SNP demands debate with Philip Hammond after job loss claims

Defence secretary claims 12,000 jobs would be jeopardised by a yes vote in 2014 Scottish independence referendum

The defence secretary, Philip Hammond, has provoked a fresh row over Scottish independence by warning that contracts worth billions of pounds and more than 12,000 defence jobs would be put at risk if Scotland left the UK.

Hammond will warn in a speech in Edinburgh on Tuesday that the Scottish National party has been “insultingly vague” about its proposals for an independent defence force, even though the jobs of thousands in Scotland depended on UK military spending.

Keith Brown, the Scottish veterans minister, retaliated by challenging Hammond to a public debate on defence spending in an effort to switch attention to a significant cuts in military bases and personnel in Scotland.

Successive defence reviews had left the number of military personnel based in Scotland at its lowest level, Brown said. By 2011, the overall cuts in UK military personnel was nearly 12% but nearly 28% within Scotland. The concentration of surface ships in southern England meant the Ministry of Defence (MoD) had to send a warship up from Plymouth when a Russian navy vessel recently entered UK waters, while the UK no longer took part in Nato surface ship patrols of the north Atlantic.

“If Mr Hammond is so confident about his position, he should have the courage to face me in a debate, so that the Scottish public can discover the truth about how Westminster is underfunding Scotland’s armed forces,” Brown said.

A new MoD analysis paper on independence, to be published on Tuesday, argues that the future of about 12,600 high technology and heavy engineering jobs in defence contractors and shipbuilders based in Scotland would be threatened by independence.

Hammond will claim that those posts, largely in foreign- or UK-owned defence contractors, depend heavily on MoD plans to spend up to £160bn over the next decade on new jet fighters, new Royal Navy Type 26 frigates and other new contracts.

Under EU rules, the UK is legally allowed to bar any foreign firms from bidding on defence contracts with national security implications: nearly £13bn of UK defence spending was exempt from foreign competition between 2010 and 2012.

Scotland would be regarded as a foreign country after independence, and the loss of UK contracts would undermine the viability of many defence employers, in turn leading to the loss of lucrative overseas defence contracts, Hammond will say.

“The Scottish people deserve to know what the impact of independence would be on the jobs and livelihoods of the many thousands of people in Scotland that are employed in the UK armed forces or in the defence industry that equips and supports them,” Hammond is expected to say. “Instead of coming forward with detailed, costed and credible proposals to fulfil that first duty of government, the SNP have been risibly silent on the issue.”

Brown countered “The most recent figures indicate only £2bn s being spent by the Ministry of Defence in Scotland. This compares to the £3.5bn which Scots taxpayers currently contribute towards …read more  

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