Icelandic academics warn of Scottish independence disadvantage

An independent Scotland would be “at a deep strategic disadvantage” to Russia in the conflict that is expected to emerge from climate change, according to Icelandic academics.

Scotland would need “shelter” from stronger allies which will “incur costs different from, and not necessarily lesser than” those of contributing to UK defence, experts from the universities of Iceland and Akureyri have advised.

But small Nordic states have been living with similar risks for decades while independence would allow Scotland to pursue new tactical alliances more suited to its national interests, they argue in the Icelandic Review of Politics and Administration.

Last week First Minister Alex Salmond set out his vision for defence in an independent Scotland during a visit to Shetland, which he said would take account of its position, size and future responsibilities as global warming opens up new shipping lanes and energy sources.

The academics said: “Like all Nordic states, Scotland would be at a deep strategic disadvantage vis-a-vis the main potentially problematic actor in the region, namely Russia.

“It would have less than a twelfth of the population of, and far less military strength than, its nearest neighbour the remaining UK (rUK). It would also be more exposed, geopolitically, than rUK to the wider Arctic zone which is expected to witness rapid development and turbulence, if not actual conflict, because of climate change.”

Small states are “disproportionately vulnerable” to external threats such as “powerful crime and terrorism”, making them dependent on others “for survival in a hostile international environment”, they argue.

Scotland’s security would depend “first and foremost” on maintaining strong ties with rUK and also the USA.

However, the academics argue that independence could allow Scotland to realign its defence to suit its own interests, while its strategic importance would compel rUK, the USA, the EU and its Nordic neighbours to facilitate a swift transition to independence and accession to international treaties.

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