"No logic" to Scotland defense plan: Britain's Hammond

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 14, 2013 1:06 PM
"No logic" to Scotland defense plan: Britain's Hammond

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Defence Secretary Philip Hammond called defense planning for an independent Scotland a "fantasy" on Thursday and said the party supporting the breakaway hadn't done its maths.

The Scottish National Party (SNP), which controls Scotland's devolved government and plans to hold a referendum on independence next year, accused Hammond of insulting Scotland.

"Join the navy and see the Clyde," Hammond said in an interview with a British newspaper ahead of a speech in Edinburgh, referring to a Scottish river in a wry twist on the recruiting slogan about joining the navy to see the world.

He said inhabitants of Scotland, who make up about eight percent of Britain's population, would be entitled to only a fraction of British defense assets, including 1.6 destroyers or frigates and one sixth of an aircraft carrier.

"Ask any military strategist whether they could constitute a reliable fighting force from these elements," Hammond said in his speech. "There would be absolutely no military logic to a force with such a mix of equipment."

The SNP says Scotland would be richer and better run if it were to secede, although recent opinion polls show support for the move at less than a third of voters.

"He came to attack the SNP and Scotland - something he could easily have done from his office in London, and he could have saved the taxpayers a return ticket," the SNP's defense spokesman and British lawmaker Angus Robertson said.

The SNP, which says it wants an independent Scotland to be able meet international security obligations such as mutual defense, wants to remove Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent from its base in Scotland.

Hammond said the SNP's rejection of Trident cast doubt on the party's assertion that an independent Scotland would automatically inherit NATO membership from Britain.

"How would an independent Scotland argue for membership at the same time as opposing nuclear weapons and seeking the removal from its territory of the UK deterrent, part of that NATO security umbrella?" he said.

(Reporting by Mohammed Abbas; Editing by Michael Roddy)