But others are concerned that the country's small but important defense industry could move to the U.K. as well. Shipbuilding, which employs 5,000 people in Scotland, would be most at risk, particularly as current British government policy is to produce ships and submarines for the Royal Navy using national industry. Much of this capacity is in Scotland, but in the event of independence it is likely that military vessel manufacturers would exit.
The U.K. would also likely move its 15,000 employees south of the border, along with four Army infantry battalions, two Royal Marine Commando units and five squadrons of Tornado and Typhoon fighter aircraft.
Scotland will then need to consider its own defense. Government ministers have already disclosed that a Scottish defense budget would be around £2.5 billion a year ($3.9 billion), enough, according to Chalmers, for a defense force larger than that of Ireland but—as a proportion of GDP—around the same as the smaller Scandinavian countries. Scotland has significant interests to look after. Many of its exports come from North Sea oil, so capabilities will have to be created to patrol the oil and gas fields, and capabilities must be put in place to deal with cyberwarfare and counter-terrorism.
“There would not be much point in Scotland inheriting equipment and assets from the U.K. because the U.K. armed forces have now been structured for deployment overseas. . . . [Creating a] new military from scratch will not be easy. Significant one-off costs will also be involved,” adds Chalmers.
There are also questions about the make-up of a Scottish armed force. Would it comprise an entirely fresh pool of Scottish citizens? But then, exactly who is a Scottish citizen? Currently, nearly 800,000 Scotland-born people live elsewhere in the U.K. and will not be able to vote in the referendum. Yet, 400,000 denizens who were born outside Scotland but now reside there—can.
Recent opinion polls suggest enthusiasm for Scottish independence has slumped somewhat. Approximately 23% are saying they would vote “yes,” so it is perhaps no wonder that government departments are spending more time studying how to urge Scots to say “nay” rather than planning for an affirmative outcome.
The Scottish government is planning to hold its referendum in fall 2014, and if the people green-light the idea, it is the administration's intention is to have a constitutional platform in place for Scotland to become independent by March 2016.