Seminar Series Announcement: Security in Scotland, with or without constitutional change

These six one-day seminars will bring together policymakers, politicians, practitioners and academics to explore the implications of constitutional change for security governance in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, they will run from September 2013 to September 2015.

If Scotland votes for independence it will have implications for security governance in Scotland and the rest of the UK. Even without independence, security governance is already encroaching beyond the ‘reserved matters’ of defence and foreign policy and becoming part of everyday governance at multiple levels of government.

These seminars will create a forum for policymakers, politicians, practitioners and academics to explore these implications and eventualities. They will build knowledge and research capacity in Scottish academia and government. This will inform the independence debate and any post-referendum settlement in either outcome.

There is almost no academic literature on Scotland and security at present (and what little there is relates to the traditional areas of defence and foreign affairs) because until the October 2012 agreement on the referendum there was little perceived need for it in think tanks or academia. Currently there is no security think tank network for Scottish policymakers to draw upon as there is in London (e.g. Royal United Services Institute, Chatham House). Academic security expertise exists across Scotland but has few links with the Scottish institutions of government.

All of the UK’s security services are based in England (e.g. MI5, MI6, GCHQ, Defence Intelligence); all the UK government centres of security policymaking are based in Westminster (e.g. National Security Council and Joint Intelligence Committee in the Cabinet Office, the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism in the Home Office); and all scrutiny and oversight bodies with an interest in security are based in London (e.g. Intelligence and Security Committee, Select Committees for Defence, Foreign Affairs and Home Affairs, Joint Committees on Human Rights and the National Security Strategy, Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation). The seminar series will invite policymakers, politicians, practitioners and academics from Scotland, the UK and comparator countries to address this imbalance.

The seminars will explore the following questions:

1) How is security currently governed in the UK and Scotland?

A full assessment of this is crucial for institutional learning and for enhancing security governance knowledge in Scotland. Referendum aside, security governance in the UK is no longer confined to defence, foreign affairs and the security services. As such, the evolving nature of security governance already challenges the separation of ‘devolved’ and ‘reserved’ matters. It also involves both local government and the EU.

For example, the 2010 National Security Strategy of the UK includes non-traditional risks such as pandemics, disruption to communications, and illegal immigration; the latest edition of the CONTEST counter-terrorism strategy lists 29 departments and offices as playing a role in security; and the Intelligence and Security Committee reports that ‘18 departments, units and agencies …[have] responsibilities for aspects of cyber security’. We need to take stock of the security governance activities already taking place in Scotland, such as emergencies planning by the Scottish Government’s Resilience Division, the Scottish Preventing Violent Extremism Unit set up between the Scottish Government and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland, civil contingency planning in local government, and the Counter Terrorist Security Advisers in the Scottish police service.

2) How might security governance differ in an independent, further devolved, or status quo Scotland?

The ‘Safer Scotland’ section of the Scottish Government’s 2009 white paper on Scotland’s constitutional future makes no mention of security governance, and there is little evidence that Scotland’s political elite has considered this question beyond the traditional defence issues of NATO membership, Trident, and the dividing up of the armed forces.

We will explore the implications and practicalities of the Scottish government seeking to create its own security governance institutions to mirror those in the UK in the event of independence, or alternatively pursuing capacity sharing and policy coordination with London. From the other side of the equation, we will explore how UK policymakers and security agencies would manage security issues that span their new northern land border, how they would coordinate with the Scottish government, and what the power/knowledge relationship between them would be.

We need to understand whether the insecurities and risks faced by Scotland are the same as those detailed in the UK National Security Strategy, and whether the policymakers of an independent Scotland would perceive those insecurities and risks in the same way. Moreover, is a separation of insecurities and security governance even possible in an island with highly integrated critical infrastructures such as energy, finance, data, communications, transport and trade? We will consider the extent to which Scotland is integrated into EU mechanisms of security governance, and what its relationship with these would be in the event of Scottish independence, uncertain Scottish EU membership, or even a UK withdrawal from the EU. What lessons can we learn from comparable countries (e.g. Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, Finland, Netherlands) given that security governance operates within varying institutional designs that can affect policy and day-to-day practices? What are the security implications of a separate Scottish foreign policy?

These questions are pertinent not only in prospect of a ‘yes’ vote in the independence referendum and any subsequent inter-government negotiations, but also in prospect of a ‘no’ vote and the possibilities of longer-term constitutional change. Even in the event of a continuation of the constitutional status quo, the devolved institutions of government still need to increase their interest in security governance because of its proliferation across government departments, policy areas, and areas of democratic oversight.

3) What democratic oversight of security governance is needed in Scotland, with or without independence?

The proliferation of insecurities means that democratic oversight of security governance in Westminster now stretches to at least six different parliamentary committees, occasionally more. For example, the Public Accounts Committee has inquired into outsourced security provision such as G4S at the Olympics, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee has reported on the government response to the 2009 flu pandemic, and the Energy and Climate Change Committee has published a report on the UK’s energy security.

In an independent Scotland, what democratic oversight of security governance would be needed? What committees and bodies would need to be created, and what would be their remit? This would be especially complicated in the case of shared security governance between Scotland and the remaining UK, because the security services are already cautious about speaking to parliamentary committees, let alone the parliamentary committees of a newly independent neighbouring state. Independence aside, are Scotland’s current democratic oversight mechanisms adequate given the proliferation of insecurities across areas of government? How far does security governance now encroach on areas of devolved government? How are the security governance activities already underway in Scotland overseen democratically?

The seminar series team:

Dr Andrew Neal, University of Edinburgh School of Social and Political Science
Professor Charles Raab, University of Edinburgh School of Social and Political Science
Dr Juliet Kaarbo, University of Edinburgh School of Social and Political Science
Professor Stephen Tierney, University of Edinburgh School of Law
Professor Thierry Balzacq, University of Namur, Belgium
Dr Holger Stritzel, University of St Andrews School of International Relations
Dr William Vlcek, University of St Andrews School of International Relations

Report on the first event ‘Assessing security governance in the UK and Scotland under current arrangements

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3 Responses to Seminar Series Announcement: Security in Scotland, with or without constitutional change

  1. Thanks for all your interest in the seminars. I should make clear that these are not public seminars. While we would love to accommodate everyone, I’m afraid we have neither the resources nor remit to open them to all. We will, however, consider all requests to take part from those directly involved in the issues. We will publish public summaries of all the meetings, and may have a public event in due course.

  2. Pingback: Intelligence implications of Scottish independence | Watching the Watchers

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