Now SNP must answer vital new question: what’s the cost of creating an army, navy and airforce, and who’ll defend us?

A shattered residential building after Russian troops attacked Kyiv.
by Colin Campbell

THE long list of unanswered questions over what an independent Scotland would look like has now been inverted.

So far Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have got away with merely being unable to tell us what currency would be used or who would pay our pensions.

Now, rising to the top of the priority list is one they have barely even thought about.

Who’s going to defend us?

After a lull in which everything else has seemed irrelevant compared with the horror and tragedy in Ukraine, some degree of normality is returning here. No matter what is happening anywhere else in the world, in this bitterly divided country the independence debate never sleeps for long.

The SNP have for years trumpeted their insistence that the nuclear base at Faslane would cease to exist after independence and that a “greener, fairer” Scotland would be freed of the moral corruption of having nuclear weapons in our pure and sovereign land.

“Spending billions on nuclear weapons” has been cited so often as the worst crime that the rotting UK with its grossly outdated “delusions of Empire” commits. The mocking and jeering from nationalists has been gloatingly incessant.

So they know what they want to get rid off.

But in terms of military capability, they haven’t offered the vestige of a clue as to what they would provide.

I’m reminded of an episode from “Only Fools and Horses” in which Del Boy and Rodney are pondering Trig’s wartime parentage.

Rodney asks Del who his father was.

Del replies: “I dunno. His mum used to say, ‘some soldiers’.”

Ask the average SNP politician who would defend an independent Scotland and you’d get the same response.

“I dunno. Some soldiers”.

It’s a cast iron certainty in this threatening and newly dangerous world that the issue of military defence is at the  bottom of the heap when it comes to their planning for the future.

Does anyone seriously believe that the dozen or so civil servants currently working on a “prospectus for independence” have been grappling with the fiendish complexities and enormous expense of creating a new army, navy and airforce? Or that any of them have the knowledge or capability to even know where to begin?

Sturgeon and co – and never mind, God help us – little Patrick Harvie, will have assumed such a consideration barely even applies anymore. Guns, tanks, warships, jet fighters, that is so irrelevant to a new “greener, fairer, welcoming and inclusive” Scotland.

If they could provide remotely credible assurances on currency and pensions in their “new prospectus” – and on unisex toilets and in enabling men to become women – they would be well on the way to winning the battle for hearts and minds. Or so they’d have thought.

Well now they’ve something else to deal with. And in fairness, few believed the nightmare unfolding in Ukraine would actually happen.

But it has. And a host of new answers will be demanded.

The only army the SNP has, an army of around 50 spin doctors, will already be all over this, preparing to churn out press releases stating that an independent Scotland would have the most powerful army, navy and airforce of any small country in Europe, if not the world.

That’s their normal tactical approach. Issue a press release, make a grandiose declaration. Problem solved.

Except it won’t be. The cost of tanks and planes and ships is extraordinarily high. Where would the money come from? And the task of setting up at least some kind of defence capability falls on an SNP Government who have made a hopeless mess with the contracts for island ferries.

Some nationalists believe that after covid the new international turmoil gives Sturgeon another convenient excuse to extricate herself from her “indyref in 23” pledge.

They may well be right.

One thing is certain. In the midst of a seemingly never ending period of world trauma, turbulence and turmoil, the appetite among most ordinary people for launching a hugely divisive and stressful referendum in our own country has never been lower.

That would be a self-inflicted wound causing incalculable damage. Most people yearn to get back to living a quiet, normal life.

Two years of the coronavirus. Now war in Europe. And another bitter referendum to follow?

Such a prospect has disappeared over the horizon.

Sturgeon and Co can get down to working on questions on military defence for a separatist vote some time in the future. And they’re going to have years to come up with some answers.

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