Would UK, USA, share intel with independent Scottish spy agencies?
January 29, 2013 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Scotland plans to set up its own security and intelligence agencies if its people vote in favor of independence from the United Kingdom in 2014, according to policy planners. But critics contend that it might be some time before Scotland’s spy organizations are trusted by their sister intelligence agencies in Britain and the United States. The Scottish National Party (SNP) which won an absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament in the 2011 election, has put forward a plan for a referendum proposing Scotland’s full independence from the UK, to be held in late 2014. On Monday, the Scottish Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs met in Edinburgh to conduct an official inquiry into the possible foreign policy implications of an independent Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s Deputy Leader and Deputy First Minister of Scotland, told the Committee that an independent Scotland would have to build a domestic intelligence agency to combat security threats such as terrorism, organized crime and cyber attacks. She said the agency would serve the interests of the Scottish people and the Scottish government, but would maintain “very close intelligence sharing with the rest of the UK”. According to Sturgeon, given that Scotland shares “an island with the rest of the UK”, a Scottish domestic security service would inevitably find itself “sharing intelligence and sharing our response to some of these threats”. She also suggested that an independent nation of Scotland would have the option to establish an “external security service” modeled on Britain’s MI6, also known as the Secret Intelligence Service. But Committee members opposed to independence directed heavy criticism against the minister’s plans, arguing that the financial cost of replicating existing UK intelligence and security structures would be colossal. They also warned Sturgeon that Scottish intelligence agencies would have to prove that they were reliable and safe before they struck intelligence-sharing arrangements with British and American organizations. Conservative parliamentarian David Lidington, a member of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who currently serves as the British government’s Minister of State for Europe, appeared particularly disparaging of Sturgeon’s expressed plans. He told Parliament that, even if an independent Scotland were able to bear the “enormous financial costs” of setting up its own intelligence and security structure, it would have to spend years training its intelligence officers and building the material and operational infrastructure required. Only when it did so would it be able to convince organizations such as MI6 and the US Central Intelligence Agency to enter into intelligence-sharing arrangements with it. Sturgeon told the Foreign Affairs Committee that the SNP-controlled Scottish government was working on a “substantial piece of work” into the subject of independent Scottish intelligence and security agencies, which would be published in the months before the 2014 referendum.