banksy-cnd-soldiersDuring Indyref 1 the parameters of the discourse on Scotland’s national security requirements was quite narrow. For some particularly those on the political right who were mainly, though not exclusively in the no camp, such narrowness had utility. However in my view, this narrow narrative restricted the potential vision for Scotland and ensured most of the debate in this issue was on territory that was within the No camps conceptual comfort zone.

I am not saying that the debates around the removal of nuclear weapons and NATO were not important, of course they were and of course they will be again as we begin to prepare the case for Scottish statehood in the run up to Indyref II, but Scotland’s inherent geopolitical security was grossly understated.

The starting point for a discussion around Scotland’s security needs should be quite literally, Scotland’s place in the world. The starting point for Scotland’s security priorities should be determined by the people who live in Scotland.

Even today, the parameters are still set by the same opinion formers, though the stance of the Scottish Bloc in the current Westminster parliament on matters of war and peace is implicitly though maybe not yet explicitly challenging those parameters. Next time, in the run up to Indyref II the parameters need to be widened and the work needs to start now well before the publication, if there is to be a publication, of a Scottish Government White Paper Mark II.

According to Wikipedia  Geopolitics is a method of studying foreign policy to understand, explain and predict international political behaviour through geographical variables. These include area studies, climate, topography, demography, natural resources, and applied science of the region being evaluated.

As a definition, it has its strengths and its weakness but for my purpose it will do fine because as with the rest of this article, my intention is to foster some debate around the issue, not necessarily, at this stage anyway, to arrive at a conclusion.

If Scotland’s position in relation to currency needs to be ironed out for Indyref 2 , so too does the insecurity around the geopolitics of an independent Scotland.

In the geopolitical stakes at one end of the spectrum some countries have all the luck others, probably most, are in the middle while others have little or no lucky at all. Geopolitical advantage and disadvantage is to extent like perceptions of physical beauty. Think of the media constructs of Brad and Angelina on the one hand and Rab C and Mary Doll on the other.

During Indyref 1 there was hardly any discussion of the geopolitics of an independent Scotland but it was implied that Scotland was more at the Rab C Nesbitt and Mary Doll, end of the spectrum.

Scotland the too wee and too stupid was also implicitly portrayed as too “geopolitically” ugly as well.

Interestingly the official YES campaign bought into the image of Scotland as geopolitically insecure. It led to the SNP debate on NATO and even after that, when the issue was supposedly “parked” it was not. Perfectly understandably the NO campaign could smell the geopolitical fear and never let up.

If Scotland’s position in relation to currency needs to be ironed out for Indyref 2 , so too does the insecurity around the geopolitics of an independent Scotland.

Scotland finds itself in a stable prosperous part of the world, tucked away from the world’s geopolitical hot spots. Palestine, you could argue has the geopolitical luck of the Nesbitts, situated as it is slap bang in the charnel house that is the current Middle East and if that were not bad enough it has to “share” a “border” with Israel, a country that’s seems to exist in a state of perpetual geopolitical paranoia.

Very little debate around Scotland’s geopolitical characteristics seemed to take place during Indyref I. I managed to raise it twice, once during a Newsnight interview and again during a seminar at Glasgow University when I asked, tongue in cheek, if the distinctive feature of Scotland’s geopolitics was that it had none. The students in the audience were amused, the panellists less so. On the other hand I’m sure the issue of the geopolitics of Scotland must have come up in other events during the campaign. If any reader knows of such I am all ears.

There is of course, more to the geopolitics of a country than the luck of geographical position. There is the resource issue, human, animal and mineral, but luck is a factor. We should not get hung up about it and it should be embraced and unapologetically promoted during Indyref II.

With the exception of elements of Scotland’s new alternative media, preparation for the Indeyref II is, or at least seems to be, at an early stage. On the other hand others close to if not actually in the NO camp are already at work.  It is no coincidence that the Royal United Services Institute’s first post referendum foray north, out of its Whitehall home in early December had as its title “Security and The High North”. Whether this was a recognisance in force to scope out the political temperature on these issues or an attempt to ensure that the SNP, post a successful referendum sticks with the NATO position might become clearer when RUSI , as was declared conduct further forays north.

Defence and foreign policy is always too important an issue to have it exposed to an open, frank and above all, public discourse. There are, from the point of view of the policy makers, sound reasons why the discourse should be restricted in its scope, both in terms of its ideas and the level of participation.

The normal parameters, though not necessarily , in my view, the tools of analysis, need to be widened and the starting point should be the perspective of ordinary people. This is not a parochial approach, though it might be portrayed as such by those who fear a wider and more open debate, it is the starting point in setting priorities that have relevance to the lives of ordinary people. Indeed in being seen as relevant it has the additional factor of being seen as electorally salient something not to be frowned upon when developing a winning as opposed to a losing referendum strategy.

In widening the debate it is important to open up the language. One of the most important tasks in this area in my view to first of all tease out the difference between the separate though related concepts of National Security and National Interest. Both need to be looked at and discussed as opposed to the usual tactic of the political elite who, with the active willing cooperation of the so called unbiased broadcast media conflate the concepts of national security and national interest.

National Security is perceived as securing the integrity of the state, ensuring the state’s sovereign power is maintained. If that sovereign power is unwillingly subordinated to another sovereign power then that state’s national security has been compromised. This is why, supposedly, states go to war.

National Interest on the other hand is about the protection of economic interests. States certainly go to war to protect those interests. However democracies that enjoy modern media and social media connectivity face particular challenges in mobilising their publics for “war” that is not quite war over issues of National Interest.

For instance most of the military counterproductive responses to 9/11 are tholed by the publics of the democracies involved. If they ever were enthusiastically supported by those publics they no longer are. Sending servicemen and women into harm’s way, particularly if they are members of the armed forces of a democracy in defence or pursuit of a perceived National Interest can be very tricky.

This is why, time and again, pursuit of a perceived National Interest goal is conflated with the defence of our National Security. The campaign to secure the consent or at least the acquiescence of the public in a democracy is absolutely critical to wage a war that does not present an existential threat. This modern militaries in democratic societies well understand. For them the output of the BBC and other media outlets is as critical as what might be recognised as military developments in the actual battle space.

There is of course the issue of whether the National Interest goal is really “national”. In other words is war to be waged for the “benefit” of “all” or is war to be waged for the economic benefit of certain groups within the “nation” or more likely, is war to be waged for the benefit of certain corporate interests. In other words, in certain contexts, as Clausewitz actually put it, though using other words, is war merely commercial activity pursued by violent means.  Such a conclusion is of course not new.

Of course you could argue if a democracy goes to war to protect or secure a perceived national interest, rather than in defence against an existential threat, and the public are fully engaged and understand and support the action, it could have a legitimacy of sorts.

The prospect of serious illness, disablement and death tends to focus the mind as does penury, but these issues are very rarely part of the discourse around a national security strategy. The United Nations did try and the concept of Human Security was conceded. The discipline of Human Security has been developed and has its proponents but they are kept to the margins of discourses around National Security.

Human Security is, literally and metaphorically a very poor relation of National Security. Indeed, the popular perception of the Human Security concept is that it has a role to play in a consideration of poor people in poor countries. What it is most certainly not meant to be about is a consideration of poor people in powerful countries. Indeed it is not at all unusual some elites to view attempts to widen the National Security paradigm to include issues of Human Security as a National Security threat.

This is precisely what Indyref 2 needs to do, but and it is a big but, unless those of us who are prepared to engage in the debate and the language of National Security then the national security institutions will portray in the mainstream media these real credible alternatives as pacifism.

Pacifism has a place in the discourse, but it is in my view marginal and it is peripheral, it certainly does not command a significant following amongst the public. Indeed, though significant numbers oppose Trident renewal, a substantial minority believe that nuclear weapons have some sort of military utility which of course they do not.  I mention this not to take a cheap shot at pacifism, but rather to point out that it will continue to be wilfully misinterpreted and conflated with the concepts of human security and conflict resolution in their entirety to undermine these concepts in the public mind.

As always the case for pacifism will be parked, respectfully of course, in a place badged as philosophically connected but in security terms irrelevant.

I would go further and say that the pacifist case would be electorally counterproductive in terms of an Indyref 2 campaign. This is probably, in my view, why the leadership of Indyref 1 felt so insecure in developing a national security paradigm out with its very tight orthodox boundaries.

In conclusion I will point to the current UK Governments 2015 Strategic Defense and Security Review is as a good starting point as any. It is contradictory, indeed in my view it si quite dysfunctional and delusional.

To deconstruct and expose the contradictions in the SDSR 2015 , even in a UK context, will help tease out credible alternatives both in a UK, though in my view more importantly from a Scottish perspective. I am confident Scottish CND will address this in the near future in relation to Trident renewal and in that regard  it will be interesting to see if Corbyn and his team does the same. However the same task needs to be overtaken in relation to the real national security/human security threats that an independent Scotland might face and the threats that not really that but are really political bogey men put up to scare us and therefore control us.