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The Future of Scottish… Scotch… Scots(?) National Security Policy


Brandon Valeriano has some thoughts on how an independent Scotland might conceptualize its national security:

In March of 2015, a cry goes out in the town centre, everyone reacts quickly.  Valuables are hidden underground; women and children are stored in hideaways to be kept safe until the danger is over.  The sacred and expensive items in the church are removed and the priests flee – they are often the first targeted.  The town moves to the defenses, but there is little that they can do to counter the oncoming scourge.  The Vikings are off the coast of Scotland, again.

Given that House Windsor has decided against a name that could strike terror into the hearts of the hill-savages-beyond-the-wall, the Scottish position indeed seems relatively secure.  If independence happens, this will make Scotland a remarkably interesting case study for security scholars; how do states that fundamentally face no security threats conduct security policy? The answer, most likely, is that Scotland will tend to take as models those countries it most closely resembles, although even in this context Canada and Ireland offer remarkably different defense profiles.

My guess is that if political entrepreneurs take sufficient advantage of Scottish nationalism to actually win independence, the new Scotland will feel compelled to compete with England in military terms, although the nature of this competition is far more likely to be “look how cool our new fighter is compared to the English” rather than “let’s re-fortify Hadrian’s Wall.”  For these reasons, unless the Eurofighters are passed directly to the new (presumably independent) Royal Scotland Air Force, I expect that Scotland would go a different direction, opting for either the Gripen or the Rafale.  This is to say nothing of the eventual disposition of the Royal Navy in case of Scottish independence, a problem that will be enormously complex and costly to work out.

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  • cpinva

    the two most important questions:

    1. will they relocate the kilt production facilities back to the Scottish mainland?

    2. will the army take up defensive positions around the distilleries, or will they rely on a “quick scotch reaction” force?

    • Ann Outhouse

      The future of scotch security is definitely a concern of mine.

    • Steve LaBonne

      The most important thing will be to have enough of a navy to defend Islay.

    • Brandon Valeriano

      Bravo, I forgot about the distilleries.

  • Ken

    Surely they will join NATO? That would cover everything, except maybe an attack by another NATO member (not that I dinnae trust the perfidious English, ye ken…)

  • efgoldman

    …the new Scotland will feel compelled to compete with England in military terms.

    Better, and a lot more sensible for budget and practical reasons, to compete with, say, Bermuda. Or Lichtenstein. I mean, what’s their biggest threat? That the English will re-invade? That the Norwegians will attack for the oil?

    • cpinva

      “That the Norwegians will attack for the oil?”

      how much oil can you actually store in a long boat? I mean, you’d need literally 1,000’s of them!

    • herr doktor bimler

      A couple of decades ago there was a group of rather tongue-in-check irredentists in the Orkneys demanding reunion with Norway (the islands had been a Norwegian possession until they passed to to the Scottish crown as part of a wedding dowry).

      • Dooting Thomas

        There are strong cultural and sentimental links between Orkney (and Shetland) and Norway – we celebrate Norway’s constitution day and our Orkney flag looks very much like that of Norway but the cosying up to Norway is a bit tongue in cheek which pisses Edinburgh off. In both Island groups, rule from Edinburgh is regarded with the same enthusiasm as rule from London which is one reson for the Our Islands Our Future group set up to press both the UK and Scottish Governments for greater autonomy. There is little support in Orkney for independence for Scotland or in truth for separation but we’d like our own home rule please.

        • herr doktor bimler

          Those cultural links only go so far… it has come to my attention that the Orkneys distill whisky rather than akvavit. And long may they continue to do so.

          • Dooting Thomas

            Orkney bitte schoen Herr Doktor not ‘the Orkneys’. Both distilleries (and both breweries for that matter) keep folk on the islands happy with the fruit of the barley fields.

    • rea

      Or Lichtenstein.

      Not Lichtenstein. Princess Sophie of Lichtenstein is the rightful heir to the throne of Scotland.

      • Franz, Duke of Bavaria

        I’m not dead yet.

        • Max, Duke in Bavaria

          Me neither.

          • Alicia, Duchess of Calabria

            Hmph. Maria Beatrice’s marriage to her uncle shouldn’t have counted. I mean, gross.

            • Malaclypse

              This thread makes me miss Sunday Deposed Monarch Blogging.

            • Hogan

              And we’ll all come praise the Infanta.

          • rea

            I said heir to the throne–Francis II, a/k/a Franz, Duke of Bavaria, is the current rightful monarch, and of course, Sophie’s dad Max is in line ahead of her. Sophie’s position is much like that which that George guy’s parents imagine he occupies.

            • Max, Duke in Bavaria

              I said heir to the throne

              So you did. Ergo:

              and of course, Sophie’s dad Max is in line ahead of her.

              My correction wins. Ha! In your faces, Battenberg-Sachsen-Coburg-und-Gotha pretenders!

  • what’s their biggest threat? That the English will re-invade? That the Norwegians will attack for the oil?

    Cod War IV? (I know that mostly effected British fishing ports, but with the inability to trick Scots into buying highly dubious banking products anymore, perhaps the cunning Icelanders will see the weakness of an independent Scotland as an opportunity to further extend their Cod hegemony.)

    • Ann Outhouse

      The biggest threat may be American golf course developers.

    • Warren Terra

      So, you look at recent history and think the English bankers were worse than the Scottish ones? Does the name RBS ring a bell?

      • No, I meant cunning Icelandic bankers. They did quite a good job of screwing things up too.

        • Warren Terra

          Ah. I thought it was a reference to England’s main industry these days being financial services, which is at least a popular perception (I don’t know if the numbers bear it out).

    • Lee Rudolph

      trick Scots into buying highly dubious banking products

      I read that blearily (not lack of caffeine, just greasy eye-glasses and work-glazed eyes) as “baking products” and thought, “What? They can’t count deep-frying as ‘baking’, surely?” until I realized “Aha! the Scone of Stone!”

      • Max, Duke in Bavaria

        “Aha! the Scone of Stone!”


  • Msj

    What exactly would Scottish independence do for the people of Scotland? I mean I can see the benefits to the political class. But I’m hard pressed to see how Scotland is oppressed by the English or the Welsh or the northern Irish.

    • Warren Terra

      National pride and identity aside, there are three obvious points:
      1) Scotland claims that it and not Britain writ large owns the North Sea Oil, and that too much of the money goes south.
      2) Britain is governed by a Tory-led coalition (indeed, no Lib Dem influence on policy can be detected). Scotland sent iirc one single Tory MP to Westminster.
      3) The UK still tries to hold on to an out of scale military strength, including a new aircraft carrier and new nuclear-armed Trident subs. This costs money, money not paralleled in the European countries Scotland would see as its peers.

      • Warren Terra

        To be clear: my personal preference is against Scottish independence, but that’s just because I enjoy the BBC and fear what would happen to England without Scottish MPs (and possibly inevitably Welsh MPs), leaving the balance of power between the Tories and UKIP. Within Scotland, I can see the advantages.

        But, then, I’m American, so my preferences are a bit irrelevant.

        • bexley

          If they adopted their own currency another obvious advantage would be the ability to adopt economic policies specifically tailored for Scotland. However the SNP is currently talking about keeping the pound, which is bonkers.

          • Warren Terra

            And before Greece, the other option you heard about was Scotland joining the Euro. Having their own currency doesn’t seem to be on the cards.

          • Anonymous

            Seeing that as an advantage of having one’s own currency is a bit too Neo-Keynesian (i.e., correct) to be discussed in polite circles, economically speaking.

      • ChrisTS


        As much as I enjoy the LGM fun fest about this, I have to thank you for taking it seriously.

        I mean, it’s all ‘Ha-Ha’ to us, but the Scots do seem to think there are some genuine concerns in their bid for independence.

        • Dave

          But still not polling above 40%, & if folk haven’t made up their mind now, are they really likely to swing towards an epochal decision in the final months?


          • SKapusniak

            Think of Independence as an emergency ejector seat, with sustained Tory rule being by far the most likely emergency in the eyes of Scots.

            Tories look like they’ll win the next UK general election? Nervously put hand on the eject lever. Pray.

            Tories don’t look like they’ll win the next UK general election? Move hand away from the eject lever.

            The Tories don’t currently look like they’ll win the next UK general election.

            • mds

              Think of Independence as an emergency ejector seat, with sustained Tory rule being by far the most likely emergency in the eyes of Scots.

              Given Alistair Darling’s leading role in the “Better Together” campaign, sustained Tory rule is obviously considered a likely emergency resulting from Scottish independence.

        • herr doktor bimler

          They (over-)spent so much on the Holyrood Parliament buildings, they might as well get full use from it.

          • Last time I was in Edinburgh, I walked by the Parliament and saw through a beautiful corner window that there was a room filled floor to ceiling with discarded G3 iMacs. Pretty, pretty colors.

      • Anonymous

        Hmm, given the common interests in independence and energy production, a Scotland/Texas/Quebec triple alliance taking the world stage by storm seems inevitable.

      • LFC

        @Warren Terra’s pt #3 above:
        According to the site Worldwide Aircraft Carriers (I think that’s the name of the site), Britain is currently building two aircraft carriers, at least one of which is apparently being built in Scotland:

        The UK is building two large, fixed wing carriers, the Queen Elizabeth and the Prince of Wales. 1st steel for the HMS Queen Elizabeth was cut on July 7, 2009 at the BVT Surface Fleet shipyard in Govan, Glasgow, Scotland.

        It’s due to launch in 2014 and to be commissioned in 2016. (Don’t ask me to explain the precise diff., but one of them features the break-the-bottle-of-champagne-on-the-boat thing, or do they not do that anymore?)
        The HMS Prince of Wales is not as far along.

        • Warren Terra

          If I remember correctly, they decided they could afford an aircraft carrier or they could afford carrier aircraft, but not both. So they will have a brand spanking new carrier, sans aircraft.

          • LFC

            Until the aircraft — F35Bs or whatever the heck they’re called — arrive from the U.S. Or so says that site. (Unlike R. Farley, I know rather little about the nitty-gritty of weapons stuff.)

        • Lee Rudolph

          Bottle of single malt, surely?

          • Redwood Rhiadra

            No, they use champagne because it’s French, and therefore no real loss when the bottle is broken. Breaking a bottle of single malt would be a tragedy.

            • herr doktor bimler

              Comedy is when you break a Jeroboam of champagne. Tragedy is when I spill my wee dram of Bowmore.

              • Lee Rudolph

                And won’t they be naming their aircraftless carrier for Mary, a wee dram queen if ever there was?

  • jon

    Whither the North Sea oil fields? Perhaps a job for some battleships?

    • Ahuitzotl

      This is of course why Maggie T assiduously encouraged the oil companies to drain as much North Sea oil as they could, as quickly as possible, to the point where UK-owned North Sea oil is diminishing rather fast, contra Norwegian oil. The blessings of depletion allowances, IIRC

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    ‘…the nature of this competition is far more likely to be “look how cool our new fighter is compared to the English”’


    Weaponized bagpipe “music”. I’d include “weaponized haggis”, but I think there are international conventions against that.

    • efgoldman

      Weaponized bagpipe “music”. I’d include “weaponized haggis”, but I think there are international conventions against that.

      Both haggis and bagpipes are lethal weapons by definition.
      I understand you can find directions and manuals on the intartoobz for modifying bagpipes to project weaponized haggis to several hundred yards away.

      • All Scottish recipes started out as a dare.

      • Tehanu

        Now, now, haggis is delicious if properly made (i.e., not salvaged from a frozen tube in the back of the little import store). It’s basically just Scottish kishke, after all.

    • Hogan

      Weaponized bagpipe “music”.

      Is there another kind of bagpipe music?

      • I have heard “Lady of Spain” performed on the bagpipes.

        • Warren Terra

          This could descend into a deeply scary Youtube battle.

          • You misunderstood: I have heard that in person.

            Feel free to grovel in respect to my toughness that I am still hear and can still here. Or something like that.

            • Warren Terra

              True story: before this traumatic experience, N__B was as the rest of us. It was the sheer horror that caused N__B to flee human society into the depths of the arctic wilderness, eventually emerging transformed into the polar bear we all have come to know.

              • ExpatChad

                Bagpipes are polarising?

      • Jaime Oria

        “Irish pipes make you want to dance. Scottish pipes make you want to fight.” ‘Nuff said…

    • McAllen

      I’ve always wondered where the jokes about bagpipes came from. The bagpipes are a perfectly lovely instrument. They’re cacophonous when played badly, but they share that trait with the violin and most other instruments.

      • efgoldman

        They’re cacophonous when played badly

        Corrected your misconception, och!

      • The prophet Nostradumbass

        The Irish invented the bagpipes to drive the Scots crazy, and it worked.

    • herr doktor bimler

      “look how cool our new fighter is compared to the English”

      SAAB fighters have always been cooler, because the Draken.

      • Go with the Rafale. Nothing would piss the English off more than buying French.

        • IM

          the ould alliance!

  • Gareth Wilson

    “Royal Scotland Air Force”? I’d always assumed the independence movement wanted a republic.

    • Warren Terra

      you’d think so, but so far as I know they claim to intend to keep the Windsor family. Maybe they don’t want to offend the Germans?

      Also, there’s more evidence the Queen likes Balmoral than that she likes her English palaces.

      • Gareth Wilson

        Huh, I didn’t know that. Although I suppose that if you’re not a Jacobite she is the legitimate Queen of Scotland.

      • rea

        The Stuart heirs are the House of Wittlesbach, so its just a matter of offending the Northern Germans

        • Warren Terra

          I was thinking of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, so central and southern Germans.

          • rea

            Saxe-Coburg and Gotha is for sexists–it’s the House of Hannover.

            • Lurker

              Yep. This is the truth of it. While Prince Albert gave his name to the royal family, the actual British royal family was pretty clearly matrilinear. In the court, it was Victoria’s relatives who held positions, while Albert’s relatives were non-existent. So, the House Windsor is indeed in practice the House Hannover, although not according to Salic law.

              • Hogan

                Oh fuck the Salics. Misogynist bastards.

    • Scott P.

      “I think she’s dead.”

      • wjts

        “No Ah’m not.”

        • The prophet Nostradumbass

          And now, Radio 4 will explode.

          • Warren Terra

            I thought my knowledge of Radio 4 verged on the frankly disturbing, especially for an American, and I don’t get this reference at all.

            • The prophet Nostradumbass

              It’s a possibly obscure Monty Python reference, from a bit called “The Death of Mary, Queen of Scots”. Scott P started it.

              • Warren Terra

                Ah. Gotcha. My knowledge of the Monty Python TV episodes is not comprehensive.

            • The prophet Nostradumbass

              Here is a video of it.

  • dp

    I’d think the loss of Scapa Flow would be an issue, but maybe they trust the Germans now.

    • wjts

      That was my first thought as well, but it seems the naval base closed in the 1950s.

    • Warren Terra

      I don’t remember the name of the base, but I believe the UK’s nuclear deterrent force of Trident submarines is based in Scotland.

      • wjts

        HMNB Clyde, according to Wikipedia.

  • Chris Mealy

    From what I can tell the SNP is very left-wing. I’d expect a military build-up would be at the bottom of their list of priorities.

    • Warren Terra

      I don’t think they’re very left wing; from what I’ve heard, they’re very antiracist (possibly out of fear that a nationalist separatist movement is fertile ground for undesirable and unattractive racist tendencies than from a more affirmative decision). They’re to the left of Westminster (notably on tuition fees), but in the European spectrum I think they aspire to the German Christian-Democrat model: good social services but tight fiscal policy, limited international or military ambitions.

      All of this is way to the left of the Democrats, but on a more locally relevant scale I don’t think it’s seen as left wing.

      • mds

        good social services but tight fiscal policy

        Yeah, good luck with that, guys. Especially if the “tight fiscal policy” involves being on the Euro.

  • Tiny Tim

    Maybe I’m over-interpreting Farley, so I won’t really direct this at him, but I’m somewhat fascinated by the general dismissiveness of minority language/cultures in Europe. My English friends don’t really believe that people in Scotland (and northern England!) speak lowland scots, or that people from wales actually speak welsh. Obviously not all people in these areas speak these minority languages, but they aren’t just reclaimed languages, they’ve been continuously spoken for a long time.

    Was hilarious listening to mixed race (black and white presumably) kids in northern england code switching between lower scots, geordie, and a mocking “posh” london accent.

    As long as they buy enough fighters I guess.

  • Monty

    The Future of Scottish… Scotch… Scots(?) National Security Policy

    I’m fairly certain that Sir Thomas Sean Connery, along with most of the nation’s citizenry, prefer the appellation Scots.

    • Warren Terra

      Sean Connery, the noted Bahamian tax exile?

  • Breadbaker

    I don’t think refortifying Hadrian’s Wall is in the cards. Hadrian’s Wall was to keep the Scots out of Britannia, not the other way around. The part of it I’ve seen is in Carlisle, which is in England.

    • Warren Terra

      Per Wikipedia:

      It is a common misconception that Hadrian’s wall marks the boundary between England and Scotland. This is not the case; Hadrian’s wall lies entirely within England, and south of the border with Scotland by less than one kilometre in the west at Bowness-on-Solway, and 110 kilometres (68 mi) in the east.

    • Ahuitzotl

      is in Carlisle, which is in England one of the bits of Scotland the sassenach have yet to hand back.

    • If we’re going to get really picky about it, it was to keep out the Picts and/or regulate trade and cattle-rustling on the border. The Scotti came around several hundred years later, had a Goidelic rather than Brythonic language (the Picts were Brythonic), etc. I don’t think the Wall was manned by that point.

  • herr doktor bimler

    how do states that fundamentally face no security threats conduct security policy?

    The Faroes are a dagger Sgian dubh pointed at the heart of Lothian.

    • chris y

      There was a fringe libertarian party in Denmark during the cold war which advocated abolishing the armed forces and replacing them with a loop tape saying “We surrender” in Russian. I would expect an independent Scotland to take a similar approach in principle. However, it’s complicated by the fact that many of the finest regiments in the British army are Scottish, and they would probably resent being disbanded. Also tradition and yadda yadda.

      So I suppose they’d make a show of joining NATO and then not do much in it.

      And if they wanted some pretty looking planes to do air shows, they’d be better off with Rafales than Eurofighters anyway.

      • herr doktor bimler

        many of the finest regiments in the British army are Scottish

        Tell me about it. A relative served in the Cameron Highlanders (I have been known to wear his kilt on occasion).

  • Deptfordx
  • Tom Servo

    Whatever happens, one thing is certain. My people will continue to make the best whisky in the world.

    • Ahuitzotl

      You’re Irish, then?

      • Warren Terra

        My understanding is that the Irish make whiskey, not whisky. Scotland competes with Canada, I believe.

        • Richard Gadsden

          Whisky is made in Scotland, Canada and Japan; whiskey in Ireland and the USA.

  • Ronan

    I know very little about Irish security policy, nothing about Canadian. My very simple starting point would be to assume they are both shaped by Irelands/Canada’s relationship to the British Empire (or Brit sec policy)? The Irish one being more oppositional, and so constitutionally institutionalising neutrality during WW2. The Canadian being more sympathetic to the British relationship, and so letting that relationship shape alliances, policy etc? Thats very simple and probably wrong, but is it kind of right?
    So what would the Scots look like? Probably closer to Canada I’d assume, considering Scottish demographics and the fact that the nationalist movement probably isnt as oppossitional as Irelands. Im guessing. Perhaps
    I like this theory though

  • mat

    ohhh Bonnie Scotland, it is a pitty that some Scots and mainly SNP do not realize how much an independence in interdependent world will cost them …

  • Costa Rica seems to be doing fine without a standing army, especially considering the northern and southern neighbors.

  • Manta

    How the Scottish national security be affected by the need of the Scots to fight their worst enemies, the Scots?

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