Report: Intelligence and security oversight in an independent Scotland

Reports & Briefings
Report on the fourth of six events in the seminar series:
Security in Scotland, with or without constitutional change
 
Principal investigator and corresponding author: 
Dr Andrew Neal, University of Edinburgh
 
Lead co-investigators:
Dr Juliet Kaarbo (University of Edinburgh)
Prof Charles Raab (University of Edinburgh)
 
Intelligence and security oversight would present three main challenges to an independent Scotland. 
 
First, if kept unchanged after independence, the Scottish parliament may not be big enough to give intelligence and security oversight the attention it needs. With only 129 MSPs, the Scottish parliament already struggles to fill its committees. Independence would create many new areas of policy needing scrutiny and oversight, including intelligence and security. Simply put, there may not be enough MSPs to go around. 
 
Second, current MSPs lack expertise in security and intelligence matters. Without some knowledge of the nature of intelligence work, and without the experience to ask the right questions and look in the right places, it may be difficult for MSPs to properly oversee the new single Scottish intelligence agency. Of course, there would be a learning process in any new area of policy responsibility, but experience at Westminster shows that it is particularly difficult for parliamentarians to acquire expertise in intelligence and security.
 
Third, an independent Scotland is likely to work closely with the UK's existing security and intelligence agencies (despite whatever the UK government has said about this in the referendum campaign). Given the difference in size and capability between a newly independent Scotland and the remaining UK, it may be difficult for Scottish MSPs to hold the intelligence agencies of the UK to account in their interactions with Scotland.