By Lisa Moir
Claims by the UK Home Secretary that an independent Scotland would be ill-equipped to tackle terrorism threats have been ferociously denied by YES campaigners.
Speaking from Edinburgh yesterday, on the latest UK government paper, Theresa May has said Scotland would have reduced ability to detect criminal and terrorist threats.
This was the seventh paper to be published by the UK government, ahead of the Independence referendum, to take place in September 2014. Focusing on the security of an independent Scotland, it claims that threats from organised crime gangs, cyber criminals and global terrorism “are best confronted with Scotland inside the UK.”
However, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill rejected this saying, “These claims are wrong…Scotland is already an independent jurisdiction when it comes to policing and justice issues, and current cross-border cooperation shows how well that can work to combat terrorism and other threats.”
SNP MSP Christine Grahame supported MacAskill saying “This is Project fear at its worst”, adding, “the SNP has a record of delivering when it comes to policing and security and we will take no lessons from someone who has done so much to undermine this vital area south of the border.”
Theresa May has clearly stated that the current intelligence and security network could not be easily divided and, as a result, resources including the £860m UK cyber security programme would not be available to an independent Scotland. She added that Scotland would lose automatic access to MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the New Crime Agency and that “terrorists will seek new ways to exploit any weakness.”
Despite this, Allan Burnett, former Counter Terrorism for Scotland Chief, remains confident of the Scottish ability to tackle any security threats, having witnessed first hand “the great Scottish talent in military, secret and police intelligence services, and can readily envisage the huge ability, energy, integrity and innovation they would pour into this exciting mission.”
As yet the Scottish Government has still to unveil detailed plans for a post-independent intelligence service, but insists an annual budget of £2.5bn is available to create new security and defence forces.
Home Secretary is said to be “highly sceptical” about the proposed budget, which compared with UK spending of about £33bn for defence and £2bn for security, intelligence and cyber-security, seems rather modest. May also rejected the YES campaigners claims that Scotland would face a diminished threat from terrorism, by shunning illegal wars and rejecting nuclear weapons, suggesting that many terrorists have a problem, “with the way of life in the West,” rather than specific grievances about Foreign Policy adding, “you can’t say the threat would definitely diminish.”
Although not addressing any of May’s specific comments in detail an unperturbed, Kenny MacAskill stated, “An independent Scotland will have first rate security arrangements to counter any threats we may face. And we will continue to work in very close collaboration with the rest of the UK and international partners on security and intelligence matters, which is in everyone’s interests.”