Towards a Defence & Security strategy for an independent Scotland

Overview —

This paper is intended to provide an overview of the following aspects of a Scottish Defence & Security Strategy:

• What is meant by ‘Scottish national security’
• What threats it would be required to address
• What framework it would operate under
• How Scottish foreign policy would impact it
• What institutions would implement it

The intent of this paper is not to serve as a finalised strategy but instead to provide a basis for further discussion and development.


Garry Macdonald

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This paper advocates a holistic approach to security comprising four interlinked dimensions: human security, environmental security, economic security and institutional security.


― An independent Scotland’s present and future threat environment includes serious organised crime, cybercrime, terrorism, social unrest, coercion by state and non-state actors, military threat from a foreign state and natural or man-made disaster. The current threat is predominantly occupied by non-state actors as opposed to any existential or territorial threat. However a defence & security strategy should account for future risk assessment, without indulging a ‘climate of fear’.

― In the interim period following independence, Scotland should pursue ‘associate membership’ in NATO and the EU, allowing for a more flexible foreign policy while allowing integration in specific areas of mutual interest. This would take the form of joining the ‘partnership for peace’ programme in respect to NATO and the European Free Trade Association in respect to the EU, before considering full membership in the future.

― A framework for an independent Scotland’s Defence & Security Strategy should rest on five pillars: policy coherence (strategic integration across the various policy areas which affect defence and security); regional partnerships (forming strong relationships with like-minded countries, taking account of Scotland’s geopolitical position); a resilience model (ensuring Scottish society as a whole is resilient to shocks); a law enforcement focus (a presumption that law enforcement takes priority over military); and readiness and regeneration (an ability to respond quickly if the military threat landscape changes suddenly).

― A single, integrated Scottish Security & Intelligence Agency should be established, responsible for collecting, analysing and utilising information in support of law enforcement, national security and foreign policy objectives.

― Police Scotland will have to significantly enhance its Organised Crime & Terrorism Unit while its International Assistance Unit would take on increased significance in the context of independence.

― A Scottish Customs Agency would be required to tackle the economic and social impact of illegal trafficking on Scotland, working closely with law enforcement, intelligence and military forces.

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