Talks on Scottish military 'needed'

The former head of the British Army has called for a full discussion about the potential future of Scotland's armed forces before a referendum on independence.

General Lord Dannatt has suggested First Minister Alex Salmond should discuss what Scotland is "likely to get" from Westminster if it votes yes to independence.

Lord Dannatt told the Daily Telegraph newspaper: "He (Salmond) needs to be open about what the sizes of the armed forces would be. There should be an initial discussion (with Westminster) ahead of the referendum so Scotland would know what they are likely to get."

The Scottish Government's 2009 paper, Your Scotland, Your Voice: A national conversation, said an independent Scotland would require a strategic defence review to formulate its priorities. The paper said the size and cost of Scotland's defence capability would be among "a range of choices" open to an independent Scotland.

While the final priorities would be for a future Scottish Government to decide, the SNP said it would rid Scotland of nuclear weapons, co-operate with alliances such as Nato without being a member, and continue to co-operate with the UK on training, basing and procurement.

Lord Dannatt was Chief of the General Staff from 2006 until his retirement in 2009. He was then nominated a Conservative peer and advised the party on defence until David Cameron was elected Prime Minister in 2010. He decided to sit as a crossbencher upon taking his is seat in January.

A spokesman for the First Minister said: "The problem with this story is that Richard Dannatt is commenting on something the First Minister didn't say, not something he did say.

"As the First Minister said, this Government is committed to Trident nuclear weapons being removed from Scotland as quickly as possible, and independence is the only constitutional option that gives Scotland this power and this choice."

Shadow Defence Minister Russell Brown, Labour MP for Dumfries and Galloway, said: "Knowing how we would defend ourselves, whether the shipyards would close, how many aircraft carriers we would have, the size of the army, our membership of Nato, our role on the UN Security Council: all these must be answered before the referendum, not after.

"On defence, our relationship with Europe, the currency, on pensions, Alex Salmond might run from the questions but he can't hide from them."