Sunday, 14 April 2013

How much for a Voltron? - The Scottish Defence Force

I’ve probably revealed my age with the title of this post, but how much should it cost to defend Scotland?
There are three answers:          The amount that Westminster charges us now
                                              The amount that similar countries pay
                                              The amount we want

Scotland contributes 9.6% of total UK tax revenue, so 9.6% of UK military spending is paid for by us either directly or through debt.  This equates to £3,200,000,000 (£3.2 billion) per year, or 2.5% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product).  Not all of this spending is actually defensive.  Beyond Trident (the UK’s nuclear armed fleet of submarines) there has been £2 billion spent on military drones and unmanned aircraft (with £2 billion more expected) and £5.2 billion on aircraft carriers which have little defensive value and which the UK can’t afford to put aircraft on.

"Voltron, defender of the universe, won't want to defend Scotland unless she hosts nuclear weapons!" - Better Together statement.

Military spending is also uneven.  The UK spends £1,244 per head on defence in the Southwest of England, but only £302 per head in Scotland.  Military contracts are also disproportionate, with Scottish firms receiving less than our share.  There are 11,190 military personnel based in Scotland, compared to the UK armed forces total of 186,400.

So how much do similar countries pay?

Norway spends £3,821,500,000 (£3.8 billion) or 1.6% of GDP [24,025 personnel]
Denmark spends £2,528,340,000 (£2.5 billion) or 1.4% of GDP [26,585 personnel]
Ireland spends £1,101,150,000 (£1.1 billion) or 0.6% of GDP [10,460 personnel]
Sweden spends £3,230,130,000 (£3.2 billion) or 1.2% of GDP [13,050 personnel]
Switzerland spends £2,823,900,000 (£2.8 billion) or 0.8% of GDP [22,059 personnel]
Finland spends £2,288,420,000 (£2.2 billion) or 1.5% of GDP [22,600 personnel]

So the amount Scotland would pay if we were like our European neighbours would be £2 billion (1.2% of GDP).  Of course, being independent we would see much more of this money remaining in Scotland and aimed at actually defending us.

The biggest threat currently posed to an independent Scotland.

But the status quo and the same as those like us aren’t the only options.  If we want to maintain a substantial military budget, then we can (we’re paying for one at the moment!)  If we want a modest defence force, then that’s possible too and if we want something in between, then there will be political parties who will advocate that position.

Scotland's defence will be much simplier once it is focused on conventional forces and equipment.  Trident, which failed to prevent the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, drains our resources and distracts our attention.  It is a weapon which the people of Scotland are opposed to, and with a Yes vote in 2014, it will be gone.

With independence we get the choice of how much we want to pay for defence, enough for our own Voltron if we so liked, but more importantly, we will have a defence that is focused upon defending us, which cannot be said of the UK at present.

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