about cyber-security. Did you ask the SNP whether the £2.5 billion budget included all their spending on intelligence and cyber-security?
George Grant: I did not ask them specifically whether that was included. I think it is reasonable to assume that that is the case, given that they mention the £2.5 billion as their defence budget and then list all the sorts of things they would want for the defence of an independent Scotland, among which are intelligence and security services. I can say that Nicola Sturgeon, when asked recently how much these services would cost, simply took the current UK spend of around £2 billion and calculated a pro rata share of that for Scotland. How useful that is as an exercise, I would not want to say.
Q3551 Lindsay Roy: Is that realistic in terms of start-up costs?
George Grant: It is a just a simple, arbitrary exercise to say, "This is £2 billion that the UK spends on its security and intelligence services. We calculate a pro rata share." That seems pretty arbitrary.
Q3552 Lindsay Roy: So you do not think it has been researched.
George Grant: No. [Interruption.]
Chair: We have a vote just now. If you do not mind, we will go off and vote. As soon as we get back with a quorum of three, we will start again.
Sitting suspended for Divisions in the House.
Chair: Lindsay, the floor was yours.
Q3553 Lindsay Roy: Are you saying that it is naive to assume that all you would do is divide up the cost of the cyber and intelligence system, calculate Scotland’s proportion of it and say, "That is what it would cost for a new system in Scotland"?
George Grant: Yes, I think that that is a very arbitrary way of doing it. I do not think that is realistic.
Q3554 Lindsay Roy: So there would be start-up and training costs, as well as a whole lot of additional costs.
George Grant: Yes. Even if you take all that stuff out, what are the chances of the cost of the Scottish security services just happening be Scotland’s pro rata share of the cost of the UK security services, given that the UK gears up its security and intelligence services to do all sorts of things that I cannot imagine Scotland necessarily seeking to replicate? It is just pretty arbitrary.
Q3555 Lindsay Roy: So that was the totality of their response in relation to your paper.
George Grant: There is no serious response on this issue in relation to my paper. I get the impression that when Nicola Sturgeon was asked how much this would cost, it was not something she had come prepared for particularly, so she just gave a few answers. I do not necessarily blame her, but I do not think that she came having thought about that particularly, so she gave the best answer she could, which was to say that a pro rata share of £2 billion would be whatever it is.
Q3556 Lindsay Roy: But you would expect a policy statement in the White Paper.
George Grant: I cannot speculate about what will and will not be in the White Paper. I would hope that there will be more clarity on that; I think that would be very useful.
Q3557 Lindsay Roy: Why would you hope that?
George Grant: Because intelligence and security are fundamentally important parts of keeping a sovereign nation safe-and the SNP have acknowledged how important that is.
Q3558 Chair: Can I clarify whether there are any figures available for either Norway or Denmark-notwithstanding your caveat about Norway not being comparable? What do they spend on cyber-related security?
George Grant: I am not aware of how much those countries spend.
Chair: We now turn to the future of the defence industry.
Q3559 Mike Crockart: I return to the SNP motion, which set out that Scotland would have a "defence industrial strategy and procurement plan". Is this something that you have seen?
George Grant: No.
Q3560 Mike Crockart: Okay-I should really have known. Has anything else been said about how the Scottish defence industry will be supported by the £2.5 billion defence budget that there will be in an independent Scotland?
George Grant: No. What the SNP have done with this foreign, security and defence policy update in general is to provide a whole load of headline position statements, without giving any of the supporting evidence. So they have said, "We will have a defence industrial strategy," but to my mind they have not-certainly not publicly-produced such a strategy to date.
Q3561 Mike Crockart: Evidence that we have had previously has suggested that the reason that the UK as a whole has such a strong defence industry is that the MOD spends such a large amount of money. Basically, the defence industry follows where the money is. Is that your understanding of the historical aspect?
George Grant: That seems to be a fairly reasonable assumption. The UK has the second largest defence industry in the world. Companies such as BAE Systems and Finmeccanica are private profit-making companies; they exist to develop a product to be sold for money. It stands to logical reason that they will go where the money is. Clearly there will be a much larger market in the UK, in terms of the number of orders that a British Government would place compared with the number of orders that an independent Scottish Government would place.
That is not to say that there will not be sufficient business to generate some sort of defence industry in Scotland. We have mentioned shipbuilding already; I think it is much less likely that that would continue in anything like the same way as now. You would need to have a pretty clear defence industrial strategy that laid out as a first order of business, first, the sort of areas you will concentrate on in your defence industry, and secondly, how that squares with what your defence force will actually look like and what your defence aspirations are. The conclusion of my report is that your defence industrial strategy should not dictate your defence policy, but likewise, if you are talking about having a defence industry, as the SNP are, clearly you have to be mindful of it in forming those considerations.
Q3562 Mike Crockart: Clearly a £2.5 billion defence budget is not a significant sum of money for a defence industry to chase, effectively. However, the SNP, and Angus Robertson in particular, talk a lot about joint procurement, which seems to be the way that defence contracts are going; you talked about the Eurofighter. Why would it not be possible for the defence industry that is in Scotland to carry on as before, but through greater joint procurement?
George Grant: Those are two different questions. You ask why it would not be possible for it to carry on as before. That is because at the moment the defence industry in Scotland is disproportionately geared towards the UK’s defence requirements. The Ministry of Defence is by some distance the largest customer, as it were, for defence contracts in Scotland. I think that would not continue to anything like the same extent in an independent Scotland. Secondly-
Q3563 Mike Crockart: Before you get to the second part, can I ask why that would be? We have talked about shipbuilding, which is clearly a procurement and building process that takes place in-country, but work on Eurofighter, for example, takes place across multiple countries. While I accept what you are saying about shipbuilding, why would that necessarily be the case around other types?
George Grant: That is what I was-
Mike Crockart: Is that point 2?
George Grant: That is point 2.
Mike Crockart: Sorry.
George Grant: Don’t worry. I have mentioned on more than one occasion the article 346 exemption. All of us here know about it, but I will state for the record that, essentially, that is the exemption that exists in European Union law that allows a national Government to exempt themselves from open procurement competition rules if they deem that to be in the interests of their national security. It is very much the opinion of the experts I spoke to-I know that Defence Ministers have given the same view in separate inquiries-that for complex weapons systems, the UK Government would very likely continue to invoke article 346.
Specifically joint procurement-going in with your eyes open and saying, "Right, this is an asset that we want, and we think that we want to go in with various other countries in order to acquire that asset"-is certainly something that Scotland could do; I say as much in my report. However, you need to be clear, first, whether those assets will be right for you, and secondly, whether what you are looking for is aligned with what the other countries you want to go into business with want. That is really all I am saying here.
I am not saying that the defence industry as a whole would collapse in Scotland; I am quite clear about that. I am making a point about shipbuilding, the sexy headline topic that is mentioned quite a lot when we talk about the defence industry-in much the same way as the Scottish fighting regiments are talked about disproportionately when we talk about the armed forces, although they are just one part of it. I think they need to have a defence industrial strategy that clarifies exactly what sort of things they want to procure jointly and so forth, but they have not done that yet.
Q3564 Mike Crockart: When seeking to obtain evidence on this subject before, we found it difficult to find business people in the defence industry in Scotland who were prepared to speak to us about it publicly. Did you find similar problems?
George Grant: Yes, indeed.
I would add one other thing. Joint procurement is one part of it, but no nation can support an entire defence industry on joint procurement projects with other countries. Clearly there will be many things that you will need and want to have for your armed forces that are just for you. As I said, the requirements in terms of the number of orders that the Scottish Government would be placing would be far reduced from what the British Government are currently placing in Scotland. So joint procurement is part of it, but it is certainly not the whole point. Can you repeat your follow-up question, as I did not actually answer it?
Q3565 Chair: In those circumstances, would it be fair to say that, effectively, there would be no industries in Scotland that could be supported by the purchase of their products by the Scottish Government, and that virtually everything would have to depend on selling into external markets, in which case they would have the article 346 barrier virtually everywhere?
George Grant: Certainly the requirements of a Scottish Government that they could realistically hope to procure for themselves would be much, much less than what is there at the moment. So yes, it stands to reason that if you are going to talk about having a defence industry of anything like the same size-although I think it unlikely that it would be the same size, for the reasons I have given-you would very much have to gear your defence industrial strategy towards prioritising selling to other countries and those sorts of joint procurement programmes.
Q3566 Mike Crockart: My follow-up question that you wanted to come back to was about the reticence of the business sector when it comes to talking about these things.
George Grant: Yes, they are very reticent about this. I think that for them it is a very political hot potato. They have their views privately, but they do not want to go on the record. Privately, I think they are very concerned, for the reasons that I have mentioned.
Q3567 Mike Crockart: What particular concerns do they have? Are they about article 346?
George Grant: Yes, and about the fact that, as a marketplace for defence orders, an independent Scotland would be much smaller than the UK. I do not think that is a controversial position to take.
Q3568 Chair: Were you able to identify any company or any product that would benefit from separation?
George Grant: No, I have not identified any company that would benefit from separation.
Chair: Or even among-
George Grant: I will emphasise how difficult it was to get these companies to talk. As I said, currently they are part of the second biggest defence market in the world. I cannot see how not being part of that would benefit anyone, when you are talking about it from a defence company perspective.
Q3569 Chair: As Mike indicated, people have been pretty open when speaking to us privately and have been absolutely clear about their views on these matters, but-as you indicated-they are unwilling to speak publicly. However, I think it has been noticeable that nobody has been able to identify for us not only a company but even a product that would be enhanced by the prospect of separation. You would have expected that somewhere there might have been somebody who thought, "I will do well out of this," but we have not been able to find anybody. I just wondered whether-
George Grant: I am not saying that there is not something somewhere, but it is not something I have come across.
Q3570 Chair: Can I come back to the question of the White Paper? We have covered quite a number of areas. I seek your view on what sort of detail you think the White Paper should contain-notwithstanding the point that, politically, they will not want to give the answers, in case they are inconvenient. If this is being conducted as a serious exercise, what sort of detail should be in there? What sort of fleshing out of the bare bones should there be?
George Grant: In 2010 the UK attempted to produce a national security strategy, which in turn informed a strategic defence and security review. I think you would have a similar sort of process here. I happen to think that the UK NSS was not compatible with the SDSR, and I have written about that, but the gist of it comes back to the point that I made at the start, which is that you start by having a clear idea of what you want to do-what sort of country you are and what you think the threats to your national security will be. That is the most important thing.
Once you have that, you can start to say, "Okay. We have made that assessment. We now think that we would need, in order to fulfil that, a defence force of x thousand men, of which however many would be infantry, however many would be supporting units and however many would be part of the air force. This is the aircraft that we have identified that would be suitable, based on the sorts of aviation operations that we have said we would want to do domestically. We have also mentioned that we would want to do x operations abroad and would want to contribute actively to x, y and z. We think that it could be suitable for that." Do you see what I mean?
George Grant: That is the sort of detail I would want to see. I think that would be useful. You do not need to go into every single bit of nitty-gritty. You just need to give a clear idea of what it is all for and to say, for example, "In broad-brush terms, we could therefore use this aircraft, this aircraft or that aircraft. We have not decided which yet, but they would all be suitable." I think the first question is much more important.
Q3571 Chair: Some of that will depend on the process of haggling that goes on about the division of the assets after the divorce, as it were-"We could do with this, we could do with that," or "We could buy something else, depending on whether we get cash or second-hand equipment".
George Grant: Exactly. I think that is a perfectly fair position to take. That is why I said at the start that I do not think they need to be so specific in saying, "This is absolutely the asset that we would have." They should just say, "These are the sorts of things we would want, and we would therefore need this kind of asset."
Q3572 Chair: But to be fair to the SNP, presumably if you were drawing up a defence posture for a separate Scotland, you would not start from here, in the sense that there is so much that they have inherited in terms of bases, regiments, possible equipment and expectations that this is almost an impossible task, within the constraints they have set themselves of 15,000 people and £2.5 billion.
George Grant: It is certainly difficult, for the reason that you have identified, which is that that the assets of the British armed forces would not necessarily be suitable for a Scottish defence force. However, clearly they are entitled to a certain proportion of those, so I can see there being certain contradictions between what would actually be the most useful and what, in practice, they would be entitled to as a start-up nation. These things might not be ideal, but they could just about do the job. It is not where they would go if they were starting from a totally blank slate, but Scotland will not be starting from a totally blank slate, because there are all these inherited assets. I think that there is a difficulty for them, but the positions are not irreconcilable.
Q3573 Chair: Can I clarify whether you think any of the SNP criticisms of your report have any merit?
George Grant: There was one, but it was a small, specific thing. As I said in my rebuttal of their response, which I have made available online, I thought that pretty much all of their criticisms were unjustified. They mentioned that in the draft of the report that I sent them I had said that the MOD ceased to provide estimates for the defence spend in Scotland in 2011-12, but in fact it was 2007-08. That was an error, and I rectified it, but it was not really central.
Q3574 Chair: Our experience has been that they tend to respond simply by reiteration.
George Grant: That is exactly right. In the press release they criticised me by saying that the report seemed to envisage the SNP trying to emulate the global role of the UK, when clearly they would not-but the report makes absolutely no such claim. I do not say what role Scotland would have; I say that they themselves have not given any sense of what role it would have. It is absolutely the case that they reiterate previous positions without really engaging seriously with the issues at hand. I found that quite frustrating.
Q3575 Lindsay Roy: I understand that the SNP have tried to discredit your work.
George Grant: Yes.
Q3576 Lindsay Roy: Can you say a bit more about that-the issues around the think-tank and so on?
George Grant: You can read some real nonsense about the Henry Jackson Society, which commissioned me to write the report. It is an organisation that deals a lot with issues relating to Islamist terrorism. When you plant your flag in that sand, you will kick up all sorts of opponents, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the work that I do. It certainly has nothing to do with this report, which cannot be categorised as having an ideological position on anything. For instance, I do not say whether an independent Scotland should or should not have Trident, or whether it should or should not be in NATO. I just establish, in my view, the feasibility of the SNP’s proposals in that regard.
Q3577 Lindsay Roy: So in what ways have they tried to discredit your report?
George Grant: In their response they just tried to dismiss the Henry Jackson Society, and by extension myself and the report, as neo-conservative. I am certainly not a neo-conservative and this report is not neo-conservative, for the reasons that I have outlined; it does not take an ideological position like that. I understand that they sent certain negative things that had been written about the organisation to the Scottish media in the week preceding the report, in an attempt to persuade the media not to take the report or its findings seriously. Frankly, I found that a very unnecessary response. It would have been much better if they could just have engaged constructively with me on these issues.
Q3578 Lindsay Roy: And you have not come to this with a preset agenda?
George Grant: No, I have not come to this with a preset agenda. As I say in the conclusion of my report, I would really have liked to have found more in favour of the SNP’s defence strategy than I did, simply because I would then avoid being pigeonholed as part of the Better Together campaign or as part of the Yes Scotland campaign, which I manifestly wanted to avoid. The concluding point on this is that the reason why I was so pleased that Colonel Stuart Crawford was willing to write the foreword is that he is manifestly a gentleman of balance-a former SNP parliamentary candidate who is nevertheless respected on both sides. I did not choose someone who was really pro-Union, because I did not want this to be seen in that way. It is very unfortunate that the SNP have sought to dismiss it in that way, but that was not the agenda.
Q3579 Chair: Normally the last point that we put to people is: are there any answers you had prepared to questions that we have not asked? So are there any areas that you think we have overlooked that you are bursting to let us know about?
George Grant: No, I do not think so. All the specific criticisms that the SNP have made of my report are in the rebuttal that is available online. The only point I would have made was about the nature of the SNP response and why I did not think that was particularly helpful, but we have just covered that.
Q3580 Chair: I presume that the SNP have your e-mail address and that you have therefore been bombarded by cyber-nats. Have you?
George Grant: No, fortunately I have not.
Chair: Goodness me, you are a lucky man indeed. That is a pleasure. If you are complaining that you have been hard done by and you have not been turned over by the cyber-nats, you have not experienced anything yet. I imagine that there will be quite a number of them searching for your e-mail address in order to tell you various things about your parentage, your education, your bigotry and prejudices, your dress sense and all the rest of it; it will all be described in enormous detail.
Mike Crockart: Some would be fair.
Chair: You will be left without a shred to your character. If there is nothing else, thank you very much for coming along. I apologise for the interruption in the process caused by the exercise of our democratic votes. That was very interesting. If anything occurs to you that, upon reflection, you would like to have drawn to our attention, it would be helpful if you could let us have that.