Come the Independence, what will we do with the military?
For me, the whole appeal of leaving the union lies in the idea of reimagining the country we want to live in from first principals, in the hope that we would jettison a range of damaging traditions which are only accepted because they are unquestioned and which show their direct lineage to the historical tyrannies from which this and all countries developed. Obviously the army is high on that list of traditions, but is the natural response that it should therefore be dismantled wholesale necessarily the best we can do?
The military claim that they provide unemployment in poor areas to young people with few prospects who might otherwise go off the rails. Whilst that benevolent PR is wholly undermined by the fact that ¼ of their veterans experience homelessness– and anecdotally, I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve noticed regimental tattoos whilst searching for veins in a patient’s heroin-ravaged arm – it’s certainly true that the employment provided is concentrated in places that can ill afford to loose it, so how might that blow be softened?
At the same time, many of the questions that people raise in relation to independence relate to the fear that we would become vulnerable to attack. I would respond that resource-related wars would seem to be a grim inevitability on the planet’s current trajectory, and that building a just world is our only hope of avoiding them; what if the Scottish army was remodelled with that as its stated goal? Its secondary purpose would be to continue to provide employment to those who might previously have joined up, and it would seek to provide transferrable skills and to discharge qualified and autonomous citizens who had seen the harsh reality of how the world is structured, and had fought against it. The (few) benevolent applications for large amounts of humanpower (disaster relief, search and rescue, perhaps peacekeeping) could be retained, and in the presence of some hypothetical future threat the organisation could conceivably be remilitarised if need be*.
Given the pitfalls of well-meaning aid, integration with a well-resourced university international development department would be crucial, as would autonomy from the government and the private sector – no one needs another DFID or USAID. That said, freed from the expense of hardware and successfully keeping its veterans out of prison, this new army would be a great deal cheaper to run than the conventional type, so even a relatively modest expenditure could make a big impact. And could it really fail to keep us safer than the UK’s wars of aggression and weapons of mass destruction?
* though my personal preference in such a scenario remains to teach the entire population sophisticated sabotage to the point of ungovernability, and let the chips fall where they may.