Salmond accused of hypocrisy over plans for defence

SCOTLAND’s First Minister has been accused of hypocrisy after he outlined plans for an independent Scottish defence force using the country’s existing military set up – having previously fought to retain more air bases in the country.

SNP leader Alex Salmond said his party is committed to retaining defence establishments it inherits at the point of independence, and that the UK Government’s recent defence cutbacks have left the country with “exactly the configuration” of bases it would want.

His Government previously fought to retain all three of Scotland’s air force bases, but two were closed as part of the strategic defence review.

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Labour politicians accused Mr Salmond of an “incoherent policy” that bordered on hypocrisy.

Conservative defence secretary Philip Hammond described the plan as “laughable”.

But Mr Salmond, who plans an independence referendum in autumn 2014, said: “I won’t take any lectures from the Labour Party who have cut thousands of defence jobs in Scotland, or from the Conservative Party, who have just closed two out of three of Scotland’s air bases.

“For 20 years the Scottish National Party had a commitment that we’d retain defence establishments that we inherited at the point of independence.

“We do that because that gives continuity and certainty to local communities concerned.

“That’s not hypocrisy, that’s the one party which has Scotland’s interests at heart.”

The row came as the UK’s top law adviser in Scotland said a court challenge against the Scottish independence referendum “is likely to be successful” if it does not have the legal backing.

Advocate General for Scotland Lord Wallace set out the UK Government’s conclusions on the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum on independence during a lecture at Glasgow University.

Speaking in advance of the lecture, Lord Wallace said: “The Scotland Act 1998 is clear: the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate on matters reserved to the UK Parliament.”