IN the publications produced by government (Westminster and Scottish), there is an interesting statistic. Just over £4 billion is reserved from the Scottish budget for use by Westminster for defence. It is approximately eight per cent which aligns with the population ratio.

The question is are we getting value for money? Now in theory it makes sense to share defence but are Westminster’s priorities the same as ours? Westminster seems interested in force projection and its place as a world power rather than defence.

What does Scotland really need? A good example of a country of around our size with a long coastline on a jointly shared island off the coast of Europe is Ireland. It spends around £0.8bn on defence and security.

As a direct comparison it seems suitable. It has forces to cope with incursions, any domestic troubles and to give the public confidence in coping with any emergencies. It has a suitable fleet of ships, aircraft and army resources. As an example of suitable defence it is nearer Scotland’s requirements than Westminster which is very much a blue water navy and forces designed for offensive invasions than home defence.

However the cost has also be taken into account. With a modern single service equipped with the latest technology especially with the modern threats from the cyber sector a sum near the Irish budget is more likely. It also releases around £3bn for investment in more important social areas.

Schools and the NHS never have enough money and investing in a country-wide broadband and 5G network would do more for Scotland than funding a white elephant aircraft carrier.

Another “little” sum that appears in the accounts is around £4bn in debt interest again reserved for Westminster use. With a lateral approach we could reduce that.

As part of separating defence there is the question of our ownership of defence assets. Technically at least eight per cent belongs to us. Instead of taking a couple of Destroyers, etc, we should “sell” our share to the UK (who feel they haven’t got enough shiny defence toys at the moment) in return for reducing our share of the national debt.

We already have a few defence assets and could build up using long-term leasing of simpler equipment (defence equipment goes obsolete quickly).

Whatever we spend it is going to be less than our present spend on defence and debt interest. It also gives us a chance to invest in suitable modern equipment. The move from states invading each other to areas such as cyber gives us a chance to spend in the correct areas.

Add the extra investment in schools and the NHS and we would be defending our society in a better way.
Bruce D Skivington
Wester Ross

THE notion that there is a comparison to be made by David Lidington between a can of paint and chlorinated chicken is totally absurd. I can remember when paint contained lead which was eventually banned.

I could draw a comparison here with our drug-free animal rearing. However, relating paint manufacturing to being different in any of the four UK countries and should be standardised is as ridiculous as it is unnecessary.

Household paint already has to be produced within given safety standards. In much the same way, so is animal rearing whether it be chickens, cows, pigs or any other creature grown for the food market. Safety regulations are pretty much standardised throughout the UK. Lidington needs to do his homework and stop trying to boss the devolved countries into a Westminster submission – 2014 taught Scotland how to deal with his kind thank you very much.
Alan Magnus-Bennett