SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson has accused the MoD
of a "cover-up" over defence spending in Scotland
Scottish independence: MoD accused of "cover-up" and “deception” over UK defence spend in Scotland
The Scottish independence referendum debate has taken a dramatic new twist after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request apparently reveals a massive UK military underspend in Scotland. The FoI document has also led the SNP to present potentially damaging accusations of "deception" and "cover-up" against the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The FoI request looks at UK defence work which can only be awarded to domestic countries for reasons of national security and reportedly shows that between 2007-8 and 2011-12, Scotland procured £3.17bn of the contracts from a total of £60bn – an underspend of about £1.9bn based on Scotland's population share.
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One of the key arguments levelled against the case for Scottish independence is that Scotland benefits significantly from UK defence spending.
Against this backdrop SNP MPs have repeatedly attempted to obtain a breakdown of defence spending across the nations and regions of the UK. In response the MoD has consistently argued that providing such a breakdown is no longer possible.
However, this latest FoI document reveals that each item of spending has a designated regional code meaning that the MoD can provide such a breakdown.
Outraged at these latest revelations an SNP press release today (Monday) pulls no punches: "Despite repeated attempts to unearth this information, the MoD has evaded and avoided answering – and moreover has lied about its ability to produce these figures, making alarming reading for Scots."
SNP Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP has now levelled accusations, against the UK ministry, of deceiving the public: “The MoD has been caught red-handed. They told us they stopped publishing statistics of this type, only for it to be revealed that they do – but only for internal consumption.
“This is really nothing more or less than a cover-up as the minister assured me in parliamentary questions and debates that they were no longer published.
“Worst of all these figures show the underspend in Scotland continues to fundamentally undermine any remaining defence case for the union.
“Scottish taxpayers will feel rightly outraged at this deception and begs the question if any MoD pronouncements can be taken seriously."
Defence is one of the most controversial issues of the Scottish independence referendum campaign. If, as the SNP argues, this FoI shows that the MoD has misled the public many Scots' voters will increasingly fear they are being systematically misled by Westminster in order that a 'no' vote can be secured in the crucial vote next year.
Mr Robertson added:
“It is of course a devastating blow to unionist claims that Scotland gets a good deal on defence spending and totally exposes the deliberately misleading behaviour of the anti-independence parties.
“It beggars belief that this comes at the end of a week when a Scottish newspaper had to apologise and correct a scare story about job losses at Faslane, that was completely made up, and when a Westminster Defence minister showed himself unable to produce reliable information to the House of Commons about the same base which also had to be corrected.”
In order to reassure Scots that Westminster will not attempt to manipulate Scotland's referendum result, it would help if Prime Minister David Cameron step in and provide assurances that every effort will now be made to provide the public with a comprehensive breakdown of defence spending across the regions and nations of the UK.
The consequences of not doing so would be to further poison the atmosphere of the referendum campaign and undermine confidence in the Union across Scottish society.
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