Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Down to the nitty-gritty - Part 3: A divorce settlement for the Scots Navy


Scotland is being offered £3.7bn assets - Navy could have £1bn worth of vessels
Defence Minister Peter Luff recently suggested Scotland would be entitled to £3.7bn of MoD assets in the event of independence. 

What could be the provenance of the figure, and what would it mean in practical terms for Scotland?

The National Asset Register 2007 listed £93bn as tangible (£70bn "things" such as land, buildings, weapons) and £23bn intangible (R&D spend to develop weapons) as MoD assets. £3.7bn equates to 8.4% of the moveable portion of these* - vehicles, ships and aircraft. This seems reasonable - after all even if we wanted to give up Faslane (value £260m , or Couplort value £2m) we obviously can't move them across the border. 

When Russia and the Ukraine separated with the end of the Soviet Union, they eventually split the Black Sea Fleet (based on Ukrainian sovereign territory) 50/50 by number of units, with Russia "buying back" units assigned to Ukraine that they wanted to keep for operational reasons. 

There are clear parallels with Scotland's situation - the most obvious example being the Trident nuclear missile submarines, built for £4.8bn in the 1990s and valued at £2bn in 2005 - and of no value to Scotland. 

Before jumping to the answer for a possible split of units, or cash in hand, let's look at the actuarial issues. 
  • The 2007 National Asset Register uses 2005 figures - we need to use 2014 values for assets
  • However the depreciation scheme for the 2007 Asset Register is not disclosed, so 2014 values have been estimated based on:
    • historical purchase cost, unadjusted for inflation (Historical Cost Accounting - "HCA")
    • estimated asset life with straight-line depreciation
    • HCA values for 2005 have been compared against the National Asset Register
  • Resale values have also been shown, where comparators are available
The full table of estimates and values by asset can be viewed here:

The quick answer is that the valuation of the RN's vessels attributable to Scotland's Navy should be of the order of £1bn at independence. 

The Scots Navy could take 14 vessels of different types, and still have £400m cash in hand - mainly thanks to the six eye-wateringly expensive Type 45 destroyers and the two Astute submarines in service by 2014, all eight vessels around £1bn each - and none of which we want. 

What ships would the Scottish Navy spend £1bn on?
Previously we sized the Scottish Navy at 9 patrol vessels, with the option to run 10 new generation Calmac ferries as dual role ships, as was first done in the 1960s. 

The previous post considered ranges and operating areas only, not functions. However our patrol vessels should have space for hangar for a helicopter (ideally Chinook-sized), accommodation for soldiers and ideally a vehicle ramp and deck. Such a utility vessel can "do anything" we would reasonably expect. Built as new, a simple helicopter-capable ship could cost in the order of £50-60m - examples are the New Zealand Protector class or the Norwegian Svalbard class. To add space for vehicles, indeed for a hangar for two helicopters is just that - space surrounded by steel, and relatively cheap. New Zealand bought the Canterbury for £85m  - but the Australians got an even better bargain. 

The closest approximation within the RN's current inventory to a ship for soldiers, their vehicles and as a base for helicopters are the Bay class landing ships. These cost £165m when new - but Australia bought a 5-year old one for £65m

Bay-class [bottom] alongside cruise liner [top] for comparison

Here is the list of 14 vessels we could negotiate for:

Intervention ships
  • Bay-class x 2 [leaving RN 4 other landing ships]
  • Frigate x 2 [leaving RN 17 other escorts]
  • Supply ship x 1
Patrol vessels
  • Minewarfare x 6 [doubles as a stop-gap for new build patrol vessels, leaves RN 9]
  • Patrol vessel x 2 [leaving RN 3]
  • Survey vessel x 1 [leaving RN 3]
Effectively we get our 9 home patrol vessels and an intervention force to contribute to multi-national efforts as anticipated by the SNP

Knowing that the balance of asset values can allow us to negotiate for the ships we need, then helicopters and fast jets for maritime strike and air defence for the Scots Navy can be drawn from the pool of existing UK assets on a proportional basis to population (25 helicopters and 18 fast jets) 

Independence "So Whats?"
1. Scotland can negotiate for nine patrol vessels and fiveintervention ships from RN

2. Up to £400m trade-in value of other vessels to allow us to acquire maritime patrol aircraft (RN has none today)
3. Sufficient fast jets for Scots Navy to defend national perimeter and helicopter fleet for patrol and intervention can be available from a proportional split of UK assets. 

* "Single use military equipment", "Transport equipment" and a portion of ""Assets under construction"

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Scotland is a maritime nation - how do we look after it?


"Scotland is a maritime nation with more than 11,000 miles of coastline, including nearly 800 islands, critical under-sea and offshore infrastructure and an area of responsibility extending far into the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean"

SNP Resolution on Defence, published 16 July 2012

SNP: Scotland needs mutual defence

"While conventional military threats to Scotland are low, it is important to maintain appropriate security and defence arrangements and capabilities."

Putting to one side the talk of in/out NATO, Trident leaving Scotland slowly or quickly, the facts of Scotland's geography and the nature of the surrounding nations does not change (quickly anyway). 

rUK, Ireland, Norway, Iceland, Denmark & Faroes & Greenland, Canada as we look out and North are not likely to cause Scotland problems of state-on-state aggression. Seabed demarcation lines between us don't move (or shouldn't) - talk of what happens in the High Arctic, with melting ice-caps and and finding more oil there is not for Scotland directly, but maybe for Norway, Denmark & Greenland and Canada, and not immediately at that.

In working out our defence needs, and who we might partner with, we need to separate classic state-on-state armed aggression from dealing with lower-level disputes on natural resources sharing, and international terrorism. 

Today, as you read this post, foreigners are free to come into our territory to take our resources - the fishing fleets of any other maritime nation: England, Russia, Spain. Rules of course apply, and are enforced by Marine Scotland, the Royal Navy having withdrawn fishery protection south of the Border as long ago as 1994. 

Whether we are in/out of NATO though we still need to deal with our own territorial integrity, and deal with the environmental risks of moving large quantities of oil around our coasts. 

No-one will do this for us (not even Westminster on fishing rights). Indeed with the recent Westminster driven cuts (to rescue Coastguard co-ordination centres, emergency tugs and maritime patrol aircraft) we have a real marine protection problem today. 

SNP: Scotland will contribute to world peace

"An independent Scotland will be an outward-looking nation which is open, fair and tolerant, contributing to peace, justice and equality. By mobilising our assets and the goodwill and recognition that Scotland enjoys in the world, we will provide sustainable access to natural resources to tackle need and prevent insecurity in the world for this and future generations"

NATO represents a mutual defence pact, it also allows groups of nations to take collective action, piggybacking on the US, they could not otherwise undertake on their own, such as in Afghanistan. 

Eastwards expansion is also a running theme with NATO - it effectively increases the size of the Western bloc by drawing former communist states into the mutual defence arrangement, and gets them to go fight in NATO's wars.

Costs of membership of this insurance club are not high (a commitment to spend 0.5% of GDP on defence), but once you've joined it, you'll be expected to join in the club's activities. 

As a UN member, but outwith NATO, Ireland has sent peacekeeping troops overseas for years. Scotland's consideration is: if we are not to be isolationist, which overseas conflicts and wars will we be involved in? - and if so would we rather send the Scots Army to fight under NATO command or under UN? Given the higher levels of professionalism in the former and a duty of care to our troops, we may not be left with many options.

"The Multi Role Brigade structure and interoperable air and sea assets will provide deployable capabilities for United Nations sanctioned missions and support of humanitarian, peacekeeping and peace-making ‘Petersberg Tasks’'"

To send troops overseas requires at least the following, beyond combat:
  1. training facilities pre-deployment
  2. logistics bridge back to equipment base (to support ever more complex weapons)
  3. equipment maintenance in theatre (routine and deeper level maintenance)
  4. HQ base in theatre for communications & accommodation
  5. medical support (different "echelons" or levels of care)
  6. post-deployment support
The latest round of UK defence cuts anticipate further outsourcing to contractors - if you count reserve forces as part of the contractor pool, then all of the above can be delivered this way - but the unglamourous basics of foreign wars cost money regardless of how you staff them.  In multi-national operations most individual nations don't bring an entire independent base structure - instead they will contribute resources to common-use facilities.

In the list above though, points 3-5 can be addressed by sea-basing: using a large base ship, such as an assault ship or a supply ship with a helipad. Importantly this gives individual nations greater national control over how their forces are employed and sustained. Anything land-based by definition needs the consent of / payment to the land-owner. Check the map for why Afghanistan is a logistical headache. Even Afghanistan though is only 2 hours flight time from a US Navy carrier in the Gulf of Oman, and different studies suggest 40-60% of world population live within 100 miles of the sea. 

What is the relevance for Scotland here? If we want to retain a degree of independence when acting overseas then building our forces with a maritime centre makes sense. You need big ships with a hangar for helicopters, workshops and office space for HQ staff. They don't have to be expensive either. Steel is cheap and space is cheap, we don't have to fall into the fallacy that there's such a thing as a ship that's physically "too big for a small country". In terms of soft power and a positive foreign policy influence such vessels don't have to be called warships either.

Independence "So Whats?"
1) Westminster doesn't protect our fishermen and is cutting Coastguard protection - we have to deal with this problem with or without NATO
2) Recognising that Scotland does not face conventional military attack, SNP want Scots Army to be able to fight overseas
3) Only from the sea can nations offer truly independent contributions to multi-national efforts - Scotland can govern its degree of involvement in this way

Friday, 6 July 2012

John Paul Jones and the birth of a nation

The creation of founding myths based around strong historical figures is nationalist 101. People and stories from the past are used to define the characteristics of the nation which the leaders want to promote. Borrowing and reshaping historical figures who might sit awkwardly in the present is also standard operating procedure - the Soviet regime, notionally proletarian, was happy to honour the actions of Tsars and noblemen from bygone days.

Today is 6 July, birth date of the Scotsman tagged as "Father of the American Navy". John Paul Jones was not of course the true "father" of the US Navy - he joined only as second-in-command of one of the USN's first ships in December 1775. The Navy's originators were arguably the members of the Rhode Island assembly who passed a motion in August 1775 calling "for building at the Continental expense a fleet of sufficient force, for the protection of these colonies, and for employing them in such a manner and places as will most effectively annoy our enemies..."

Why then was his body repatriated in 1905 to the US, with full military honours, and why is his tomb still guarded today by cadets from the US Naval Academy?

     Source: Wikimedia

The answer of course is that what he did during the War for Independence was so audacious that his character has imprinted itself on the USN's consciousness - like Nelson did later for the Royal Navy. Unlike in the UK though, the USN retains a special place in the national consciousness. It is the armed service which first declared American independence directly to Europe and continues to define American might abroad.

That declaration of independence was thanks to the personal willpower and daring of John Paul Jones who by now a commander, took his ship, USS Ranger across the Atlantic to strike Great Britain in its home waters. Leaving America in November 1777 for a base in France, Ranger raided Whitehaven and the Solway Firth, with his first war cruise culminating in the capture of HMS Drake in April 1778.

Greater was to come though. On 23 September 1779, this time in command of the 42-gun USS Bonhomme Richard, off Flamborough Head on the east cost of England, he uttered the immortal words "I have not yet begun to fight" when asked by the captain of the 50-gun HMS Serapis if he had surrendered, as the Bonhomme Richard began to sink and his subordinates decided to lower the American flag. Taking charge and rousing the crew in a do-or-die response he turned around the course of battle which ended with the surrender of the Serapis.

John Paul Jones' naval campaign in British home waters did not win the military contest in the way that Trafalgar in 1805 demarcated the Napoleonic War. But it did define the birth of a nation and showed to the Old World, on their doorstep, that America was ready and willing to fight for its future.

For that reason he has entered US mythology, it is no mistake that the names of the two ships with which he won glory, have been reused to pass some of that honour onto later ships embodying American might abroad.

USS Ranger 1957-93                 USS Bonhomme Richard 1998-present

Source: Wikimedia

How should Scotland remember John Paul Jones though? He was born in Scotland and served the British merchant marine until 1773 when he came to live in British America. That said, he was prepared to shed blood of his recent fellow sailors for the general principle of independence and self-rule.

John Paul Jones fits as but one character within Scotland's long naval heritage, recognised on the world stage, but mainly created by sailors serving in the post-1707 Royal Navy*. Unlike the Soviets, we ought not to deny or gloss over that historical fact - Scots have proven themselves to be some of the greatest naval commanders the world has known - but in the service of nations other than an independent Scotland.

What does the military and naval heritage of Scots matter to Scotland today then? The answer is simply that it underlines that Scotland's global contributions are often way in excess of the size of its population. Shackled to a now-decaying England, it points again to the latent potential in Scotland that independence can unleash.

Independence "So Whats?"
1. A Scot is honoured as the central historical figure for the US Navy - the ultimate expression of American might abroad - we have powerful cultural connections to an institution which counts in the USA
2. Scottish military heritage speaks to the potential of Scotland
3. Geography and individuals' histories mean Scotland is just as much, if not more, a "maritime" nation than England. 

*Not to be forgotten are:
Thomas Gordon (1658-1741), one of founders of Russian Navy
Samuel Greig (1736-1788), Russian Navy reformer, fought for Russia against Turks and Swedes
Adam Duncan (1731-1804), Victor of Battle of Camperdown in 1797, which broke the power of Britain's premier Northern naval rival, Holland, and meant that victory at Trafalgar was the final one needed over Napoleonic forces.
Thomas Cochrane (1775-1860), Frigate captain on whom CS Forrester's Hornblower and Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey novels were based. Radical politician who was framed by Establishment for stock market manipulation, sent to gaol, expelled from the RN. Subsequently became naval commander of Chile, then later Brazil in their independence wars. Also later directed Greek Navy in war of independence from Ottoman Empire. Truth is stranger than fiction.



Thursday, 14 June 2012

Down to the nitty-gritty - Part 2: Some maths on operations

A question often hinted at in the independence debate is how many ships, aircraft or soldiers the Scots Army and Navy would have.

As with all figures, they need to be understood in context. The UK has 4 nuclear missile submarines, but no maritime patrol aircraft. Norway has no nuclear missile submarines, but 6 maritime patrol aircraft.
Taking the manifesto as a starting point, lets start with a look at the chart, and consider fishery protection as a driver for patrol numbers.

A view of the Scottish Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) 

Source: GERS 2007 [page 42]

Scotland's Exclsuive Economic Zone extends approximately 325 nautical miles west of Stornoway, and 300 nm north of Lerwick. The following chart superimposes two different sizes of radius of action, 100nm (10 hours steaming at 10 knots, as recommended by the 1995 Belton report into emergency tug stations) and 300nm, intercept range of a Typhoon fighter aircraft.

Typical operational ranges of ships and aircraft

Until last year two emergency Coastguard tugs were stationed in Scotland, at Lerwick and Stornoway, with the availability of commercial tugs from the oil port of Aberdeen considered to provide cover further south.

Today Marine Scotland runs three ships and two aircraft, and uses the VMS system to track foreign fishing vessels over 15m in length by satellite. According to an interview with a Marine Scotland captain, the 3 ships are double-crewed for a 3 weeks in 6 roster, and aim to board one fishing vessel per day using their crew of 15-20 sailors. 

According to a November 2011 article from the Royal Navy, who provide fishery protection south of the border, the 32-man complement (provided by rostering 43 people) of their three patrol boats board 2 fishing vessels per day and the patrol boats spend 85% of the year at sea. However this seen as exceptionally high availability and provides no margin for unexpected downtime. The rule of thumb typically used is 3 vessels to mount 1 standing patrol, to allow time for transit to and from patrol areas, crew training, and planned maintenance. The long-range (?) Trident patrol, with one boat always on station is provided from a pool of 4 boats.  To patrol Greenland, Denmark has 4 dedicated ships.

Assuming there is a desire to have a patrol vessel within a day's sailing of the bulk of Scotland's coastal waters then the three patrol areas outlined in the chart above, and the 3:1 force generation rule would suggest that at least 9 patrol vessels are required by the Scots Navy. Note that in 2007 it was planned that Marine Scotland was to have had 5 patrol vessels.

By way of comparison, the Norwegian coastguard (part of the Navy) operates 13 vessels, backed by 6 maritime patrol aircraft to cover 800,000 sq km of EEZ - Scotland's is 400,000. Also by comparison, the Irish Naval service operates 8 patrol vessels and 2 maritime patrol aircraft. Of interest is that neither the Royal Navy nor Royal Air Force have any such patrol aircraft.

For aerial surveillance Marine Scotland currently operates 2 aircraft with a maximum 1,200 nm range and cruise speed of 200 knots. Ireland's CN295 aircraft have a fully-laden range of 700 nm (maximum range approx. 2,300 nm) and cruise speed of 240 knots.

To have one MPA on a 1,200 nm / 6 hour circuit of the coastline at all times would require 3 aircraft. Again allowing for a force generation number of 2:1 would imply 6 aircraft. In an emergency situation 6 aircraft, fully available, could sustain a standing 24/7 patrol 200 nm from a host airfield.

This covers basic fishery protection - the question then becomes how many other tasks: emergency towing, oil rig firefighting, monitoring and boarding of non-compliant vessels other than fishing vessels, can a patrol vessel double up on? - that will be the topic of another post, likewise for the multiple roles of aircraft.

Of further interest, and again the subject of a future post, is the possibility of designing the next generation of inter-island ferries as dual role vessels, able to supplement the core force for more intensive patrolling in times of tension. Calmac is state-owned after all, and back in 1964 the government paid for three new ferries Columbia, Claymore and Hebrides, equipped to withstand nuclear contamination and designed to carry military equipment with vehicle deck heights to suit.

Independence "So Whats?"
1. Nine patrol vessels could sustain coverage of Scotlands key territorial waters

2. Six maritime patrol aircraft could sustain constant air surveillance of Scottish coastline
3. Royal Navy has no 
maritime patrol aircraft today

Options for Faslane and a reminder on nuclear morals

The recent comments of Nick Harvey, the Armed Forces Minister, to MPs on the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee have started to crystallise some of the options around the future of the Trident submarine base as Faslane post independence - whether absurd, practical or just realpolitik.

Ground-zero for the start of any discussion though is the morality of nuclear weapons. The issue is that indiscriminate bombing of civilians makes us judge, jury and executioner of the innocent. In the 1933 German federal election 7.5 million people voted Socialist and 4.9 million Communist. Yet in 1942 Geoffrey Shakespeare, a Liberal MP, wrote to the political master of the RAF "... I am all for the bombing of working class areas of German cities.  I am Cromwellian - I believe in 'slaying in the name of the Lord' ..."
Nuclear weapons might  be an acceptable tool of war if they were limited in scope and could be precisely targeted - but then they actually have to be used in that way. The US chose precision daylight raids on German factories, oil production facilities and railways in WW2, the RAF chose to "de-house" civilians.

The SNP has consistently opposed the use of nuclear weapons - we are different to England, and want no part of England's wartime legacy - and we want to show that to Europe and to the world.

Turning though to the practicalities though, "Faslane" is actually two facilities:
1) a submarine base with jetties, repair halls and accommodation for submariners
2) a nuclear weapons storage facility at Coulport

Plymouth though also has a submarine base, and Babcock carry out refits of the Trident submarines there.
The secret collapse since 1990 in the number of ships and submarines of the Royal Navy (from 25 to 7 non-missile submarines and 38 to 19 frigates and destroyers) means that lack of space at other naval bases cannot be an excuse.

Coulport has underground storage for warheads (the missile bodies are stored in Georgia, USA) and an undercover loading jetty - protected by the Royal Marines.

It is Coulport where most attention has been focussed by commentators as no equivalent facility exists in England. Coulport is a prime target for any nuclear strike, its location far from London thus makes military sense. Presumably an equivalent hardened facility could be built in Plymouth, but it's not the eventual cost per se which might be insurmountable, but the local opposition from residents.
In the meantime, English warheads would need to be stored in the US, with the missile bodies.

What are the options, and are there any lessons from the past?

1) Rebase submarines in Plymouth, warheads in the US
Why would the US stand in the way of such a request by England? It is an open secret that the UK deterrent  is actually joint US-UK force. Unlike France, England does not have full control over design, manufacture and maintenance of the missiles. Unless the US wished England to stop being able to operate the deterrent such a request is reasonable and grantable, after all, the US operated a missile submarine refit base at  Holy Loch until 1992.

Navies and other military forces are meant to improvise and adapt to circumstances. If they were asked to, the RN would find a way to operate outside Scotland.

2) Base submarines and warheads in Scotland until a new storage facility is built
Precedent exists for continued naval basing post independence:

1) The RN used 3 "Treaty ports" in Ireland until 1938 - but the position of Ireland was in legal transition in those times - officially a Dominion with a monarch until 1937, and not a Republic in until 1948.
2) In 1997 Ukraine and Russia agreed on a separation of their joint Black Sea Fleet, with Russia leasing the Soviet Union's former base in the Ukraine (Sevastopol),with a limit of the number of ships Russia can base there.
But how can a non-nuclear SNP allow the operation of potential WMD from its soil? The only acceptable way would be for Salmond to have his finger on the trigger too, to make sure the English used them appropriately.

That is a logical option, but clearly a farcical one.  As reported in the Herald:
Alan Reid, the Liberal Democrat MP for Argyll and Bute, asked what the UK Government's conditions would be should a Scottish Government agree to keep the nuclear deterrent.
Mr Harvey replied: "Complete freedom of action, complete control and complete sovereignty over the facility.

That leaves only option 3.

3) Carve out Faslane & Coulport as "Sovereign Base Areas" like Akrotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus
Along with Faslane, rights would need to be granted to give free access for submarines to international waters. Rights would also need to be granted for nuclear warheads to pass overland through the border from their servicing facility at Aldermaston.

This is starting to sound silly ... but a UK sovereign base with an expiry date sufficiently far enough in the future to build another Coulport in England would in theory allow the SNP to wash their hands of the question on nuclear weapons on Scottish soil. However the electorate aren't stupid and would recognise it as the fudge for what it is.

As an aside, the submarine base at Faslane was valued in the 2007 UK National Asset Register at £260m, and Coulport at £2.1m ! [See page 246 of the document, page 255 of the PDF file]. It is unclear where the £3.5bn upgrade to the Clyde facilities referred to by Nick Harvey and reported by the Herald has been booked to.

Independence "So Whats?"
1. Scotland needs to decide now if it actively wants any part of nuclear weapons operations - referendum?
2. The RN can find ways to operate Trident outside of Scotland, if politicians have the will
3. Beware of illusory compromises which give the English everything on Trident in exchange for a Scottish figleaf

4. What is true monetary value of Faslane bases - £3500m or £262m?

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Down to the nitty-gritty - Part 1: Rescue and anti-pollution


Using the “manifesto” in the last post as a reference point, a sensible summary of the everyday tasks of Navies and Coastguards would include among others:
  1. Detection of seafarers in danger and their rescue.
    • Monitoring from Coastguard stations – proactive surveillance and incoming emergency calls
    • Coordination of rescue
      • Provide instructions to ships & helicopters in area
      • Use of own assets – lifeboats, air-sea rescue helicopters
  2. Emergency preventative action in event of oil spills or other environmental threats, such as oil rig fires
    • Coordination of efforts
      • Fire-fighting on oil rigs or ships
      • Towing of broken-down or damaged vessels
      • Beach protection, oilslick spraying
  3. Securing the perimeter from unauthorised entry by traffickers and terrorists, and securing offshore installations – oil rigs and renewable energy turbines
    • Monitoring of ships and aircraft in national airspace and waters
    • Identification & challenge of threatening ships and aircraft
    • Preventative action:
      • Disabling or boarding of ships
      • Dissuasion and shooting down rogue aircraft
  4. Fishery protection
    • Surveillance of vessels
    • Inspections of fishing boats
      • Boarding at sea
      • Policing in harbour
    • Preventative action
      • Confiscation of fishing gear or boats
      • Dissuasion from entering Scottish waters, escort out of Scottish waters
  5. Securing container ports and sea lanes from sea mines
    • Surveillance of sensitive sea areas
    • Protection of port perimeters
    • Detection and disposal of mines

This is a long list. It speaks to the myriad tasks just to cover the basics of running a maritime nation’s borders– note that we haven’t even got to “securing the perimeter from other military forces”.

What assets and resources do we have today – i.e. what has Westminster allocated to us, and what would we reasonably decide to have if we were in charge of our own destiny?

This post looks at rescue and anti-pollution, later posts will cover policing activities and military requirements.

Detection of seafarers in danger and their rescue.
  • Until now we have had 5 HM Coastguard rescue coordination centres in Scotland – under currently planned cuts these will be reduced to just Stornoway, Shetland and Aberdeen, with Clyde and Forth closing.
  • Scotland’s Search and Rescue Helicopter needs are currently met from 4 helicopter bases. HM Coastguard operates 2 helicopters in Stornoway and 2 in Shetland under contract, HMS Gannet (Prestwick) operates 3 helicopters and the RAF operates 2 from Lossiemouth. From 2016 the military-operated SAR aircraft will be taken over by a private contractor who will operate all aircraft, branded as HM Coastguard.
  • After the last round of defence cuts and retirement of the Nimrod aircraft there are no military fixed-wing, long range maritime patrol aircraft (MPAs) anywhere the UK. Marine Scotland has contracted two small fixed-wing aircraft for Fishery Protection.
  • RNLI in Scotland operates 45 lifeboat stations. As a voluntary, self-funded organisation the RNLI still operates Ireland’s lifeboats, 90 years after independence.
The threatened Coastguard station cuts, plus the withdrawal of emergency tugs triggered a call from Richard Lochhead to devolve the coastguard in Scotland, to Scotland. There is precedent: the formation of the Isle of Man Coastguard in 1989, following the closure of the HM Coastguard station there ...

Emergency preventative action in event of oil spills or other environmental threats, such as rig fires
The recent Elgin gas leak shows the range of Westminster and Scottish agencies with a say in anti-pollution coordination.

From DECC's website; 29 March 2012:
“DECC and HSE inspectors are fully updated and briefed in person at daily meetings with TOTAL at TOTAL’s emergency response unit in Aberdeen.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change convened a Government Regulators’ Group yesterday with Government bodies and departments including experts from DECC, the Health and Safety Executive, Maritime and Coastguard Agency [parent of HM Coastguard], Marine Scotland and Marine Lab to ensure the UK Government‘s response, advised by the Scottish Government’s agency Marine Scotland, is coherent and joined up during this incident. That group will now meet on a regular basis to consider TOTAL’s actions and the Government’s response to the incident.”

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (the parent of HM Coastguard) is responsible for anti-pollution efforts – but they play mainly a coordinating role.

The actual actions to deal with pollution, including spraying of dispersants and sucking up oil from the sea surface are either carried out locally by harbour authorities, or by the MCA’s contracted fleet of 2 spraying aircraft and 2 surveillance aircraft covering the whole of the UK. Firefighting is carried out by certain designated local authority fire and rescue services who provide a Maritime Incident Response Group (MIRG).  These teams are trained and equipped to assist vessels in UK waters, boarding them via boats or helicopter.

Emergency tugs (Emergency Towing Vessels - "ETVs), or lack thereof
In the aftermath of the Braer oil spill in Shetland in 1993 four emergency tugs on permanent standby were contracted to HM Coastguard. In 2010 these were cut to save £32.5m over 3 years. The two vessels based in Scotland (Stornoway and Shetland) had a 3 month reprieve in late 2011, and the Shetland vessel a further 3 month reprieve in March 2012.

Of interest is the fact that several neighbouring coastguards (Norway, Iceland, Sweden) operate offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) capable both of emergency towing and firefighting

Rescue and anti-pollution – summary of assets
In pre-cuts Scotland there were
5 Coastguard coordination centres (Stornoway, Shetland, Aberdeen, Greenock, Crail [Forth])
9 SAR helicopters (Stornoway, Shetland, Prestwick, Lossiemouth)
45 lifeboat stations
Time-share of 2 oilslick-spraying aircraft
Time-share of 2 pollution surveillance aircraft
2 Emergency Towing Vessels (Stornoway & Shetland)

Assuming the allocation of assets in pre-cuts Scotland was appropriate, the size and shape of the kernel of a future Scottish Navy, in terms of the location of bases, starts to emerge.

The next post will start to look at the maritime geography of Scotland and the maths behind the required numbers of units to sustain surveillance patrols.


Independence "So Whats?"
1. Westminster cutting Coastguard stations and emergency tugs against Scotland's wishes
2. Westminster has already cut military maritime patrol aircraft as part of the MoD budget
    disaster of recent years
3. Precedent for Coastguard devolution triggered by cuts - as far back as 1989 to the 
    Isle of Man 
4. Too many Westminster agencies today responsible for anti-pollution efforts and for 
    Search & Rescue helicopters (which are to be privatised in future)
5. Scotland shares anti-pollution aircraft today - will need own fleet in future
6. RNLI could carry on providing inshore rescue, as in Ireland.

Friday, 25 May 2012

A manifesto for the New Scots Navy


On the day the independence campaign is launched, here is a call for a Scots Navy we can believe in - one grounded in reason and common sense, with a fresh view of what "defence" means.

In doing so we offer a clear alternative to Westminster, for whom defence affairs are a matter of conflicting objectives, confusion, & mismanagement to the detriment of their national well-being.

A manifesto for the Scottish Navy:
1. The Scots Navy protects the national air and sea perimeter of Scotland.
2. The Scots Navy is responsible for:
- the safety of seafarers going about their lawful business in Scotland's waters, and their rescue in time of danger
- the prevention of maritime pollution, and the necessary actions to contain and remove pollution in the event of an accident
- the prevention of unauthorised access to our waters, the fish resources in them or the mineral resources under them
- the prevention of unauthorised access to our airspace
3. The Scots Navy supports the Scots Army to carry out the will of the Scottish Government.

And here is the underlying rationale or philosophical justification for each point:
1. The Scots Navy is an instrument of Scotland's lawful self-defence - defence is the primary purpose of Scottish armed forces.

2. The Scots Navy is responsible for the holistic defence of our perimeter, with protection of the environment standing alongside the traditional securing of the perimeter from human agencies. As guardians of the marine environment the Navy is responsible for the safety & rescue of "users" of the sea. Pollution prevention means a full range of valid and worthwhile tasks - from surveying of the seabed for navigation hazards, to emergency towing of stricken vessels and to policing of existing international maritime law preventing dumping at sea.
A holistic view of defence makes common sense - it gives clear lines of responsibility and also means that the defence forces are relevant to the day-day needs of Scotland providing a practical and rational contribution to society every hour, every day of the year.

3. The Navy is the primary agent of the Scottish Government for defence of the national perimeter, but is commanded to provide full support to the Government's primary agent for lawful external intervention. Instead of several agencies fighting each other for budget and "prestige", Scotland has a rational system - Navy for home protection, Army for external intervention.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

A call for Coastguard devolution

Reported just under a year ago, Richard Lochhead highlights the sea-blindness of the urbanite coalition government. The fact that Scotland has 10,000 miles of coastline for which 2 emergency tugs are assigned is beyond their comprehension.

Scottish coastguards press release from the Scottish Goverment


Consideration should be given to devolving Scotland's coastguard services to protect them from reckless cuts which have not been properly consulted on and will put lives at risk Rural Affairs Minister Richard Lochhead said today.

Mr Lochhead's comments were in response to a Select Committee report which is heavily critical of the UK Coalition Government's current proposals on a range of marine safety issues.

The Committee found that the proposals for modernising the Coastguard would lead to an inevitable loss of vital local knowledge and that the proposed drastic reduction in co-ordination centres would reduce the rate and quality of exchange of information and critically, this could happen at key points in responding to incidents, where it could directly lead to loss of life.

On top of that it finds the concept of daylight-hour stations is flawed - and argues that 24/7 cover should be maintained.

Mr Lochhead said:

"The findings of this damning report support the position taken previously by the Scottish Government on these ill-advised proposals. The option of devolving Coastguard functions should be seriously considered if we are to preserve the current life-saving service that coastal communities have come to depend on, and which are under threat on current plans.

"The coalition Government's proposals simply do not provide reassurance that the ability of the coastguard to respond to emergencies will be maintained. There are serious concerns that safety will be jeopardised if the proposals proceed in this reckless form.

"This report, as well as the cross border and cross party concern already voiced about the negative effects of current proposals, reflect strongly the feelings of industry stakeholders and members of the public. There is broad consensus these proposals are ill considered, ill founded and designed to save money - not lives.

"The UK Government should therefore withdraw its shambolic modernisation proposals and consult fully on revised plans which should include the option of devolving coastguard responsibilities to Scotland."

Mr Lochhead also highlighted the ongoing position of Emergency Towing Vehicles (ETVs).

He said:

"Following a unilateral decision to withdraw funding from ETVs from September, we still have no idea how this vital service will be provided from then. This situation poses absolutely unacceptable risks to both lives and our precious marine environment. A better way forward must be established and quickly."