Wednesday 28 March 2007

3. How Many Aircraft Carriers? - Sion Jobbins

In an article in the current issue of the Cambria magazine, Sion Jobbins tries to answer David Williams' question put to Plaid Cymru Candidate Bethan Jenkins on BBC Wales' Dragon's Eye program "how many aircraft carriers would an independent Wales have". We are grateful to Cambria and to Sion Jobbins for allowing us to reproduce this slightly extended article.

The article has been broken into 5 segments. This is the 3rd instalment. The first may be viewed here - and the 2nd may be viewed here.

by SiƓn Jobbins


How much will the military of an independent Wales cost? Well, how long is a piece of string? How much would the military of the UK cost in 10 or 15 years time? It depends which party is in power and what the circumstances are. But, let's take as a guide, the military spend of other states of similar size and economic and political situation.

The Republic of Ireland with a population a little over a million more than Wales spends about £700m on its defence, that’s 0.7 of its GDP. Its active force of 10,500 is divided into the Army (8,000), Air Corp and Naval Service.

With a population of 2 million (a million less than Wales) Slovenia’s military budget is some £270m or 1.7% of its GDP. Slovenia is a NATO member and has about 7,500 officers and some 35,000 personnel – a high number partly because of its previous fragile geo-political situation and conscription which only came to end in 2004. Its military is mostly infantry but there is also a small air force and naval unit. Slovene forces have served in Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Cyprus and the Golan.

So how much would an independent Welsh military cost? Again, this depends on what a democratically elected Welsh government at the time believed were its priorities. But let’s say that Welsh GDP is 4% of the UK’s? If the UK’s armed forces expenditure in 2006-07 was £34.5bn then the spend of an independent Welsh military (keeping UK levels of 2.2%) of the state’s GDP would be £720m. Now, the UK has big international commitments, partly I believe because were the UK to stop being a military force an important plank of the raise d’ertre of the UK would fall – something the ruling elite and emotionally ordinary people would not wish to see as the military is such an integral part of British identity. In fact, without a strong military, people will ask what’s the point of Britain – wouldn’t it just be Belgium on stilts? Without it’s military, what could Britain do that its constituent nations couldn’t?

What were Wales to take a middle ground between Ireland’s 0.7% of GDP and Slovenia’s 1.7%? Wales’s GDP was £35bn in 2005 (almost exactly the same amount as the UK’s Defence Budget). In keeping with its size and military legacy, then let’s say 1.5% of Welsh GDP at 2005 levels would give the military a budget of £525m which is a budget less than Ireland but more than Slovenia.

One imagines the Welsh armed forces would be about 8,000 strong, predominantly infantry but with an air and naval service more in keeping with Ireland’s than Slovenia as Slovenia has only 16 miles of coast line. Would there be an aircraft carrier? Well, let’s come to that in a minute, but the naval service would be smaller than Ireland’s for obvious reasons but would need to be able to protect our ports, Holyhead, Fishguard and the increasingly important, Milford Haven.


Aled Wyn said...

In terms of soldiers, would the structure of Swtzerland's Armed forces suit Wales? That is every man between 18 - 30 are a member of the national 'Malitia' and therefore the whole of the able bodied male (and female volunteers) population are in effect the nation's army (or reserve). I believe the Swiss armed forces have a core of some 3,000 professional staff, the rest are Malitia (conscripts).

Orwell1000 said...

Good luck with the Indpendence, btw English GDP is $1.7 Trillion, and the Welsh Nationalists Plaid Cymru are against the changing of budget allocations according to GDP, they argue it should be distributed to the most needy. I bet they do.

Also don't expect things like the Royal Mint, DVLA, Prison Service HQ, National Statistics, RAF St Athans Investment and other UK Contracts and resources to stay in Wales.

All looking extremely rosy for an Independent Wales with budget shortfalls, low GDP, cuts in public service/jobs and of course the loss of UK jobs and contracts.

Finally you are aware that Ireland doesn't have an airforce or any jets, it has simply given up on air defence.