Professor Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute told Express.co.uk that it is essential that if Scotland becomes independent, Nicola Sturgeon and her party will have to remain on good terms with the UK if they have any hope of joining NATO. and that secure access for British defense capabilities to reach into Scotland should be maintained.
Explaining the security problem in the event of Scotland voting for independence, Professor Chalmers was clear that the SNP and all major Scottish political parties “to my knowledge would support Scotland to remain a member of NATO”.
He said that while there is an “Irish option” where Scotland could pursue membership of the European Union but not be a member of NATO, for security reasons “it is very likely” that Scottish politicians would “seek membership of NATO”.
But importantly, Professor Chalmers noted how Scotland could not successfully become a member of NATO “without the consent of its existing members”.
He said how most important this is a pleasant agreement with Britain, which he emphasized “provides the key to NATO.”
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The defense expert went on to explain that this is due to the UK not wanting a “vulnerable north side” of current Britain, so Scottish NATO membership would be essential for defense of the British Isles.
Professor Chalmers highlighted how vulnerable Scotland could be “exploited by other powers” and so NATO membership and good security relations are essential in the event during an independence vote north of the border.
He added also how Britain would also like some “conventional military bases in Scotland that would be much less problematic” as part of future security deals.
He emphasized this by noting: “Much of the British RAF is based in Lossiemouth which provides a key base for sending patrols over the North Sea and North Atlantic, which regularly see raids by Russian aircraft.
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“It is very much in the RAF’s interest to stay in Scotland with many other facilities as well.”
He added how Lossiemouth could become a NATO base as well as a UK base from where both Norwegian and US air forces could operate.
Despite this, he speculated that Britain “cannot rule out the possibility that a very sharp referendum followed by a deterioration in relations” between the two countries could cause such defense plans to disappear into the air.
He warned how such a situation on the “political and economic level” could hypothetically lead to the defense relationship “increasingly questioned because of that broader bad blood”.
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He noted: “We saw in the Brexit negotiations that we ended up with a form of Brexit that is more difficult than most people thought would be likely before the referendum took place.”
But despite speculation, Professor Shields was clear that it was more likely that the security relationship between Britain and an independent Scotland would be “benevolent”.
The defense expert said such a relationship would reflect the “good model” seen with Canada or New Zealand, which continue to have very close security relations with Britain.
But he emphasized how the “bad end of the spectrum” of Scottish independence and partition could see a “much more radical separation”, which he said could be “similar to the circumstances” surrounding the partition of Ireland.