Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 July 2014

SNP plans closer Scandinavian ties after Scotland's independence

SNP leader Alex Salmond

An independent Scotland would shift much of its attention away from the UK to become a member of the Scandinavian circle of countries, with its own army, navy and air force modelled on its Nordic neighbours, according to detailed plans being drawn up by the SNP.

Senior SNP strategists are compiling a "prospectus for independence" which they hope to use to sell the idea of separation to Scots ahead of the referendum in 2014 or 2015.



The document is not due to be published in full for another year but SNP insiders have disclosed key extracts.



They reveal that SNP leaders want an independent Scotland to look north and east in Europe for partnerships, trade and key defence relationships, rather than continuing to focus on western Europe and the Commonwealth, as the UK does now.



Senior Nationalists, including Alex Salmond, have made several trips to Scandinavia over the last couple of years, meeting ministers and officials in an attempt to pave the way for greater co-operation if Scotland becomes independent, particularly on energy. Indeed, initial plans have already been drawn up for an electricity super-grid between Scotland and Norway.



SNP strategists insist that Scotland would continue to be extremely close to the rest of the UK, which would remain its biggest trading partner, but they also believe that Scotland has more in common with its Scandinavian neighbours than the UK does and they are keen to take this relationship to a new level.



The Scandinavian approach is being driven by Angus Robertson, the SNP's defence and foreign affairs spokesman in Westminster. Mr Robertson said recently that Scotland's relationship with its Scandinavian neighbours had suffered because of a southern bias since the Act of Union in 1707.



He declared: "Our neighbours to the north and east have already made a good start and work constructively together. We need to join them and play our part. The UK has opted out of a serious approach. We should not."



As well as being used to sell the idea of an independent Scotland at home, the prospectus for independence will be the basis for negotiations with Westminster if the referendum is won. In those negotiations, Alex Salmond will demand 9 per cent (roughly Scotland's share of the UK population) of all UK assets, including defence hardware.



Under the plans being drawn up there would an independent Scottish navy based at Faslane – currently the base of the UK's Trident submarine fleet – and a Scottish air force based at Lossiemouth and Kinloss in Moray.



SNP strategists also expect an independent Scotland to be given the Royal Regiment of Scotland, whose five regular and two territorial battalions would form the backbone of a new independent army.



The Nationalists who are drawing up the prospectus have been told to make sure it is signed off before 2014, the earliest likely date for the referendum.



Scottish independence: how it would look



Trade



Closer co-operation with Sweden, Denmark and Norway on trade, energy grids and oil and gas exploration.



Defence



An independent Scottish navy based at Faslane. The Clyde facility would be transformed from its current role as the base of the UK's Trident submarine fleet to become the headquarters of the Scottish navy. The navy would be similar to those run by Norway and Denmark, with a small number of frigates, a few corvettes and patrol vessels and possibly a couple of submarines.



An independent Scottish air force based at Lossiemouth and Kinloss in Moray, centred on a squadron of Lockheed Orion P-3 maritime surveillance aircraft. These would have to be bought by the Scottish Government at a cost of £29m each.



An independent Scottish army. SNP strategists expect an independent Scotland to be given the Royal Regiment of Scotland by the Ministry of Defence. The regiment's five regular and two territorial battalions would form the new Scottish army.



Transport



The exploitation of new sea lanes from Asia over the top of Russia, which are being opened up because of global warming, and possibly establishing a major new container port in Fife to rival Rotterdam.

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