Prof Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute told Express.co.uk that it is vital that if Scotland were to become independent, Nicola Sturgeon and her party would have to remain on good terms with the UK if they have any hope on rejoining NATO and that secure access for British defence capabilities to reach into Scotland would have to be continued.
Explaining the issue of security in the event of Scotland voting for independence, Professor Chalmers was clear that the SNP and all major Scottish political parties “to my knowledge would support Scotland remaining a member of NATO”.
He said that while there is an “Irish option” where Scotland could pursue membership of the European Union but not be member of NATO, for security reasons “it is highly likely” that Scottish politicians “would seek membership of NATO”.
But crucially, Professor Chalmers noted how Scotland could not successfully become a member of NATO “without the agreement of its existing members”.
He said how most importantly of all, this comes down to an agreeable deal with the UK which he stressed “provides the entry key to NATO.”
The defence expert went on to explain this is due to the UK not wanting “a vulnerable northern flank” present Britain, thus Scottish NATO membership would be vital for defence of the British Isles.
Professor Chalmers highlighted how a vulnerable Scotland could be “exploited by other powers” and thus NATO membership and good security relations are vital in the event on an independence vote north of the border.
He added also how the UK would also want some “conventional military bases in Scotland which would be much less problematic” as part of any future security deals.
He stressed this by noting: “A large part of the British RAF is based in Lossiemouth which provides a key base to send out patrols over the North Sea and North Atlantic which regularly sees incursions by Russian planes.
“It is very much in the RAF’s interest to remain in Scotland with lots of other facilities as well.”
He added how Lossiemouth could become a NATO base as well as a UK base where both Norwegian and US airforces could operate from.
Despite this, he speculated that Britain “cannot exclude the possibility that a very acrimonious referendum followed by a deterioration in relationships” between the two countries could lead to such defence plans dissappearing into thin air.
He warned how such a situtation on the “political and economic level” could hypothetically lead to the defence relationship “increasingly being called into question because of that broader bad blood”.
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He noted: “We have seen in the Brexit negotiations that we have ended up with a form of Brexit that is harder than most people felt would be likely before the referendum took place.”
But despite specualtion, Professor Shields was clear that it is more likely that the security relationship between the UK and an independent Scotland would be a “benign one”.
The defence expert said such a relationship would reflect the reflecting the “benign model” that is seen with Canada or New Zealand which continue to have very close security relationships with the UK.
But he stressed how the “bad end of the spectrum” of Scottish independence and partition could see a “much more radical separation” which he said could be “similar to the circumstances” which surrounded the partition of Ireland.