Government failing to plan for Scottish independence security concerns

By Cassie Chambers

The government has not adequately addressed concerns about the UK’s national security strategy (NSS) ahead of the Scottish independence referendum, a parliamentary committee found today.

The Joint Committee on the National Security Strategy blasted the government’s response to its previous critique of UK security policy, saying it failed to “engage with arguments” put forward by the group.

In particular, the committee claimed the government failed to respond to its concerns about the potential impact of major international events – including recent US strategy documents, the potential effects of Scottish independence and the consequences of the Eurozone crisis.

The committee also accused the government of not “taking the opportunity to look at how it could do things differently” and failing to “press ahead with planning for the next NSS”.

The attack follows the committee’s review of the UK’s NSS, published in March.

In its initial report, the committee identified several concerns with the current NSS, including the lack of an “overarching strategy” and “wholly unrealistic” ideas in government about the UK’s role in the international community.

In the March report, the committee called for a new NSS, claiming the UK needed “a document designed to guide government decision-making and crisis management both at home and on the international stage”.

Following the March publication, the government agreed to work on the next NSS well in advance, before its publication in 2015.

But the committee said the government’s political rhetoric is not being backed up by concrete action.

“There is nothing in the [government’s] response to indicate that it has begun drawing up plans”, committee chair and former foreign secretary Margaret Beckett said.

“The last NSS [was] produced in great haste, and [is] the weaker for it. There is little sign of the forward planning needed to avoid those mistakes being repeated – still less of an approach to build consensus which could establish a sound foundation of long-term planning for our nation’s security.

“There is still time (just) for the government to put this right.”

To remedy the failures of the current NSS, the committee called for a process with “broader involvement of the public” and a document which is “more candid" and "more explicit".

“If the government is to hold a genuinely extensive public debate on our future NSS before political attention turns to the next general election, it needs to get on with it," it warned.