Academics launch book on security policy in independent Scotland


Book of essays reviews security and spying plans for independent Scotland

TOP ACADEMICS have launched a new series of essays analysing the nature of the security debate in Scotland. 

Considering the implications of Scottish independence for defence, wider security policy, and specific policy areas like the intelligence services, the work has been compiled and published in the book ‘Security in a Small Nation: Scotland, Democracy, Politics’ edited by Andrew W. Neal of the University of Edinburgh. 

At a seminar considering the book yesterday (Monday 8 May), Neal and a selection of the book’s contributors presented some of their work. 

Neal explained that despite the reserved nature of military and international affairs to Westminster, in reality there is an “overlap in security governance [between Scotland and Westminster] despite defence being reserved to Westminster on paper”. For instance, senior police in Scotland have “daily assistance” from the UK security service on terror and crime issues. Wider issues within a ‘security’ agenda – for instance in relation to climate and environment – are also issues already planned for by the Scottish Government. 

Juliet Kaarbo, whose chapter was entitled ‘Perspectives on Small State Security in the Scottish Independence Debate’, compared the approach of the pro and anti-independence campaigns in the run up to the 2014 vote. 

Kaarbo explained that size was at the heart of the different perspective – with the pro-independence case arguing that Scotland would benefit from a Scotland-specific security policy. “Small may be beautiful in a way. Small may have its advantages,” she said. 

The anti-independence campaign focused on issues of risk and uncertainty from changing the current security arrangement, with examples like the Trident nuclear system being particularly contested in the debate. 

Experts Sandy Hardie, Charles D. Raab and Andrew Defty all spoke in relation to security services – its capacity and oversight structures. 

Sandy Hardie, a former foreign service officer who supported the campaign against independence, said there would be scepticism towards security services if Scotland became independent. He added that there would be a “very strong imperative” for defence and security cooperation between Scotland and the rest of the UK. “Would there be good working relationships? Yes, there would,” he added.

Raab and Defty considered first the work that would be necessary to balance private and security in oversight, and secondly how the Westminster system of oversight currently operates.

Since 2014 the SNP has taken a critical approach to the Investigatory Powers Act, which extended security service powers in areas of bulk data collection – made infamous by the Edward Snowden revelations. 

Snowden’s revelations also revealed a secret Scottish spying system, where data from GCHQ was then sent to the Scottish Recording Centre. 

Picture courtesy of UK MoD

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