The House of Commons Defence Committee has just released the findings of its inquiry into the defence implications of Scottish Independence, in the event of a Yes vote in the referendum.
The scope of the Committee's report includes a number of personnel-related issues, such as
- Interests of serving UK military personnel
- Future recruitment
- Participation in the referendum
All the above are of key interest to many of our members, and therefore to BAFF and, in the event of a Yes vote in the referendum, a future Scottish Defence Force Federation.
On the participation issue, BAFF has taken a leading role in service electoral participation campaigns and was represented in the Service Voter Working Group set up by the previous Government in the run-up to the 2010 General Election.
Interests of serving UK military personnel
The Committee welcomed the evidence they received from the Secretary of State for Defence that Scots serving in the UK Armed Forces would be able to transfer to a Scottish defence force should Scotland become a separate state. The Committee recommends that the Ministry of Defence should provide a clear statement, prior to the referendum, that serving personnel would be able to choose whether to remain in the UK Armed Forces or to transfer to a Scottish defence force.
The Committee points out that Scottish independence would have a significant impact on the critical mass of rUK Armed Forces and the financial resources available to support them. It recommends that the MoD sets out, in its response to this report, whether it would seek to recruit personnel to replace the numbers lost through transfers to a Scottish defence force. The Committee asks would personnel numbers be maintained at current projections, or would rUK Armed Forces reduce further in size.
The Defence Committee points out that "many thousands of Scots have served with distinction in UK Armed Forces over many years. In the event of Scottish independence that long history may be brought to an end should the rUK government decide that it did not wish to recruit from Scotland." The Committee invites the UK Government in its response to this report to make clear whether it would continue to welcome recruits from an independent Scotland.
Participation in the Referendum
On speaking to personnel during a visit to Scotland in March 2013, the Defence Committee found that many personnel it spoke to were unaware that if registered to vote in Scotland they would have an entitlement to participate. Keith Brown MSP told the Committee that the Scottish Government is
"keen to make sure that as many people as possible are entitled to vote. Anybody who is not currently registered, of course, has the ability, between now and then, to register, given the due processes. Yes, everything we can do to help maximise that, but primarily it is the responsibility—for very good reason—of the Electoral Commission."
The Defence Committee now invite the Ministry of Defence to set out what action it will take, in conjunction with the Electoral Commission, to ensure that serving personnel are aware of their rights regarding registration and participation in the referendum.
These matters are already down for discussion at the BAFF Annual General Meeting tomorrow, Saturday 28 September.