The Scottish National Party (SNP) has called for clarification by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) whether the recent Russian naval visit off the Scottish coast included vessels from the Admiral Kuznetsov naval task force.

With no conventional Royal Navy surface vessels based in Scotland the MOD had to deploy a Fleet Ready Escort vessel shortly before Christmas over 600 miles from Portsmouth to escort Russian vessels. If it is confirmed that the Russian vessels were part of an Admiral Kuznetsov task force it would be the second time in two years that the Royal Navy has had to conduct such an escort duty so close to Scotland for the same task force.

Russian media reports have shown film of the Admiral Kuznetsov apparently being refuelled off Scotland. Meanwhile the Russian Northern Fleet's spokesman, Captain 1st Rank Vadim Serga, told the Interfax-AVN news agency that a deployed naval group included: “the heavy aircraft carrying cruiser Soviet Union Fleet Admiral Kuznetsov ,the large anti-submarine ship Admiral Levchenko, the large assault ship Olenegorsky Gornyak, as well as support vessels such as the rescue towboat Nikolai Chiker and the tankers Sergei Osipov and Kama."

Westminster SNP Leader and Defence Spokesman Angus Robertson MP said:

“We welcome friends from Russia and elsewhere, but it is intolerable that there are no UK conventional naval vessel or maritime patrol aircraft in Scotland to perform basic escort duties.

“This is not the first time that a vessel has had to be scrambled from the south coast of England to steam for 24 hours at high speed for 600 miles to fulfil necessary escort tasks off Scotland.

“Apparently the MOD does not even always have a frigate or destroyer available for Fleet Ready Escort duties.

“The UK does not take the northern dimension seriously, having scrapped the entire maritime patrol fleet, basing not a single ocean capable conventional craft in Scotland and not even mentioning the High North and Arctic in the last Strategic Defence and Security Review.

“With independence, Scotland will make northern maritime security a key priority. The independence White Paper has committed to key capabilities like frigates and maritime patrol aircraft based in Scotland which will do the job properly unlike the UK."

Copyright © Angus MacDonald MSP 2017

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