The sigh of relief from the Defence Ministry was almost audible as it became clear in the early hours of Sept. 19 that Scottish voters had decisively rejected breaking up the 307-year-old political union with the rest of the United Kingdom.
No heated negotiations over moving Britain’s submarine nuclear deterrent from its base on the Clyde near Glasgow, no haggling over how many Typhoon fighter aircraft and offshore patrol vessels would be handed over to form the nucleus of a Scottish defense force, and no hand-wringing over the budget and effectiveness of a diminished UK military.
And no movement of defense firms or facilities, which had threatened to follow the money and migrate south of the border.
Within a couple of hours of the result, BAE Systems signaled that the “no” vote had cleared the way to begin a planned investment in its Scottish naval shipbuilding operations on the Clyde.
“Continued union provides a stable footing and more certain future for our people, businesses and future investments in Scotland,” the company said in a statement.
A £200 million (US $326 million) investment in consolidating and modernizing Britain’s only major naval surface shipbuilding capability had been put on hold until later this year after the British government made it clear it would not allow warships to be built in Scotland in the event of independence.
Sash Tusa, an analyst at Edison Investment Research, said the result meant “the potentially massive dislocation of independence can be avoided. Scotland is hugely important for the naval industry and BAE, Babcock and Serco would have taken the brunt of the anticipated Scottish spending cuts.”
So business as usual for the defense sector? Not necessarily, said John Louth, director of defense, industries and society at the Royal United Services Institute in London.