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Commission on Scottish Devolution, Ministry of Defence evidence, 10 November 2008

Full text of HM Government's submission to the Commission on Scottish Devolution is available at: www.commissiononscottishdevolution.org.uk/uploads/2008-11-10-hmg.pdf

8. Ministry of Defence

The Defence Reservation

1. Under the 1998 devolution settlement, Defence is a reserved matter. In the words of the White Paper (Scotland’s Parliament, Cm3658), “Scotland … benefi ts from strong and effective defence and foreign policies and a sense of belonging to a United Kingdom”.

2. The case for reservation remains as strong today as it did in 1998. The National Security Strategy, published earlier this year, restated the case for expeditionary Armed Forces able to contribute to the security of the UK by strengthening peace and stability overseas. The current high level of deployment on operations overseas highlights the importance of a strong military chain of command operating under a single national political authority and a single Defence policy.

3. The UK Armed Forces are part of our national heritage. Not only is the Ministry of Defence a formal institution that reaches out across all the nations of the UK, the bonds between service personnel, veterans and their families touch a large proportion of people and demonstrate the clear interconnections across the country.

The Defence interest in Scotland

4. The reservation in the Scotland Act does not mean that Scotland is not involved in the business of Defence. The substantial Defence presence in Scotland brings signifi cant mutual benefi t. Scotland is home to a range of crucial defence capabilities. For the Naval Service, this includes Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, as well as 45 Commando in Arbroath. For the Army, it includes a Divisional Headquarters and four infantry battalions, as well as Territorial Army Centres in 59 locations and Army Cadet Force and Combined Cadet Force Units in 245 locations, extending across the whole of Scotland. For the RAF, it includes three Expeditionary Air Wings and the main operating bases of RAF Kinloss, RAF Leuchars and RAF Lossiemouth.

5. These have sizeable direct employment and economic impacts for Scotland. As at 1 April 2008, there were 11,970 armed services personnel located in Scotland with a further 5,730 civilian personnel – a total of 17,700 posts. The MOD estimates that in the order of a further 12,500 jobs are generated by the presence of MOD bases, personnel and infrastructure in Scotland.

6. HMNB Clyde provides a good example of how the location of a defence capability has been benefi cial to Scotland both in terms of the economy and skills development. The nuclear deterrent sustains highly specialised and skilled jobs. Around 850 civilian jobs and nearly 1800 military posts in Scotland rely directly on the current Trident nuclear deterrent. The base is the largest employer in Argyll and Bute, employing over 6500 personnel, making a signifi cant contribution to the local economy and indirectly supporting many thousands of additional jobs across Scotland.

7. The recent Scottish Affairs Committee inquiry into skills for the Scottish defence industry demonstrated that the industry relies heavily on MOD orders for much of its business. The impact of defence spending on Scottish industry is far reaching, creating and sustaining large numbers of highly skilled jobs while also enabling companies concerned to develop additional applications for export and civilian markets. The Type 45 destroyer programme and the plans for new aircraft carriers will help to sustain critical skills and expertise. The Scottish Affairs Committee found that “much non-defence work is dependent upon a base-load income from defence work to share costs and ensure viability”.

Operating within a devolved framework

8. Although Defence itself is a reserved matter, much of the legislative and regulatory framework within which Defence is managed is now the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Ministers. Examples are the range of social and other provisions that affect the welfare of service personnel, their families and veterans and the legal framework affecting the management and development of land and buildings. Prior to devolution, it was always the case that the MOD needed to work closely with the Scottish Offi ce on these matters, but devolution makes it even more important that there should be a strong, cooperative relationship between the Department and the devolved administration. This was envisaged at the time of the settlement, and in 1999 a Concordat was reached between the MOD and the then Scottish Executive (http://www.scotland. gov.uk/Publications/1999/12/mod).

9. For the most part, these arrangements have worked well, as evidenced by three examples.

10. The fi rst is social welfare support for the Armed Forces. The Government recently published a Command Paper (The Nation’s Commitment: Cross-Government Support to our Armed Forces, their Families and Veterans, Cm7424) on support for Service personnel which brought together a range of measures in the fi elds of housing, healthcare and social provision, to ensure that present and former members of the Armed Forces are not disadvantaged by virtue of their service and indeed in some cases (such as those wounded on operations) receive a degree of priority. Purely from a Defence point of view, there is a strong case for consistency of experience for service personnel and their families as they move about the UK and overseas, but many of the key enablers are in Scotland matters for the devolved administration. Although engagement with the devolved administration could have been earlier (and this is a lesson the MOD has taken) the Command Paper as eventually published included a number of agreed measures, we are now working closely on implementation.

11. A second example is in the area of accidents involving military nuclear assets, on which MOD is the lead Government Department. The MOD maintains a state of readiness to respond in the event of an accident involving defence nuclear assets and will coordinate the activities of the Central Government departments and devolved administrations. In the event of a defence nuclear accident in Scotland, MOD maintains the lead, but Scottish Ministers are responsible for the offsite consequence management aspects. It is a general principle that both administrations will work closely together on the speedy resolution of any incident. A good working relationship is maintained to ensure the effectiveness of emergency plans and procedures.

12. Effective cooperation has also been demonstrated in relation to the proposed Scottish Marine Bill. MOD had a constructive meeting with offi cials earlier this year to outline defence issues and concerns relating to the Bill. This resulted in an MOD Naval representative attending the meetings of the Task Force set up to bring forward proposals for the Bill. MOD is continuing to liaise with the relevant offi cials, and, as MOD is a consultee on the proposed Scottish Marine Bill, we will also be responding formally to the consultation which the Scottish Ministers launched in July.

13. Experience has shown that the majority of issues can be resolved through discussion and cooperation. However, this becomes much more challenging in areas where the devolved administration in Scotland has views or policies that are at odds with those of the Government. The most obvious example is in relation to the nuclear deterrent. On 14 June 2007, the Scottish Parliament passed a motion recognising that defence was reserved but opposing the Government’s decision to maintain the deterrent capability. Scottish Ministers subsequently set up a Scotland Without Nuclear Weapons Working Group that will report to them on their aspiration for a Scotland without nuclear weapons “within the context of their devolved responsibilities”. The Working Group has met twice – 9 April 2008 and 27 August 2008 – and has started work on the economic impact of removing nuclear weapons from HM Naval Base Clyde, exploring the implications of seeking observer status at the meetings of the Non Proliferation Treaty; and considering the licensing and regulatory regime for HMNB Clyde.

14. The Government is following these developments closely. The devolution mechanisms and the MOD Concordat assume that both devolved and reserved powers will be respected by both administrations. For MOD, the overriding priority is clearly to ensure that the defence of the nation is never put at risk.


15. The MOD regards the Commission’s work as extremely important, and will be happy to provide any further information which the Commission would fi nd helpful. In summary, the relationship between the Department and the devolved institutions is one that we take very seriously. It depends on close, constructive working relationships at all levels. To some extent it is a work in progress and needs continued attention, but generally speaking we believe it is working well. The issues at stake are too important for it not to do so.

Source: Commission on Scottish Devolution, www.commissiononscottishdevolution.org.uk

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