White House fears looming UK cuts will compromise Britain's Nato role
Published Date: 15 October 2010
By David Maddox
US SECRETARY of state Hillary Clinton has raised serious concerns about the impact of defence cuts in Britain due to be announced next Tuesday by the Prime Minister.
• Hilary Clinton has concerns over Britain's defence cuts
Her comments reflect wider fears that Britain's global role may be compromised by the Strategic Defence and Security Review, which was largely concluded yesterday.
This comes as government sources have admitted that Scotland will have to wait to learn the full impact of defence cuts, even after they are announced next week.
Questioned on whether plans to make cuts to the armed forces concerned the White House, Ms Clinton said: "It does, and the reason it does is because I think we do have to have an alliance where there is a commitment to the common defence."
Speaking in Washington, Ms Clinton said: "Nato has been the most successful alliance for defensive purposes in the history of the world I guess, but it has to be maintained. "Each country has to be able to make its appropriate contributions."
Responding to her comments, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy told the BBC last night: "US Secretary of State Clinton is right to voice these concerns. We must ensure we maintain our military effectiveness, so our partnerships and alliances in Afghanistan remain strong.
"There must be no cuts to defence budgets that would hamper our support for British troops on the front line. The government must avoid rushing through enormous cuts that could permanently damage our ability to fulfil our military commitments."
The continued anxiety over the impact of military cuts comes as a new report reveals that the defence industry is worth £2.1 billion to the Scottish economy, supporting 40,000 jobs.
A meeting yesterday in Downing street of the National Security Council chaired by Prime Minister David Cameron is understood to have finalised most of the remaining decisions over the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR).
However, Ministry of Defence sources have said that the report to be unveiled on Monday and Tuesday will almost certainly not include specifics on the future of military bases.
It is understood that the three services will be told about what equipment and manpower they can have, but will then be told to go away and make individual decisions on bases afterwards. There has been speculation that two of Scotland's three RAF bases are under threat, while the Black Watch headquarters at Fort George near Inverness could go, as could the Royal Marines base in Arbroath.
And there was also speculation last night that the Highlanders could be brought back from Germany and stationed in one of the bases the RAF may vacate, probably Kinloss in Moray.
One issue that will be resolved, however, is the fate of the £5.2bn aircraft carriers project - although it is understood that both vessels will be built, supporting 10,000 jobs on the Clyde and in Rosyth, and the future of Scottish shipbuilding.
Sector supports 40,000 jobs:
A STUDY commissioned by Scottish Enterprise and industry body A|D|S Scotland shows defence supports 40,000 jobs and 842 companies.
These include shipbuilding giant BAE Systems and Rolls Royce, as well as suppliers such as Glasgow-based Thales and Edinburgh-based Selex Galileo, a leader in defence electronics. The three industries generate a combined turnover of £5.2 billion annually.
Enterprise minister Jim Mather yesterday said the sector provided a "strong and vital contribution" to the economy.