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Scots Independence Would Harm British Defense, Lawmakers Say

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Sept. 27 (Bloomberg) -- Scottish independence would reduce the security of the country and the rest of Britain, according to a panel of lawmakers looking at U.K. defense policy.

The removal of Trident nuclear missiles currently based in Scotland would take several years in the event of voters deciding to break away from the U.K. in 2014, the House of Commons Defence Committee in London said in a report today.

First Minister Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party, which runs the semi-autonomous government in Edinburgh, reversed its 30-year opposition to NATO membership last year on condition that the weapons are removed. The U.K. deterrent is based 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city.

Most Scottish-based defense contractors would be likely to relocate their operations should voters opt for independence, while Scotland would not be able to provide the country’s two warship building yards with enough orders to keep them both viable, the lawmakers said.

An independent Scotland would prioritize air and naval defense with a focus on securing offshore oil and gas resources, protecting fisheries and safeguarding coastal waters, Salmond said in July.

The proposed Scottish defense budget of 2.5 billion pounds ($4 billion) would be 500 million pounds more than the U.K. currently spends in Scotland and 1 billion pounds less than Scottish taxpayers currently contribute to U.K. defense spending, Keith Brown, veterans minister for the Scottish government, said in an e-mailed statement.

The SNP plan amounted to a 25 percent cut in Scotland’s defense spending, Jim Murphy, Labour’s defense spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. It was “risible” to pretend it could defend Scotland on a budget that was 7 percent of the one from which Scotland currently benefited, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Woodifield in Edinburgh at pwoodifield@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Douglas Lytle at dlytle@bloomberg.net

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