Home » Britain » Why Scotland needs the UK

Why Scotland needs the UK

by John Brian Shannon | December 22, 2016

If Scotland chose to become an independent nation it would become a prohibitively expensive operation in very short order, and Scotland would need to find a big brother to pay its bills — as Scotland isn’t economically viable on its own.

The first thing that any country must consider (whether it’s a brand new and independent country or not) is national defence and public security. It’s the historical reason that nation-states were formed in the first place and without national defence and public security, a country is nothing. It then becomes the target of a hostile takeover.

Therefore, Scotland would require its own (viable) military from the first day of independence. Requiring immediate and large-scale expenditures and an annual operating budget.

The operating budget would be equal to $10 billion per year to properly maintain the force. But the first year especially, would be very costly — as a brand-new and fully-functioning from Day One military, would need to be created from scratch.

First purchase: An entire Navy – $5.6 billion for hardware alone

Britain - If Scotland separates from Britain, it will need four Navy Destroyers in order to protect it's islands, sea-lanes and regional interests. Pictured here; the French Navy destroyer FS Forbin (D620) in the Arabian Sea (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rafael Figueroa Medina/Released)

Pictured here is the highly regarded French Navy destroyer FS Forbin (D620) in the Arabian Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Rafael Figueroa Medina/Released)

If Scotland separated from the United Kingdom, it would require four modern Navy Destroyers in order to protect its far-flung islands, sea-lanes and regional interests, and such vessels typically cost $250 million to $1 billion each, depending upon the type and capability level.

An independent Scotland would spend $2 billion on new destroyers alone

That’s before training and hiring the crews, and provisioning those ships with food, fuel, and ammunition (all combined, these provisions are called ‘ship’s stores’) and building the necessary naval port facilities, and training and hiring of onshore maintenance and security staff — all of which would come from the annual defence budget.

In case of Brexit, Scotland would need Navy frigates comparable to the highly capable Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Holland, a modern warship that won't become obsolete anytime soon. Image courtesy of navyrecognition.com

If Scotland became independent from Britain, Scotland would need 10 Navy frigates comparable to the highly capable Royal Netherlands Navy HNLMS Holland, a modern warship that won’t become obsolete anytime soon. Image courtesy of navyrecognition.com

An independent Scotland would also need many frigates, perhaps 10 of them; Some frigates would be rigged as minesweepers, others as destroyer escorts, others as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) ships, while others would be rigged for anti-piracy and interdiction roles.

And all of them would need to have so-called ‘wet bays’ where small, fast boats can quickly exit the main ship and race out to board any suspected ship or to conduct rescue missions, or to assist green water patrol boats in their respective missions, and all of them would need onboard helicopters and crews. Frigates with wet bays and helicopters usually cost in the neighbourhood of $200 million to $400 million apiece.

Scotland would be looking at $2 billion just to buy the empty, but brand-new frigates

That’s before training and hiring crews, and provisioning those ships and building naval port facilities, let alone training and hiring onshore maintenance and security staff, which would come out of the annual defence budget.

Brexit - If Scotland were to separate from the UK, the first purchase would need to be (approx.) 20 of these Svalbard-class (or equivalent) icebreaker and offshore patrol vessels. KV Svalbard (W303) pictured. Norwegian Coast Guard photo.

If Scotland were to separate from the UK, the first purchase would need to be 20 Svalbard-class (or equivalent) light-icebreaker offshore patrol vessels. Norwegian Coast Guard vessel KV Svalbard (W303) pictured. Norwegian Coast Guard photo.

And, Scotland would need (almost more than anything) about 20 Svalbard-class light icebreaker, coastal patrol vessels. Although no longer in active production, the Svalbard-class ships operate in the same region and have an excellent service record.

Ka-Ching! That’s $1.6 billion, just for green water defence craft

That’s before training and hiring crews, and provisioning those ships and building naval port facilities, let alone training and hiring onshore maintenance and security staff, which would come out of the annual defence budget.

Note: Although some articles reported that these ships cost the equivalent of $20 million apiece when they were being produced, it’s only because Norway simply built the new Svalbard hulls, then took everything they needed (engines, radars and sonars, warfare electronics and weapons systems, and almost everything else from their recently retired naval ships) and installed them on the new Svalbard ships. This lowered Svalbard costs from (approx.) $80 million, to $20 million per unit.


Second purchase: An entire Air Force – $1 billion please!

Brexit and Scotland independence

The SAAB Gripen fighter-bomber jet is the obvious choice if Scotland becomes independent, as these jets are famous for their low maintenance cost and high performance.
“Gripen has stable, affordable acquisition and low life cycle costs. This gives air forces a reliable basis on which to budget for operations and fleet sustainment over the long term. Gripen’s inherent reliability and low maintenance footprint boosts force levels and operational effectiveness.” — from the SAAB Gripen website.

Scotland would also need to acquire an Air Force from the very first day of independence. It would need at the minimum, 20 SAAB Gripen fighter-bomber jets and seven long-range search and rescue, and reconnaissance aircraft, like the Aurora. And five KC-135 airborne refueling tankers to ensure those aircraft don’t run out of fuel over the North Sea.

Britain - In case of Scottish independence, Scotland would need five CP-140 Aurora Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, considered the Gold Standard among maritime surveillance aircraft by Western nations. Image of Royal Canadian Air Force Aurora aircraft.

In case of Scottish independence, Scotland would need five CP-140 Aurora Maritime Surveillance Aircraft, which are considered the Gold Standard among maritime surveillance aircraft. Image of Royal Canadian Air Force Aurora.

The Gripen fighter jets cost $40 million per unit. And for surveillance aircraft, the Lockheed CP-140 Aurora is the automatic choice for any Western military at $25 million per copy, and for refuelling tankers the undisputed king is the $35 million per unit KC-135.

Britain - If Scotland leaves Britain, it needs the ability to refuel its military aircraft. A KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mike Buytas)

If Scotland leaves Britain, the ability to refuel its military aircraft in-flight is paramount. A Boeing  KC-135 Stratotanker refuels an F-16 Fighting Falcon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Mike Buytas)

Scotland would be looking at $1 billion just to buy the various aircraft

That’s before training and hiring crews, and provisioning (bombs and bullets) and building airfield facilities, let alone training and hiring maintenance and security staff, which would come out of the annual defence budget.


Third purchase: An entire Army – $1 billion+ for hardware only

Britain defence - Challenger 2 tanks and Westland Helicopters

Britain’s legendary Challenger 2 tanks escorted by stealthy (ultra-quiet) Westland helicopters in wargames at Salisbury Plain.

Oh, I forgot to mention that Scotland would need a 10,000-person Army, and due to financial constraints, those soldiers might need to be shunted between the Scottish Army, the Air Force and the Navy, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis (as required) to keep all positions covered. The weakest link in any chain, is the link that isn’t there.

That’s before the provisioning of army bases, the hiring and training of infantry and tank and other military vehicles personnel, let alone hiring and training on-base maintenance and security staff, which would come out of the annual defence budget.

Note: The Army, Air Force, and Navy cost estimates assume the Scottish government donates at no cost to the military, the necessary land for naval port facilities, for military airfields, and for army bases and training areas.


Military-only costs for a newly independent Scotland

In the first year, Scotland would need $30 billion (conservative estimate) just to field a small, but respectable, Navy, Air Force, and Army. All of those would be required from the very first day of independence, you simply can’t leave a country unprotected while you spend a couple of years shopping for and having navy ships built.

And it would cost $10 billion per year thereafter, across the entire Scottish military, just to keep all seats filled, wearing appropriate military uniforms, military personnel fed and sheltered, with all regular pay and pensions paid, and never find themselves out of fuel or ammunition. (Want your army to quit en-masse? Run them short of ammo)


Other Independence Costs

Thus far, and we’ve only talked about defending Scotland, we’ve yet to talk about creating a national currency were Scotland to be truly independent, a federal reserve-type banking system, a Scottish police force and an MI4 (GCHQ) an MI5 and MI6-equivalent role security agencies, nor have we talked about the creation of a Scottish foreign affairs office to promote Scottish trade abroad and to assist and protect inward investors, and to assist and protect Scottish companies doing business in other countries. All of that must be paid-for by Scottish taxpayers.

Where to find that money? In the markets? The IMF? If so, what’s the collateral?

Scottish debt-to-GDP would be 100% in the first year, and get worse every year from that point… unless the oil price happened to skyrocket to $140 barrel, stayed there permanently, and huge oilfields were suddenly found in Scottish waters. Not likely.


If Scots want true independence, Scottish taxpayers will pay three-times more tax

Remember, the true cost of Scottish independence from the UK could easily surpass $20 billion annually, in addition to the first year start-up costs. And, if it’s true independence that Scots want it will be Scottish taxpayers footing the bill, via much higher personal, sales, and corporate tax rates.

But if Scots want EU membership, their economic overlords would be the European Parliament

Why do I say ‘economic overlords’?

Because, based on the principle of ‘No taxation without representation’ I suppose reverse taxation (subsidizing an entire country, where the money flows from the EU to Scotland) the Scots wouldn’t receive much representation for their tax payments.

In fact, as the EU would be funding Scotland’s budget deficits, the EU would get to make the majority of Scotland’s decisions from the safety of Brussels. Which is quite a-ways down the road for Scottish citizens if they ever felt the need to stage a peaceful protest.

If Scots want continued UK membership, the present paradigm continues

At present, Scotland receives 16 billion pounds sterling more, than it contributes to the UK economy, on an annual basis. Not a bad deal for Scotland! But yes, some decisions are made in London for the betterment of all Britons. That can seem unfair if you’re a Scottish citizen and your heart was set on a certain policy or outcome. Still, it’s the best deal on offer.
(But if you find a better offer, take it!)

Imagine Scotland no longer having that 16 billion pound annual subsidy from the UK, and needing to pay $20 billion USD for one-time costs to create a brand-new armed forces, and thenceforth having to pay $10 billion USD annually to keep the armed forces fed, clothed, sheltered, trained, paid, and a with reliable supply of fuel and ammo.

Without the UK contribution, Scottish independence (military costs only) amount to an annual difference of $29.7 billion USD. Something important to note; The first year of independence (military costs only) amount to $49.7 billion USD.


What Scotland and the devolved regions really need are people selected from their own region to be employed as Cabinet Ministers in the Westminster government (not only a UK Cabinet Minister for Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales, but a Cabinet Minister for England too) who represent the interests of their particular region within the UK central government.

In this way, devolved governments and their taxpayers will have better representation and more engaged relationships with the central UK government, and thereby receive superior governance outcomes from the UK government.

And isn’t that what fair government is all about?


Related Quote: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said faster horses.” — Henry Ford



21 Comments

  1. Tim Walker says:

    Terminology:

    In regards to Scotland, I have come across the term “devo max”-maximum devolution within the UK framework. Comparable to the “home rule” concept once suggested for Ireland.

    With significant devolution, the current UK governmental structure has been described as “quasi-federal”. I have come across another term for this, a “regional state”. This occurs when a Unitary (highly centralized) state grants devolution to constituent parts.

    There are, btw, different concepts for devolution in England.

    There is also the concept of a federal UK, but this would require a massive overhaul of government institutions.

    • Hi Tim,

      Thanks for the comment!

      On an island, it’s tricky if there’s more than one country extant on that island.

      It’s fine in peacetime — but in war, enemies of one or the other would always sow division. Which is why it’s in Westminster’s best interests to be frank, fair, and respectful to the devolved governments.

      It would’ve been best had Scotland and Wales always been counties or provinces of the United Kingdom, much as Sennen is a part of the UK but with its own distinctive flavour.

      However, in today’s world, your suggestion of a regional state is most appropriate.

      Even so, each devolved government should (I feel) have their own department in the UK government, and be responsible to their region of the UK, and hold the title of Minister for Scotland, in this case. Similarly, Wales would have a Minister for Wales, while England would have a Minister for England, which covers the ‘same island’ viewpoint I mentioned at the top of this comment.

      I would even suggest a Minister (and corresponding Department) for the Isle of Man, anytime their citizens and government request it, in addition to the existing post of Minister for Northern Ireland and its Department.

      The devolved regions should be deciding whom to send to Whitehall to serve as the minister for their region, IMHO. Whether they would ‘elect’ or ‘appoint’ a certain person, should be 100% their call.

      Thanks for the ongoing conversation.

      Cheers, JBS

  2. randyjw says:

    You know, I was previously for thinking that if the Scots want their independence, they should have it. But, your argument makes a great case for why they should stick with the U.K. for now. Additionally, it would be detracting from the security of, not only itself, but the other entities, as well: i.e., “spreading oneself too thin”. And, again; at first, I didn’t think the local Ministerial positions were needed; but, now that you’ve spelled out good reason, it seems to make sense. Of course, I have no direct concerns, as I’m in the U.S., but we still like to see the safety and well-being of our allied friends in good stead and secure.

    • Hi Randy,

      Thanks for your comment!

      As an Anglophile, I’m still stung (and amazed that it was allowed to occur) that Britain lost the new colony of America due to one thing, and one thing only ‘Taxation Without Representation’.

      Such a great loss! And yet, I wonder if the Brits have learned their lesson on that.

      By taxing the devolved governments and not fully representing them, Britain runs the risk of losing again through the costly error of; ‘Taxation Without Representation’.

      In recent years Scotland has received more from the UK in subsidies, special grants and favours than it has contributed to the UK — but even so, if you’re the UK government, you don’t want to risk losing even more (than the loss of the American colony) due to improper perceptions painted by the media, or independence movements.

      To state it bluntly; Had the UK central government invited the devolved governments to elect or appoint a Minister from their region, to represent their interests in the Prime Minister’s cabinet, there would’ve never, ever, been any talk of independence.

      Regarding the Republic of Ireland, it would’ve remained part of The Commonwealth, and would’ve been a strong part of Her Majesty’s government, via their self-appointed Minister for Ireland, cabinet minister within the UK government, had this been on offer, all along.

      ‘Making people (and devolved regions) part of the solution, instead of part of the problem’ is the way to go, everyday from now, IMHO.

      Always great to get your thoughts here at Letter to Britain!

      Cheers, JBS

      • randyjw says:

        Yes, it was the taxation without representation issue, plus so much seawater of separation, which sparked the whole Revolution. I’m from the original location of its occurrence in the Boston area and surrounding vicinities, where the troops passed through, and you can almost hear the echo of their march. So, I know that when an economy is threatened and principles are important, such consideration should never be taken lightly. We’ve managed to muddle through with the whole polyglot of a mini U.K. within our very neighborhoods and have grown past the initial street fights and bar brawls, united as people for a higher sake and purpose, and we’ve come out the better for it. You can do it, too (in the U.K.). The U.K. is now in the seemingly comparable position as to when the U.S. broke off from England, if I can call it, as such. It now needs to emulate the same strength that her U.S. “founders” from English shores did, when the U.S. departed for independence. Stay strong and pull yourselves together. The E.U. was not the right path for the U.K. But the Kingdom needs to get past its provincialism for the strength of the whole. We need you to do that, as much as you need it for yourselves. And, I’m not sure if they can ever come apart again, with the European Union becoming its own socialistically-and behaviorally-devolved behemoth. In any case, both the E.U. and the U.S. need to make sure you’re protected. And now I’ve heard a rumor that some people in California are calling for secession; how scary and ridiculous. Things could get out of control, if we allow the anarchists to continue to cause chaos.

  3. Tim Walker says:

    At this point, devolution in England seems to be based on local government-“city regions”.

  4. Apart from the independent currency (because I think Scotland would accept changing to euros as they are hoping to remain part of the EU and only want independence if this can be assured, similar to southern Ireland) your post makes sense. As for defence it made me think how much Ireland depends on British and European defence with regard to their waters and this would be seen as a British problem. As there are so many Scots in the British army they probably assume they will leave to join a Scottish Army.
    However I thought that a separate minister for each country (except England) already existed in Parliament now.
    I think one of the main factors of all mess is that immigration in the form of cheap labour has mainly been to the South (England and Wales) which has benefited the wealthy and not trickled down to others and created overcrowding in state schools and doctors’ surgeries and thus a bigger division of rich and poor in the South. If immigration could some how have been controlled so that Scotland had its fair share of immigrants (which it needs) to flourish and more then they wouldn’t be complaining as much. People who tried to state this glaringly obvious problem have just been accused of racism, so haven’t been able to point out the obvious. So now the majority of people voted Brexit and against open borders. It’s causing a marital row and only the divorce lawyers are gaining.

    • Hi SOL,

      Thanks for the comment!

      In my various comments above I referred to the one island upon which four political entities presently stand; Scotland, England, Wales, and the UK.

      It’s my opinion that each of these political entities should receive equal representation at Westminster. Therefore, Scotland, England and Wales, should all have one minister in the UK government at the cabinet level, with responsibility for their own particular jurisdiction (which means they need a proper Department in the UK government backing them up, and responsible to that Minister) with that Minister responsible to their constituents.

      Also and separate from the foregoing, Northern Ireland should have its Minister and Department within the UK government (as it presently has) but also, the Isle of Man should be warmly offered the same status. And leave it open as a ‘standing offer’ if it isn’t immediately accepted. If the UK doesn’t, the EU will, if you take my meaning. Therefore, this isn’t a thing to be tossed aside.

      Not only all of that, but each region (Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Isle of Man) should be electing or appointing (their choice) these cabinet level Ministers to Westminster, the devolved regions must contribute their own people to the UK government, and the Prime Minister of the day needs to work with those Ministers on whatever matters are important to those devolved regions.

      Reading over some of my original comments, I now realize that I knew exactly what I meant when I wrote them, but I didn’t convey them as well as I should. 😉 Therefore, thank you for bringing that lapse to my attention.

      I also agree with you on the excess immigration that has landed into the southern UK.

      It makes no difference if the southern UK was overcrowded with bottom economic quintile native Britons, or bottom economic quintile eastern Europeans, or bottom economic quintile people of Middle Eastern descent — it would still be overcrowded with a disproportionate share of poor people.

      Therefore it isn’t racism, it’s an economic concern and I would have doubts about the ethics of anyone who would try to turn legitimate economic concerns into a racist cudgel.

      Your point about Scotland taking their fair share of economic migrants and refugees is well-taken here.

      As much as possible, all bottom economic quintile people (whether immigrants or refugees, or native UK citizens) should be spread evenly throughout the UK. It’s simple economics! Even the highest and mightiest estate regions of the country need someone to collect the trash, drive the taxis, install road signs, etc.

      Yes, London stockbrokers and bankers certainly have their particular value to the economy — but so do trash-haulers (try living without them!) it’d be easier to live without stockbrokers and bankers I guarantee you that! (I know you ‘get this’ SOL)

      But to anyone who doesn’t ‘get it’ — I suggest you try to live without stockbrokers and trash-haulers (and other low-paid workers) for 30 days. We’ll talk then. 😉

      Thank you again SOL, for your brilliant comment.

      Cheers! JBS

      • randyjw says:

        The financial sector and its subsets are an intrinsical need in all economies, and I would consider them amongst the top. Without them, the countries fail; if you review the historical record, you’ll find this to be true — even in England. All strata are needed. Specialization, to the exclusion of other industry, has done in the states among many of those of the U.S.

      • Perhaps you should forward your thoughts to Parliament – someone is bound to come up with them as their own thoughts!

        • Hi SOL,

          I wouldn’t mind that, so much, actually!

          As long as it benefits the citizens of Britain, that’s my main criteria.

          In fact, on the ‘About’ page of Letter To Britain, I actually encourage people to repost my blog posts, at no charge, and with a minimum of hassle.

          However, you’ve got me thinking that maybe I should forward my posts to British MP’s. It’s one way for these ideas to gain a wider audience.

          All the best to you! JBS

  5. P.S I am very impressed with your costing knowledge and costing of defence planes and warships. I don’t think most ministers even bother to find out those. Hence it may be time to get rid of most MPs and just have experts to hand.

    • Hi SOL,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      One of the problems with the knowledge economy, isn’t a lack of knowledge, far from it! The problem is that there’s so much information out there, it’s sometimes difficult to distill down to what is really relevant.

      Ministers may have diligently searched for information on warships, but their staffs are simply overwhelmed by the sheer volume of data out there — which is why it is always best to have people who’ve actually been there — to advise government Ministers prior to key decisions being made, in addition to their very valuable regular staff.

      Each Minister should have one, combat-experienced military person as an advisor, in addition to their valuable civilian staff members.

      Both are equally valuable in the way that a car is valuable and petrol is valuable. But without both, you’re not going far…

      Always great to hear from you, SOL.

      Cheers, JBS

  6. Tim Walker says:

    In a harsh world, a country may have only one half decent option. If that. If a country is very lucky, it may have a very few half decent options.

    In the case of the UK, NAFTA may be the only alternative to the EU that would be available on short notice. There has been speculation regarding other possible trade partners, but trade negotiations typically take years.

    There are constraints even for the United States. For example, geography and geopolitics indicate that the USA should cultivate good relations with its immediate neighbors — Canada, Mexico, and Cuba. (A bad relationship led to the Cuban Missile Crisis). At this point the USA may be able to back out of TTP, but dumping NAFTA now will likely backfire.

    I think that Scottish nationalists are now starting to bump up against severe constraints.

    • Hi Tim,

      I agree your points.

      During the Baby Boom years, politicians couldn’t make a wrong economic decision if they had purposely tried, there was so much positive economic momentum. Yes, they did have the Cold War to contend with and that took much of their time and effort. (So that’s why the Western economies were booming! LOL)

      I think the UK was very wise to begin trade with Cuba, I hope it becomes an order of magnitude more than it is today, and good on the UK government for getting on it early. Well done!

      Scotland’s economy just isn’t strong enough to ‘go it alone’ and it needs a partner. The EU would end up subsidizing Scotland to the tune of 16 billion pounds sterling (in euro equivalent) plus the cost of defending and protecting the Scottish air, land, and sea space. Which, for the EU, due to Scotland’s distance from the rest of the EU, would probably cost them 50 billion euros annually, on top of non-military economic subsidies. (For a grand total subsidy of 70 billion euros, annually) It seems that’s the last thing the EU economy needs. And it would result in a much different Scotland than what the Scots enjoy today.

      To my mind, the UK needs to be frank and fair with Scotland and treat the Scots with respect. That would go a long way to healing a bruised, but eminently repairable relationship.

      The Scots need to realize (through careful economic research) that their region isn’t (at all) a viable economic entity, on its own. So, going it alone, without the UK or the EU, is just not an option. And any Scot who thinks otherwise, is deceiving themselves.

      Cheers, JBS

  7. Tim Walker says:

    On line article dated Dec. 22 ’16. Regarding a differentiated” status, Sturgeon got support from Oriol Junqueras, deputy prime minister of the regional Catalan administration.

    But Spain’s EU minister Jorge Toledo has rejected this idea, stating that the UK either leaves or remains as a unit.

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