Britain relying on ‘fishermen and social media users’ to defend North Sea – SNP

British Royal Navy ship HMS Enterprise © Darrin Zammit Lupi
Scottish National Party (SNP) defense spokesman Angus Robertson has accused the government of leaving the defense of Britain’s northern flank to fishermen and social media users in a speech at the influential Royal United Services Institute (RUSI).

Robertson used the platform to call for a permanent maritime patrol base on the Clyde and a properly equipped airbase to counter what he termed “increasing foreign military operations” in and around UK territory.

He was speaking ahead of the publication of the Strategic Defence and Security review (SDSR) and told the audience that “it should be acknowledged that the UK has not taken northern regional security seriously enough and this must change with the new SDSR.

He was quick to point to the defense contributions of Britain’s northern neighbors.

While all our northern regional neighbors make defense, security and stability in our region a key priority, the UK has not.

The UK did not even mention the High North and Arctic in the last SDSR. This must change.

The UK has the only armed forces in northern Europe without maritime patrol aircraft, has not taken part in NATO northern maritime patrol groups for years and has never taken part in NATO northern air policing which is based in Iceland,” he said.

Robertson also said the bulk of the Royal Navy’s patrol vessels are “on the south coast of England.

He warned the Ministry of Defence (MoD) must procure patrol vessels to protect the country’s northern flanks.

Robertson blasted current security arrangements, saying the disposition of the armed forces had left Britain relying on “intelligence from Scottish fishing vessels and social media” because the military did not have “appropriate assets in place in time.

During the run-up to the failed independence referendum in September 2014, a number of figures raised concerns about Scottish defense.

Former NATO commander General Sir Richard Shirreff said SNP proposals for securing an independent Scotland were “amateurish, unrealistic and lacking any clear strategic purpose.

The White Paper proposals are dangerous and would leave Scotland, the UK and NATO weakened and less capable of dealing with the threats of today and tomorrow,” he said.

On the question of Scotland’s nuclear armament, the former commander said it was difficult to predict how other alliance members would react to the removal of the Trident fleet from Scottish waters.

Whilst the SNP may accept the principle of nuclear deterrence, it remains unclear how other members of NATO will view the disruption to the coherence of NATO defense caused by moving the submarine fleet out of Scottish waters,” Shirreff said.

One SNP politician, former Royal Navy submariner turned councilor Feargal Dalton, said of the security situation before the referendum: “If we did have people invading Scotland, we’d have two options: we stick a pitchfork in their eye, or we nuke them.