Braveheart defence plan will never fly

This first appeared as a Comment in the 3 December issue of Flight International

If only William Wallace – the 14th century freedom fighter immortalised in the film Braveheart – could have called in an air strike. Wallace’s successors in the Scottish National Party-led administration in Edinburgh may not be planning a rerun of the Battle of Bannockburn with their southern neighbours, but they do want separate armed forces from the rest of the UK as part of their proposals for an independent Scotland.

The plans – revealed in the White Paper Scotland’s Future – are ambitious, to say the least. As well as inheriting a pro rata share of the UK’s assets – including helicopters, Lockheed Martin C-130Js and a quick-reaction alert squadron of 12 Eurofighter Typhoons – the SNP wants within five years to add four Typhoons to allow the country to contribute to NATO operations overseas, and acquire four maritime patrol aircraft.

This on a modest defence budget (albeit bolstered by rejecting a successor to the Trident nuclear deterrent) and when the impetus among Europe’s cash-strapped armed forces is for consolidation and working more closely together. The sums and logic just do not add up.

Scotland’s destiny is for its voters to decide in the 2014 poll. But the SNP’s desire to create a standalone, agile, multirole defence force from a rump of the UK’s military assets, with its own command structure and the ability to play an independent role within NATO, is little more than Ruritanian fantasy.

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