A leading defence academic has claimed an independent Scotland would have to go “begging and borrowing” to maintain a military.
Professor Malcolm Chalmers, research director of the Royal United Services Institute, made the assertion as MPs convened an inquiry into how leaving the UK would impact Scotland’s defence capabilities.
The Defence Select Committee will hear evidence from a range of experts on all sides of the debate. In addition to Professor Chalmers, the inquiry also took evidence from retired Lt Col Stuart Crawford.
The SNP insists an independent country could provide a functioning Scottish Defence Force based on conventional capabilities and without the Trident nuclear deterrent which the party opposes.
However, Professor Chalmers issued a note of scepticism, telling MPs: "This is not going to be a matter of simply inheriting some assets and putting them straight out into the field. I imagine in this scenario in an independent Scotland, it would be begging and borrowing and leasing assets all over the place."
The SNP has yet to publish a blueprint for its post-independence defence plans but the party has said it would “co-operate” with allies in Northern Europe. That would include working with Nato but outwith its military structure because party policy remains opposed to the common defence alliance.
Professor Chalmers added: "To me that's the easier route for Scotland to take. If it were to take a route which involved not being a member of Nato and refusing co-operation with its neighbours, then it would be more vulnerable."
The Nationalists have dismissed the inquiry as “partisan” because no SNP MPs sit on the Defence Committee. The party has asserted that Scotland invests more in the UK's armed forces than it enjoys in return, a point supported by Lt Col Stuart Crawford and set to be probed by the inquiry.
A report outlining the findings of the committee is expected in 2013.
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