Defence Estate

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:24 pm on 7th November 2016.

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Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Defence) 5:24 pm, 7th November 2016

I thank the Secretary of State for prior sight of the statement. Although we have been primed to expect big reductions in Scotland’s defence footprint, having now heard the statement, I fear that when a Government Department tries to spin cuts as investment “concentrated in fewer, better locations”, what it is actually saying is, “Prepare for a savaging of what remains of Scotland’s defence footprint.” Once the detail is published, it will go far beyond anything that we were prepared for. Let me be clear: it will be totally unacceptable if, once again, Scotland’s service personnel and our conventional defence capability are hollowed out and sold off because of this Government’s obsession with nuclear weapons—an obsession which is swallowing up more and more of the defence budget. My fear is that when the detail emerges of today’s announcement, it will do nothing to ease the grave concerns of many of us on the SNP Benches that as our conventional capability shrinks to pay for our nuclear obsession, the United Kingdom’s first line of defence becomes its last line of defence.

At the referendum just two years ago, we were told that defence jobs could be protected only if we remained in the Union. The then Secretary of State for Defence, the present Chancellor, even claimed that Scottish independence would blight “the futures of thousands of families across Scotland”, and that Scotland would not benefit from the level of security or the prosperity provided by the UK armed forces and the defence industry. How hollow those words sound today. Fewer and better is rarely the case for those who are on the sharp end. I have one question for the Secretary of State: how is this cutback good for Scotland?