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Debate 'puts defence jobs at risk'
The impact of the debate on Scottish independence is putting at risk thousands of jobs in the defence industry, according to Philip Hammond.
The Defence Secretary launched an attack on Scottish National Party (SNP) plans for a future independent defence force during a visit to Edinburgh.
He accused the party of failing to set out coherent proposals with just one year to go before the referendum.
"The nationalists have created a high degree of uncertainty with their plans, blighting the futures of thousands of families across Scotland," he said.
"By their unwillingness to publish detailed defence proposals, they are doing nothing to dispel those concerns or allay the fears they cause."
Taking Scotland out of the integrated British armed forces would harm defence in all parts of the UK, he said.
"What little the SNP have published of their plans for the defence of an independent Scotland doesn't add up," he said.
"And it does nothing to suggest that the Scottish people would benefit from anything like the level of security the UK armed forces currently provide, or the level of prosperity that Scotland's defence industry currently delivers.
"My message to the Scottish Government is simple. The debate on the future of defence in Scotland is too important to be ignored, or brushed under the carpet, or fobbed off with half-baked sound-bite policies which are financially and strategically incoherent. The Scottish people deserve facts and answers."
The Scottish Government proposes a £2.5 billion defence force, assuming a Yes vote in the referendum next September.
Further details of the plan are expected to be contained in the SNP administration's formal "white paper" on independence in the coming week.
Mr Hammond was speaking at defence technology company Selex-ES, based in the Scottish capital.
The visit coincided with the launch of the latest UK Government analysis paper on independence, this time looking at defence.
The Conservative MP focused much of his speech on jobs.
He conceded that an earlier intervention made in Edinburgh in March included a number of assertions.
"I was expecting a furious rebuttal," he said.
"But nothing. No response, no attempt to rebut, no case to make."
He added: "Instead of coming forward with detailed, costed and credible proposals to fulfil that first duty of government, the SNP have been culpably silent on the issue.
"Less than a year before the Scottish people go to the ballot box to take one of the most important decisions in the history of Scotland, the SNP's plans remain insultingly vague - a two-page wish list that is neither costed nor credible.
"The security of the Scottish people is too important to be ducked and dodged."
On jobs, he said Faslane and Coulport, taken together, is the largest employment site in Scotland, with 6,700 military and civilian jobs - a figure he said will rise to 8,200 by 2020.
The number of armed forces personnel will increase to 12,500 by the same time, as the overall number of UK personnel is decreasing, he added.
Ministry of Defence (MoD) shipbuilding contracts for aircraft carriers directly affects 4,000 jobs north of the border and played a major part in recent work on Royal Navy destroyers.
"Yet the spectre of Scottish indepedence threatens to put those shipbuilding jobs in jeopardy," he said.
He also claimed it is "abundantly clear" that the shipbuilding industry could not survive on Scottish Government warship orders to sustain a fleet.
Mr Hammond dismissed concerns that the Trident nuclear deterrent should be removed. The SNP has made the removal of the weapons system a key plank of its proposal for independence.
The Defence Secretary said it would take a "brave" person to decide to abandon what he called the ultimate guarantee of security.
He questioned how a Scottish defence force would replicate current abilities to meet potential threats.
"At a time when sophisticated military equipment and capabilities are becoming increasingly expensive, smaller, less well-resourced countries often have to make painful trade-offs about which capabilities to retain, and which they can no longer afford to maintain," he said.
Mr Hammond also suggested that military personnel may not wish to join a slimmed-down defence force, compared with the "wide range of opportunities" presented by the British military.
"You have to question what sort of opportunities Scottish defence forces would offer by comparison," he said.
"What calibre of people would they be able to recruit and retain for what is essentially a home defence force?"
He also asked what incentives there would be for soldiers in regiments such as the Black Watch to enlist b ut conceded that those regiments would be able to be part of any future independent Scottish army.
The UK Government report is split into sections on security through an integrated defence, international alliances, and the defence market.
Heavily trailed over the past few days, it concludes that the arguments for Scotland remaining in the UK are strong.
"The implications are clear. An independent Scottish state could not come close to replicating the level of defence and security that comes from its place within the UK and would likely be heavily reliant on allies and partners, including the UK, for its defence and security," the report states.
The 86-page document was published just days after MPs on the Commons Defence Committee said it would be ''remiss'' of the MoD not to consider the implications of independence.
The MoD insists it is not making any preparation for a potential Yes vote next year.
While it says the British armed forces are deeply integrated, MoD chiefs also agree picking it apart would not be impossible.
Before the Defence Secretary's visit to Edinburgh, the Scottish Government's veterans minister Keith Brown used the opportunity to challenge him to a debate on Scotland's "under-funded'' military.
Armed forces have experienced greater cuts than the rest of the UK and billions of pounds were wasted cancelling the Nimrod aircraft replacement programme, said Mr Brown, a former Royal Marine who served in the Falklands conflict.
With independence, money would be saved by getting rid of the Clyde-based Trident nuclear deterrent, he added.
"If Mr Hammond is so confident about his position, he should have the courage to face me in a debate, so that the Scottish public can discover the truth about how Westminster is under-funding Scotland's armed forces,'' the SNP minister said.