UK Government 'ignoring foreign and defence interests' of Scotland, report claims

The UK Government is “ignoring the foreign and defence interests” of Scotland, a report has claimed.

The UK Government is 'ignoring foreign and defence interests' of Scotland, a report has claimed.
The UK Government is 'ignoring foreign and defence interests' of Scotland, a report has claimed.

Co-authored by SNP MPs Alyn Smith and Stewart McDonald, the report calls for a radical overhaul of the UK foreign policy infrastructure, demanding input from beyond Whitehall, Westminster and the South-East.

The claims form part of the SNPs submission to the UK Government’s Integrated Review of the UK’s Foreign policy.

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They are now calling for sweeping changes to the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, as well as a new approach to recruitment in the armed forces.

Mr McDonald, the SNP defence spokesperson, said: "This is an important opportunity to set out our priorities and signal to the people of Scotland and the international community – particularly our allies in northern Europe – some of the guiding principles and priorities for Scotland as more of our fellow citizens back independence.

"As well as re-stating our long-standing opposition to nuclear weapons, we have put forward sensible suggestions on how to meet the modern-day threat picture: urging a greater emphasis on the High North and Arctic regions; on state resilience; measures to improve the terms and conditions for armed forces personnel; democratic oversight of UK Special Forces and an international ban on lethal autonomous weapons.”

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The report claims the “foreign and defence interests of Scotland have been long ignored by the UK Government” and urges a new approach.

It explains: “This can be seen nowhere more clearly than in the decades-long neglect of the United Kingdom’s own backyard – the North Atlantic and High North – in favour of attempting to project its power and influence globally.

“The era in which the United Kingdom was able to do so is long gone.

“It is vital that the HM Government’s approach foreign policy is updated for the 21st century and to reflect the United Kingdom’s constitutional frameworks. Diplomacy can no longer be the preserve of a small, London-centric group.”

The report is now calling for more access to help Scotland “fully advocate” its interests abroad.

Other overhauls include sweeping reforms to demonstrate a modern approach to security in an age of drones and "hybrid warfare", such as a ban on lethal autonomous weapons.

They say the Government must follow countries such as Finland, Sweden, Spain who appointed ambassadors for countering hybrid threats, which means conflict from military and non-military means to undermine and destabilise opponents.

The report explains: “HM Government’s response to key elements of hybrid warfare – including disinformation, political influence and cyber operations – is lacking in co-ordination and thus leaves the country ill-equipped to counter such efforts”.

The report also calls for an Armed Forces Representative Body to represent soldiers and help with recruiting issues, and also demands the UK raises the age of recruitment from the "morally indefensible" 16 to 18 years old.

Mr Smith, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesperson, claimed the report showed the SNP were a serious party ready to govern independently.

He said: “We cannot critique the UK government for failing Scotland if we do not set out what we would do instead.

“This builds our credibility as a serious Party with serious ambitions, both in the eyes of the international community and those of Scots not yet persuaded of independence.”

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