Sculpting our own footprint

Independence would give Scotland the opportunity to press ‘reset’ on its engagement with the world. In defending itself, and in reaching out to the international community, the scope for change is considerable.

Scottish taxpayers contribute sizeably to UK defence, over £3 billion per year. Scotland is poorly defended for this outlay; a great many Scots also resent how this money is spent. An independent Scotland could develop a more modest and effective defence model which gives primacy to patrolling and defending Scotland’s sizeable coastline, sea and airspace, and to protecting Scotland’s people and national resources.

As well as defending itself better for less, Scots would also notice significant benefits from having a defence infrastructure based in Scotland. Firstly, a Scottish Defence Force would be peopled by salaried personnel (military and civilian) who are overwhelmingly resident – and spending – in Scotland. Secondly, developing new infrastructure and refurbishing old would generate considerable cross-sector employment. Given the emphasis there would likely be on developing Scotland’s maritime capabilities, Scottish shipbuilding would probably be given a major boost. Scotland would inherit some vessels from the UK but not all that it would need; the fleet shortfall would be built in Scotland.

Making these observations does not represent some nefarious genuflection towards the military-industrial-complex; it reflects instead a rational acceptance that independent Scottish governments would allocate substantial annual defence budgets, and that – unlike the current situation – a sizeable proportion of that expenditure would remain in Scotland.

How would an independent Scotland engage with the world? Scotland could show itself to be a responsible international actor by enshrining appropriate dedicated articles in its written constitution. Aside from those suggested in the White Paper, other appropriate articles might include:

– An article deeming ‘unconstitutional’ any acts undertaken by the Scottish state with intent to disturb the peaceful relations between nations, especially through military aggression.

– Deeming it ‘unconstitutional’ for the Scottish state to export weapons (thus precluding the development of a Scottish arms industry)

Following independence, Scotland could place its experience of peaceful democratic transition at the centre of its international outreach. If successful in evicting Trident, it could also credibly posit itself as a key player in rejuvenating the international non-proliferation agenda. These experiences could form a cornerstone of Scotland’s international engagement. The vehicle for facilitating this would be a Scottish Institute for Peace and Disarmament (SIPD).

SIPD would be a centre of research and international exchange whose knowledge-base and authority would be based upon Scotland’s experience of peaceful constitutional change, nuclear disarmament and military transition. As well as emerging as a leading research institute, SIPD could also host international conferences and summits aimed at encouraging greater dialogue, cooperation and practical progress on these issues. SIPD could also send ‘working groups’ on educational and advisory visits to states and regions experiencing tensions from constitutional, secession or proliferation issues.

Independence could see Scotland sculpting its own distinctive international footprint, with a defence model more appropriate to Scotland’s actual needs and a foreign policy stance which emphasises peace, knowledge exchange and constructive international dialogue.

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