This week’s UK defence news has been dominated by events in Iraq. The RAF has joined the USAF in dropping aid to refugees fleeing the advance of Islamic State fighters, and Tornado bombers have been deployed to RAF Akrotiri to help direct the drops. Around four RAF Chinooks are also likely to be sent to the region to support aid efforts. However, offensive operations have so far been left to the US military.
In other news, the UK's first A400M transport aircraft began taxi trials prior to its delivery this September. One of the Army’s highest profile Reservists has resigned after saying it was impossible for her to juggle the post with her civilian day job. Finally, an RAF Phantom fighter that holds the speed record from Land's End to John O'Groats is being offered for sale to the public this month.
· MoD security review sees local constables take on air base policing
· Question of Scottish independence hangs over new Royal Navy order for Clyde-built ships
· New report finds that Trident would remain in post-independent Scotland until 2028
· Scottish independence will leave Britain less secure, former Chief of the General Staff warns
· Independent Scotland may be denied share of defence equipment if it refuses to take on national debt
· Hundreds of Police officers failing soon-to-be mandatory fitness tests
· Increasing numbers of police hit by 40 per cent tax rate
MoD security review sees local constables take on air base policing
The Western Daily Mail reports that MoD police who patrolled Royal Naval Air Station Yeovilton in Somerset 24 hours a day have been scrapped by the Ministry of Defence – leaving local police teams to provide civilian support. MoD-employed police used to patrol the base, but at the beginning of the financial year in April a number of staff were redeployed to other MoD bases, and police – mainly based in the Area East beat at Wincanton police station – were tasked with attending any incidents reported on the site. It is not believed Avon and Somerset police officers will be asked to carry on the round the clock patrols, but just respond to reports.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman confirmed that following a review in 2012 of the MoD's policing and guarding procedures, changes were made to the deployment of MoD Police at a number of sites across the UK including RNAS Yeovilton. She added: “No officers at Yeovilton were made redundant. New procedures were agreed with local police forces across the country to monitor key sites externally.”
Question of Scottish independence hangs over new Royal Navy order for Clyde-built ships
The Daily Telegraph reports that BAE Systems has won a £348m contract to build three Royal Navy warships at the company’s Glasgow shipyards. The order has served to highlight the potential problems a “Yes” vote for Scottish independence could pose for the defence group. The Ministry of Defence has ordered the 300ft offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) for use in counter-terrorism and anti-smuggling operations in a deal that will secure 800 jobs and maintain shipbuilding skills in the UK. The first vessel is scheduled for delivery in 2017. BAE last year decided to end ship construction at the Navy’s historic home of Portsmouth with the loss of 940 jobs and concentrate its operations in Scotland. Should the country vote to break away from the UK in the 18 September vote, the group could face difficult decisions on where it will build the ships.
New report finds that Trident would remain in post-independent Scotland until 2028
The Daily Telegraph reports that a leading think-tank has predicted Scotland would still be housing Trident nuclear weapons more than a decade after voting for independence. The Royal United Services Institute said 2028 was the “natural target date” for relocating Trident, but even that time frame could slip. The study undermines Alex Salmond's claim that the UK's nuclear arsenal could be removed from Scotland by 2020. However, the defence experts also found that relocation would be technically “feasible” and far less costly than some predictions, coming in at between £2.5 billion and £3.5 billion overall. Some predictions had run to £25 billion. The paper, published on Thursday, comes just weeks before the independence referendum and looks at the financial and political hurdles of moving Trident in the event of a Yes vote.
The paper, by RUSI research analyst Hugh Chalmers and research director Malcolm Chalmers, says relocating Trident out of Scotland would be both financially and technically feasible. They estimate that recreating the facilities outside Scotland would add £2.5 to £3.5 billion (at 2012/13 prices) to the cost of maintaining a nuclear-armed fleet, plus the cost of acquiring and clearing the land and costs of moving people and material around – and would be very unlikely to cost the “tens of billions” cited elsewhere. But it would take more than a decade to recreate the facilities, rather than the four years to which the SNP is currently committed, the authors said.
Scottish independence will leave Britain less secure, former Chief of the General Staff warns
The Daily Telegraph reports that losing ten per cent of the armed forces if Scotland becomes independent will leave Britain a “less secure” and “diminished” nation, the former Chief of the General Staff has warned. General Sir Mike Jackson, Chief of the General Staff from 2003 to 2006, echoed comments by Admiral Sir George Zambellas that independence would “greatly weaken” the effectiveness of the Royal Navy. Lord West, a former First Sea Lord, has also said that Scottish independence will damage Britain’s defence forces.
If Scotland votes in favour of independence in September, an estimated one in ten of British forces would be lost on top of substantial cuts to the armed forces in recent years. Bolstering the army to current levels post-independence would cost the remaining United Kingdom billions. General Sir Mike, the former head of the British Army, warned this would lead to an “inevitable… diminution of that defence capability given an independent Scotland”. Speaking on a BBC documentary, he said: “Measured in terms of the military capability which will rest with a diminished United Kingdom, yes, it will be less.”
Independent Scotland may be denied share of defence equipment if it refuses to take on national debt
The Financial Times reports that an independent Scotland should be denied access to fighter aircraft, warships and any other physical government assets if it refuses to take on a share of UK debt after separation, according to the chairman of the influential Scottish Affairs Committee. Ian Davidson has entered the debate on Scotland’s currency, urging ministers to tell Scottish voters that they should not expect to receive crucial pieces of kit if their government does not agree to help repay British debt. Mr Davidson told the Financial Times: “It is difficult to imagine the UK handing over assets such as warships, aircraft and other military equipment when the Scottish share of the borrowing that has helped pay for these items is not being repaid.”
Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, has threatened not to take on any existing debt unless Scotland is allowed to join a currency union with the rest of the UK, something all three Westminster parties have ruled out.
Hundreds of Police officers failing soon-to-be mandatory fitness tests
The Daily Mail has reported that hundreds of police officers continue to fail new fitness tests which are set to become mandatory in a few weeks’ time. As of September, constables will have to take an annual shuttle run test – known as a 'bleep test'. But at least 352 officers have been branded 'unsatisfactory' in practice tests so far. According to figures released by the College of Policing, some 138 of the 10,265 male officers who took part (one per cent) failed. Of 3,693 female officers, 214 fell short – an average of six per cent. The new fitness testing, which will become compulsory in two weeks' time, was brought in after recommendations made by Chief Inspector of Constabulary Tom Winsor. If an officer fails the fitness test at the first attempt, it is advised that at least two retakes are permitted before forces use 'unsatisfactory performance' against the participating officer. The worst failure rates were seen in North Yorkshire with 16.2 per cent, Lancashire with 6.4 per cent and South Yorkshire with 5.4 per cent.
Increasing numbers of police hit by 40 per cent tax rate
The Daily Telegraph reports that a quarter of Britain's teachers, a third of police officers and one in 10 nurses have been dragged into the 40p rate in the last ten years. Over the past decade, more than 1.6 million people have been dragged into the higher rate of tax, which effects people earning more than £41,865 a year, including hundreds of thousands of workers who would not traditionally be regarded as high earners. Figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that more than 100,000 primary and secondary school teachers, 70,000 police officers and up to 72,000 nurses have been dragged into the higher rate of tax.