White Paper reflections - Security

by Andrew Neal, Principal Convenor of the ESRC seminar series 'Security in Scotland, with or without constitutional change'.

The security and intelligence plans in the white paper build on Scotland’s strengths in policing and resilience by proposing a single integrated security service. There are no plans for a Scottish MI6, heeding criticism of this mooted idea. GCHQ-type functions will be integrated into an MI5-style civilian security service. This forward-thinking arrangement could take advantage of the increasing importance of open source intelligence and the availability of advanced off-the-shelf surveillance technologies. It could also improve coordination, oversight and accountability by avoiding inter-service rivalry and any fudge between domestic and foreign intelligence gathering functions.

Oversight plans are on a par with the new powers of the UK Intelligence and Security Committee. Combined with the rights enshrined in a new written constitution, regulation and accountability could be robust. The white paper calls the UK government’s bluff on several areas, pointing out that it is in the UK’s interests to have secure neighbours and that Scotland would expect recognition of its capital investment in the national security architecture, including current investments in cyber security.

There is a strong coded message that Scotland will do what is necessary to be considered for membership of the ‘five eyes’ intelligence sharing relationship. The white paper recognises that a new security service may not be completely in place by independence day, and so calls for continuing UK assistance. Questions remain over how this assistance would eventually be drawn down and how the UK security agencies providing the assistance would be held accountable in an independent Scotland.

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Andrew Neal's picture
post by Andrew Neal
University of Edinburgh
26th November 2013

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