It’s the story that never dies! Minutes finally published in late June for a meeting that took place on 24 April reveal that the council have discovered £41k in CASH is MISSING from their Markets Service. Just like The BRISTOLIAN’s been saying all along!
But how can this be? Didn’t Mayor Cover-Up and his trusty sidekick, Sir Gus Hoyty-Toyty, publicly assure us all in 2013 that NO MONEY WAS MISSING from Markets and that the Bristolian needed to stop making unsubstantiated insinuations? #endofstory!
Well, that’s now officially a load of bollocks – and not #endofstory at all – according to Mayor Foot-in-Mouth’s own Audit Committee. They heard ADMISSIONS from the council’s over-promoted bog cleaner-in-chief Charlie “Gutbucket” Harding, the Chief Internal Auditors and the council’s finance boss, Peter “What Crisis?” Gillet, that, despite strenuous DENIALS stretching back over three years, at least £41k of CASH has in fact gone astray.
Not that sensitive council bosses put it quite as crudely as that. Instead they referred to “A DEBT” of £41k. Albeit a rather unusual cash “debt” that was authorised by no one and is owed by no one!
Indeed, most of us would say that this money is “unaccounted for” or “missing” or, even, “STOLEN”. But what’s some deliberately misleading SEMANTICS between senior council finance managers covering arse and councillors?
This motley collection of expert finance bosses, who have taken just three years to uncover a “debt” that was first pointed out to them by a whistleblower all that time ago, were also quick to assure councillors that the “debt” was “not thought to be the result of MISAPPROPRIATION or BAD MANAGEMENT“.
Really? So how did the cash disappear then? Did it float out of a safe and up to heaven one day? Did it spontaneously combust somewhere in St Nicks Market? Or perhaps their Market safe is a portal to another dimension and our money now lies safely beyond everyone’s reach?
These latest excuses from council bosses are RIDICULOUS. How the fuck can £41k of public money not be accounted for and it not be the fault of anyone? Do they take us all for fools?
Indeed, when pressed, the council’s USELESS pair of Chief Internal Auditors were forced to admit that they were “not able to determine what had happened to the money”! So quite how the pair of COVER-UP merchants can then state categorically that it’s nothing to do with “misappropriation or bad management” is anyone’s guess. Mainly theirs!
Mayor Cash Loss’s Tory cabinet finance chief, Geoff “Cods” Gollop, was even forced to wade in at the meeting. Blustering that “accounting systems have been changed to ensure that this situation is rectified for the future”. But what “situation” is he referring to? How exactly do you rectify an INEXPLICABLE OCCURRENCE?
At least councillors on the Audit Committee, after spending three years staring gormlessly into space listening to increasingly WILD EXPLANATIONS from finance bosses while their Markets Service was ripped off, may have finally woken up.
They’ve demanded a further report from their BENT finance chiefs by the autumn and demanded an update on the so-called “debt” for their next meeting.
But what happens next? Will anyone call the POLICE to investigate where our money is as it’s obvious our council has either no idea or is covering up what’s happened to it?
The publication of a report into the death of Kathleen Cole who passed away within days of leaving “THE HOUSE OF HORRORS” – Holmwood House care home – in 2013 (BRISTOLIAN passim) saw our posh Green councillors go on the attack … Criticising, er, WORKING CLASS Bristolians for their use of language!
The recently completed independent report commissioned by Bristol City Council upheld FOUR complaints by Mrs Cole’s daughter, Annette Whiting, arising from her mother’s death.
Bristol City Council also had to APOLOGISE to Annette for failing to explain to her how their care system operated and how she might have effectively complained to them to get something done while her mother was still alive.
Instead Annette was allowed by council bosses to be SHUNNED by Holmwood
House who depicted her as a “TROUBLE-MAKER”. The home then restricted her ability to visit her mother and her movements around the care home while the home basically set about killing her mum through disgraceful mistreatment and neglect under the noses of indifferent council bosses.
In 2013 Bristol City Council wholly accepted Holmwood’s House’s view of Annette as a “troublemaker” and her efforts to communicate concerns to the council were THWARTED by the council bosses’ refusal to respond to correspondence or to return phone calls. By the time the council did respond and agree to move Mrs Coles from their hell home, it was too late and Mrs Coles was DEAD within ten days.
It should also be noted that FOUR safeguarding concerns were raised to the council by professionals with regard to Kathleen in the space of EIGHT months in 2012-13. And the home FAILED seven CQC inspections in two years (2011-13) while Kathleen lived there. Surely this should have given credibility to Annette’s complaints and concerns, not led to her being ostracised?
Given these startling facts, a member of the public, our old friend Steve Norman who originally exposed the scandal in 2013, took it upon himself to send councillors a copy of this report to highlight what has been happening in their elderly care service.
The email to councillors used some COLOURFUL LANGUAGE comparing council bosses and Mayor Murder’s illicit elderly care policies to genocide. Or more specifically to Adolf Hitler!
So it didn’t take long for a response to come from snooty green cabinet member Dani “HELL” Radice. “I find your reference to the Mayor as Adolf Hitler deeply offensive, along with all your comments about council officers, and so will not be entering intofurther correspondence,” she stormed.
She was supported by the Green’s latest posh Lib Dem turncoat Fi “LA-DI-DAH” Hance who spat back, “I concur with Cllr Radice’s comments. Please do not contact me again.”
So a big defence on pretty slim grounds of Mayor Kill-The-Poor and his culpable bosses here and no sign of any concern whatsoever that a working class Bristolian has been consigned to their grave by the conduct of the council they run. What a pair of charmers!
However, if this pair of gormless posh cows ever get their thick heads out of their politically correct arses they might want to think about this admission from their own managers in the report: “Bristol City Council does not have a threshold which would stop the Council commissioning care.”
In other words once these councillors have let their managers dump our elderly into their shit privatised death homes they have no way of getting them out again, regardless of what is happening to them.
And let’s remember that Kathleen Cole was sexually assaulted – effectively tortured – by pervy nurse, CECILE JOSEPH, who had a fetish for administering enemas to the vulnerable elderly.
But obviously institutionalised abuse resulting in DEATH is a mere trifle compared to mentioning Adolf Hitler in an email or being a bit rude about our posh mayor and a couple of useless middle managers.
Nice to see what the Greens’ priorities are, isn’t it?
With the election safely out of the way, Tory efforts to privatise the NHS move smoothly up a gear.
Plans are now afoot by the North Bristol NHS Trust, who run Southmead Hospital,
to PRIVATISE the city’s Community Children’s Health Partnership (CCHP).
This is the part of the trust that runs Community Paediatricians, Children’s Therapists, Health Visitors, School Health Nurses and Children’s Mental Health Teams in the city and it’s a service crucial to the health and safety of our kids.
Not least because it is at the frontline of PREVENTION of ill health and abuse among children. Not that the Tories or their suited and booted wealthy little helpers running local hospital trusts give a toss about any of that.
The trust’s excuse for this privatisation is that they wish to focus on ‘acute services’. Although some very small bottom line savings and the awarding of public money favours to well-connected corporates also seem to underpin the plans.
Our information suggests that these services for kids in Bristol will be TENDERED OUT for about £28m over the next year and the favourites to get the contract are … Wait for it … VIRGIN Care!
Yes, that’s right, city health bosses want to make creepy billionaire weird beard RICHARD BRANSON responsible for your kids’ health!
Virgin describes 2014’s HEALTH & SOCIAL CARE ACT – which has opened the NHS to more private providers – as an “opportunity” and they are desperate to get their hands on this Bristol contract.
As the upstart private health business, despite having scooped 230 CONTRACTS worth £500m from the NHS already, is not yet showing signs of profit. However this could change if Virgin can achieve what’s called ‘market penetration’ and grab a large enough slice of a health market to benefit from economies of scale.
Virgin already has lucrative health contracts in Devon. So if they can expand into Bristol they’ll achieve the kind of regional ‘market penetration’ that spells cash and profit joy for Richard Branson and his family.
Adding to the sense of bargain basement RIP-OFF at the expense of our kids comes news that Virgin Care is not likely to be paying much tax on any profits made from NHS money any time soon either.
Richard Murphy, a chartered accountant at Tax Research UK, recently revealed that Virgin Care’s ultimate holding company, that’s dished out loans to the fledgling health company, is based in the Virgin Islands – a tax haven!
To be on the safe side and to ensure you avoid this toxic company, we strongly suggest readers make sure their kids don’t get ill in Bristol any more.
2010’dan bu günlere gelindiğinde ise Flash, herkesin nefret etse de bir şekilde kullanmaya devam etmek zorunda kaldığı bir yazılım olmuş ve “sonunda” Internet’in devleri tarafından emekliye ayrılmasına dair çağrılarda ve açıklamalarda bulunulmuştur. Çünkü, web daha “açık” ve bağımsız komiteler tarafından denetlenen “özgür” standartları haketmektedir. Ayrıca, kullanıcıları daha modern yazılımlarla buluşturmalıdır. Flash ise kapalı kaynak ve özel mülkiyet olması bir tarafa, denetim konusunda bağımsızlıktan çok uzak olması 0-gün açıkları için bir altın madeni olarak hackerların, istihbarat servislerinin ve siber suçluların dikkatini çekmektedir.
0-gün saldıları, yazılımlarda daha önceden bilinmeyen veya yamalanmamış güvenlik açıklarını hedef alan saldırılara denilmektedir. Yukarıda da belirtildiği üzere bu açıklar; siber suçlular, istibarat servisleri ve diğer hackerlar için altın madenleridir. Bununla birlikte, 0-gün açıkları yazılımıcılardan, bu yazılımı kullananlardan ve daha geniş bir ifadeyle kamudan gizlendiği için açık, yamalanmamış ve bir şekilde bu yazılımı kullanmak zorunda kalanları büyük bir tehlikenin içine atmaktadır. Bu açıklarla ilgili Flash’tan 10 Temmuz 2015’te yayınlanan bir örnek aşağıdadır.
Critical vulnerabilities (CVE-2015-5122, CVE-2015-5123) have been identified in Adobe Flash Player 126.96.36.199 and earlier versions for Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Successful exploitation could cause a crash and potentially allow an attacker to take control of the affected system.
Görüldüğü üzere 0-gün açığı bu sürüme sahip Flash yüklü olan Windows, Mac ve Linux işletim sistemlerini etkilediğini, saldırgana ise potansiyel olarak etkilenen sistemi kontrolü altına almasına neden olabileceğini söylemektedir. Buradaki tehlikeyi daha anlaşılır bir dille ifade etmek istersek, Flash kullanan bir haber sitesi de bu Flash yüklü olan okuyucusu da 0-gün açığı üzerinden saldırganların tehditi altındadır. Diğer taraftan, bu açıklar kapanana veya kamuyla paylaşılana kadar geçen süre içerisinde de saldırganların neleri veya kimleri hedef aldıkları, saldırılar sonunda neleri ele geçirdikleri ise takip edilememekte veya uzun bir süre geçtikten sonra ortaya çıkmaktadır.
Türkiye’de yer alan video paylaşım sitelerinden haber sitelerine, TV kanallarına ait sitelerden bu sitelerde yer alan canlı yayınlara kadar Flash günlük hayatımızın ve Internet kullanım alışkanlıklarımızın içinde büyük bir yere sahiptir. Fakat, bu kadar eleştirilmesi, kapalı kaynak ve yüzde 100 özel mülkiyet bir yazılım olup saldırganlar için bir altın madeni olmasına rağmen, HTML5 gibi açık, daha özgür ve bağımsız bir komite tarafından denetlenen bir standartın tercih edilmemesi bu siteleri kullanan herkesi tehdit altına sokmaktadır. Adobe, yıllar boyunca Flash güvenliğini geliştirmede bir türlü yeterli olamamıştır. 2009 yılından bu yana birçok kötü güvenlik kayıtlarına da sahiptir:
Among the vulnerabilities discovered in 2009, a vulnerability affecting both Adobe Reader and Flash Player was the second most attacked vulnerability. This was also one of four zero-day vulnerabilities affecting Adobe plug-ins during 2009. Two of the vulnerabilities were in the top five attacked vulnerabilities for 2009. Additionally, Adobe vulnerabilities have been associated with malicious code attacks such as the Pidief.E Trojan.
Yukarıdaki alıntıda görüldüğü üzere, 2009 yılında keşfedilen açıklar içerisinde en çok saldırıya uğrayanlardan ikincisi, Adobe Reader ve Flash’ı aynı anda etkileyen bir açıktır. Ayrıca, 2009 yılı içinde Adobe eklentilerini en çok etkileyen 0-gün açıklarından da biridir. 2009 yılından günümüze kadar geçen 6 yıl içinde Flash, gözetim yazılımları üretip bunu totaliter rejimlere satmaktan, bu açıkları pazarlık konusu yapmaktan ve birçok masum insanın bu rejimler tarafından her hareketinin izlenmesine ve hatta öldürülmesine yol açanlar tarafından kullanılmaya da devam etmiştir.
Gözetim ve istihbarat yazılımları üreten firmalardan İtalyan HackingTeam’in hacklenip hem satmakta oldukları yazılım hem de yazışmaları paylaşıldığında, Flash’taki 0-gün açıklarından ne kadar çok yararlandıkları da ortaya çıkmıştı. Öte yandan, HackingTeam’in Flash’taki 0-gün açıklarına dair bir “exploit” almak için bir başka güvenlik firması olan Netragard’a 105 bin Dolar ödeme pazarlığı içinde olduğuna dair bir yazışma da Wikileaks’te yer almaktadır. Türkiye’de ise devlet kurumlarından fuarlara kadar HackingTeam’le ne kadar içlidışlı oldukları ve Türkiye’nin HackingTeam’den 600 bin Dolarlık hizmet ve yazılım aldığı da düşünülürse, Flash kullanımı beraberinde çok büyük bir tehlike getirmektedir.
Türkiye’de Hayat TV, Flash yayını keserek örnek bir adım atmıştır. Diğer taraftan günde binlerce kez tıklanan haber siteleri, video paylaşım siteleri, TV kanallarına ait canlı yayınlar ise tüm bu anlatılan açıklara, hem kendilerini hem de okuyucularını tehlikeye atacak zararlarına rağmen Flash kullanmaya devam etmektedirler. En büyük ironi ise HackingTeam haberlerini yapmalarına rağmen sitelerinde Flash reklamlar veya videolar yer almaktadır. Gelin siz de bu çağrıyı dikkate alın ve daha fazla görmezden gelmeyin. Flash artık mazide kalsın, sitelerinize aldığınız reklamlardan paylaştığınız videolara kadar Flash olmamasına özen gösterin, gelin yeni, daha “açık”, daha “özgür” ve daha “modern” bir başlangıç yapalım. Web’i hakettiği “açık” ve “özgür” standartlarına kavuşturmak için biz de güçlü bir adım atalım.
Thursday 30th July Manchester Autonomous Drinkers A monthly chat to plot, plan and gossip with a collection of Manchester’s finest radicals, rogues and ne’er do wells. We think there aren’t enough opportunities to meet other radicals beyond meetings or demonstrations and hope this is one contribution to solving that problem and building a stronger, healthier and more coherent left. We’ll be upstairs which we’ve reserved for ourselves. There will be space for publications and leaflets so feel free to bring anything decent that you’ve got. 8.00pm, Ape and Apple,28-30 John Dalton St, M2 6HQ https://www.facebook.com/events/916863271706152/
Friday 31st July Manifest with Hatework Conspiracy, The Couldn’t Care Less and Stubborn Bastards 7.30pm £3
Leeds Zine Fair featuring amongst others One Way Ticket to Cubesville:
Don’t miss your chance to pick up hot off the press The Vegan’s Guide to People Arguing with Vegans, together with Cubesville #17 – the only contemporary Manchester-based anarcho-absurdist fanzine to sellotape a piece of string to the cover. Baldly going where no fanzines have gone before. Leeds Zine Fair will give you the chance to grab some inspirational absurdity from rare back issues too. Come and say hello.
Earth First Gathering in the Peak District
Five days of skill-sharing for grassroots ecological direct action – make links, share ideas, and get involved in the struggles against fracking, new roads and more
can you promote the http://earthfirstgathering.org/ ? There’s transport from Manchester being organised and an amazing programme being put together of over 100 workshops.
Also, if anyone could come over and offer a workshop on anarchism – histories, green @, anarcho-feminism… – please let us know as it’s really important and a bit of a gap at the mo in the programme which we’d love to be filled. We only have workshop spaces though on Wednesday or Sunday – we’re finalising tomorrow afternoon!
Friday 4th September, Saturday 5th September and Sunday 6th September
From Monday 3rd to Sunday 9th August 2015 Anarchist Action Network is holding a free week of events at LARC (London Action Resource Centre) in East London. The week will include a social space with free drinks and evening meals, workshops, discussions, film screenings, practical skillshares and more. We hope that these events will address some of the issues which most people are facing right now – including problems with housing and welfare cuts, and the government austerity agenda, increased poverty, racism and the racist border system, state violence and harassment.
Programme of Events
Each day there will be themed workshops and discussions: Monday 3 Aug – Anti-racism, Anti-borders Tuesday 4 Aug – Environment & degrowth Wednesday 5 Aug – Skillshares Thursday 6 Aug – Benefits claimants and workers rights Friday 7 Aug – Housing struggles and anti-eviction Saturday 8 Aug – Anti-militarism and anti-imperialism Sunday 9 Aug – Anarchism
Free every day:
– Tea and coffee
– Hot meals each evening
– Info area
Time: 12.00pm Date: Monday 27th July 2015 Location: Cardiff Crown Court Address: Cathays Park, Cardiff, CF10 3PG
Demonstration to show solidarity with two facing serious charges after being violently attacked and arrested by police at an anti-cuts demonstration at a HSBC branch in Cardiff in May this year.
There will be a short solidarity demonstration outside the court from 12.00 pm on Monday the 27th of July 2015. Anti-repression and anti-austerity banners and well-wishers welcome.
URGENT WITNESS APPEAL:
Were you present at the Mayday demonstration and march in May 2015? Even if you think you didn’t see anything you may be able to provide useful defence evidence as to the nature of the day. If you think you may be able to help please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oxford Research Group
Global Security Briefing – July 2015
14 July 2015
Two months on from its surprise electoral victory, the Conservative Party government has provided a good deal of clarity about its defence policy and proposed military expenditure, procurement, deployments and future engagements. Yet, already over a month into the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR, as UK defence white papers are now termed), there is still much that we don’t know about the planned course of British military policy. This briefing sets out five things that we now know about the SDSR and ten things we do not yet know.
1. The SDSR is already under way
Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon formally announced that the SDSR had begun in early June. This was not unexpected given that a new defence policy review process is now standard following a general election. With the five-year term of parliament fixed by law in 2011, SDSRs are now assumed to be five-year defence strategies rather than ad hoc policy updates.
What we don’t yet know…
What is the process and timescale for the SDSR?
Beyond that it is under way and is due to conclude before the end of 2015, little else has been disclosed about the SDSR process or its timescale. In the run up to the general election, the House of Commons Defence Committee did sterling work in interrogating the Coalition government on its plans for the review and in soliciting a wide array of inputs from experts and civil society on important issues ranging from intervention norms to force structure to the crises in Iraq and Syria. This was particularly important because the first SDSR, following the May 2010 election, was widely seen to be rushed and unsatisfactory as the Coalition government looked to shed costs.
Who will the SDSR team consult with?
Five years later, the 2015 SDSR is not looking very much better. While there is clearly not the same urgency to fix capabilities to spending cuts, the clear review process with input from experts outside of the MoD has not emerged. According to Mr Fallon, responding to a parliamentary question on the SDSR’s consultation plans last week, “The Government is engaging with a range of audiences, including non-governmental organisations.” No more specifics than that.
How will the SDSR link to the National Security Strategy?
The really key question remains how the SDSR timetable sits with the review of the National Security Strategy (NSS) that is also now a post-election fixture. Again, little information has been released about the process and timescale despite the requests of the parliamentary Joint Committee on the NSS. In theory, the security threats identified in the NSS and its risk register inform the responses prioritised in the SDSR. In practice, the 2010 reviews were published almost simultaneously and the SDSR did not obviously respond to threats identified in the NSS. Despite the recommendations of the Joint Committee, this scheduling looks likely to be repeated and it remains unclear to what extent the SDSR will be nested in the findings of the updated NSS.
2. The UK will spend 2% of GDP on its military until at least 2020
In a surprise announcement, Chancellor George Osborne announced in his July 2015 Summer Budget Statement that the Government would commit at least 2% of GDP (a measure of annual national economic output) to financing defence over the full course of the 2015-2020 parliament. This was significant partly because of the intense public lobbying that the government faced from senior officials in the US and NATO for British defence spending not to slip below this symbolic minimum financing level for NATO member states.
Coming ahead of the defence and security reviews, this spending commitment is primarily a political message – of reassurance to the US, and of resolve to an assertive Russia. It says nothing about why the government might think 2% of GDP (about £35 billion in 2015, rising to over £39 billion in 2020 at constant prices according to official growth predictions) is a reflection of the security challenges to the UK nor why the armed forces are the appropriate means of response to these challenges. Despite the target, the NATO average (mean) is actually about 1.4% of GDP.
The 2% announcement was also significant because it had been expected that the SDSR would to some extent be dependent on the findings of the post-election Comprehensive Spending Review, which might force further cuts in the armed forces in the context of fiscal austerity. The 2% commitment is a relief to many in the Ministry of Defence and takes some of the pressure off those running the SDSR.
What we don’t yet know…
What is included in the 2% ‘defence’ spending commitment?
There are three big unknowns in response to the new 2% commitment. First, it is not clear what the government intends to include within this ‘defence’ spending envelope. NATO will make its own assessment of what it accepts as defence spending but it is possible that the Chancellor plans to include some or all of UK intelligence spending, support for peacekeeping operations or military pensions in the total. Such bolstering looks unlikely, even though the government is greatly increasing its combined (and secret) allocation to military and civilian intelligence agencies.
Is 2% of GDP sufficient to fund ambitious procurement and personnel targets?
Secondly, even with the higher-than-expected spending commitment, it is not at all certain that the government can finance its very ambitious procurement plans (£163 billion to 2024) and keep its manifesto commitment to preserve the armed forces at their current size. The Coalition government made important progress in constraining MoD procurement practices and cost over-runs but the current focus of resources on procurement of some relatively unknown systems, especially the next generation Trident submarine and missile system and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, makes the prospect of cost over-runs very likely. This, in turn, would put pressure on personnel strength.
Why was the 2% commitment not in the Conservative manifesto?
Thirdly, there is the question of why the 2% commitment did not appear in the conservative electoral manifesto, as the £160+ billion procurement plan did. During the campaign, Conservative ministers (and their equivalents in Labour and Lib Dems) repeatedly refused to be drawn on meeting the 2% commitment. As the BBC’s defence editor Mark Urban put it, during an election “even a party that historically has prided itself as strong on defence feels unable to make the argument for spending more on it.” This surely says something interesting about the sceptical public mood on defence spending even in the context of renewed crises in the Middle East, Mediterranean and Ukraine.
3. The Government will renew Trident from 2016
The Conservative Party made a clear commitment to renew the UK’s Trident submarine-launched nuclear weapons system in its 2015 manifesto. Unlike the other major parties, it was also unequivocal that it favoured like-for-like procurement of a four vessel “continuous at sea deterrence” capability. Estimated procurement costs for such a system are already built into the £163 billion procurement plan, although there is little consensus on how much such a massive undertaking will really cost to build, maintain and operate.
Less clear is whether the future of Trident will be looked at seriously within the SDSR process. Most likely it will be treated as a given, even though the ‘Main Gate’ decision to proceed with procurement will be taken via a parliamentary vote in 2016. The Coalition government already considered and rejected alternatives to Trident replacement in 2013, and the Conservative government is unlikely to feel the need to replicate this. Even if a number of Conservative backbenchers revolted on the Main Gate vote, the government could likely retain a majority through the support of Unionist parties and at least some MPs from the opposition.
What we don’t yet know…
How will the SNP respond?
The bigger question is not whether government or parliament will support Trident renewal, but how the Scottish National Party (SNP) will react. The Achilles’ heel of the submarine-based Trident system is its dependence on shore facilities at Faslane and Coulport on the west coast of Scotland. The SNP is now the third party in Westminster with 50% of Scottish votes, 56 of 59 MPs from Scotland and a solid majority in the Scottish Parliament. It is the largest pro-nuclear disarmament party in the UK parliament since the 1980s.
Neither the SNP nor the Scottish Government has a mandate or veto over UK defence facilities in Scotland. However, the SNP is likely to claim a moral authority from its Scottish majority and to make political capital out of the nuclear issue, especially ahead of the May 2016 Scottish elections. Ways that this could be manifested include disruption or failure to maintain basic services to the naval bases, lobbying for the Scottish government to gain powers over military bases, or even pressure for a new referendum on independence. While the Trident system could be relocated elsewhere in Britain – west Wales, southern Cornwall or Plymouth – the cost and disruption would be enormous. Due to be in service until the 2060s, Trident II depends on a stable home base for the next half-century.
The SNP is still very much testing the waters on defence and foreign affairs but it now has the strength to ask awkward questions in Commons committees as well as Parliament. It may look to trade guarantees of orders for Royal Navy shipbuilding for yards in Rosyth and on the Clyde for acquiescence on Trident but neither this nor Scotland’s long-term place in the UK can be taken for granted.
4. The government would like to expand current and new military operations
The withdrawal from major operations in Afghanistan at the end of 2014 did not mean the return of the British armed forces to a peacetime footing. Since September last year, the RAF has been involved in a new phase of war in Iraq, where it is bombing Islamic State positions.
Ahead of the general election, the government was keen to avoid British “boots on the ground”, and the risk of capture or casualties, in Iraq. Since June it has increased the number of British Army personnel in Iraq to 275, including training personnel outside of Iraqi Kurdistan. There are also at least 75 troops in Turkey training Syrian opposition militia, and there may be others doing the same in Jordan.
Since 30 June, the government has also made clear that it would like to extend its bombing campaign to targets in Syria, where some members of the anti-Islamic State coalition already conduct attacks supported by RAF reconnaissance aircraft and drones. It is not clear if this would require any more aircraft or personnel than those currently deployed in Cyprus and the Gulf. This would follow a vote in parliament, considered necessary given the Coalition defeat on the issue of bombing President Assad’s forces in Syria in August 2013.
Oddly, part of the rationale for extending UK action to Syria is the late June terrorist attack on mostly British holidaymakers in Tunisia, which was linked to Islamic State but appears to have been planned from lawless Libya. The UK is meanwhile one of several European states pushing for a UN mandate to allow EU military forces, including British attack helicopters and possibly the SAS or SBS, to attack and disrupt human trafficking operations along Libya’s coast to prevent illegal migration to Italy and Malta.
What we don’t yet know…
What is the UK strategy for peace and security in Iraq, Syria and Libya?
What is still missing from the proposed extension of UK military operations into Syria and Libya is the larger strategy for peace in either country or the wider Middle East and North Africa region. This is not necessarily something that the SDSR can resolve but it is something that the NSS needs to address and once again underlines the necessity for defence policy to be rooted in a broader, longer term security strategy.
While it is certainly the case that the government is devoting much thought internally and with its foreign partners to how to confront, contain and defeat Islamic State, it is also clear that it does not yet have a coherent strategy. It cannot be sure that more bombing of Islamic State will either degrade that movement, which thrives on anti-‘crusaderist’ propaganda, or contribute to the goal of a stable post-Assad Syria.
The EU plan to attack people traffickers in Libya and sink their boats is so nonsensical that it is difficult to believe that it was not concocted by European leaders in a bid to be seen to be doing something muscular to prevent in-migration, safe in the knowledge that the UN Security Council would scupper any attempt at a mandate to use force. Such potential interventions help to make the case for why such expensive equipment as aircraft carriers might be useful for military operations, but not how such military operations might contribute to international or national security.
5. The government wants to spend more on remote control warfare
Finally, Mr Cameron made it known in a speech on 13 July that his government would prioritise spending on Special Forces, drones and surveillance aircraft as part of the defence policy review, with particular focus on combating Islamic State. He also stated that the government would look at ways for the new Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carriers to deploy drones and Special Forces as part of counter-terrorism operations.
The government has thus made it a priority to follow the US lead in investing heavily in ‘remote control’ warfare technologies permitting rapid intervention over a wide radius with minimal or very short term presence of British forces on the ground.
What we don’t yet know…
The unknowns here are intrinsic to the secretive technology sought: where will we seek to deploy and use it, and what will be the terms of its use?
Where are the UK’s drones and Special Forces?
At present the RAF has ten MQ-9 Reaper armed drones, procured from the US for use in Afghanistan from 2007. Their planned redeployment to their pilot station at RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire (where they would be stored given their lack of license to fly in UK airspace) has been disrupted by their use in Operation Shader over Iraq and (reconnaissance only, so far) Syria. However, unlike manned aircraft, the government will not confirm or deny details of how many Reapers are in use over the Middle East or where they fly from. Mr Fallon stated in June that every one of the UK’s drones was “out on service” but not where they were in service. Rumours of their use in West Africa or over Yemen remain just that.
A similar situation surrounds UK special operations forces: the Special Air Service (SAS), Special Boat Service (SBS), Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SRR) and other units. Successive governments have invested in Special Forces capabilities since at least the advent of operations in Afghanistan in 2001 but we still don’t know how many personnel serve in these units or where they serve. Like submarines and drones, the nature of their operations is covert and usually deniable. We know roughly that UK Special Forces have engaged in operations in Libya, Mali, Nigeria and Iraq since 2011, in most cases in contexts in which the UK was keen to deny it had any presence on the ground.
Under what conditions may UK drones and Special Forces be used?
As Jon Moran concluded in a recent Remote Control Project publication, UK ‘remote warfare’ capability is in danger of being “a collection of tactical innovations which is in danger of becoming an end in itself”. Since few British lives are directly at stake, it also lowers the perceived risk threshold for foreign interventions. In other words, such tools as Special Forces and drones are stop gap measures useful in the absence of a larger strategy but unable to win wars on their own. This returns us to the question of long-term strategy and how the priorities already being outlined for the SDSR fit with the updated NSS.
While the early clarity on the new Conservative Government’s priorities for defence procurement and expenditure are welcome, there are four issues of concern that emerge from this analysis of what we do and do not know about the current SDSR.
The first is the lack of transparency in the process. Despite repeated assurances from the Coalition government to ORG and numerous other civil society groups that the 2015 process would be much more open than the 2010 scramble, the parameters of the SDSR remain obscure and engagement with outside parties seems to be minimal. The UK’s main partners including the US, France and Germany have defence review processes much more open to scrutiny and comment by legislative, external and even foreign peers. While respecting the essentially secret nature of defence planning, the UK should have the confidence to be as open.
The second is the growing disjuncture between Scotland and the rest of the UK on the issue of nuclear weapons. A parliamentary majority in favour of Trident renewal next year seems almost certain, just as the expression of majority Scottish disapproval becomes manifest. While constitutionally the Scottish Government must cede to Westminster on defence, the prospect of Trident becoming a major political issue within the Union next year is high.
The third is an accelerated drift away from accountability, particularly in terms of what it means for the UK to go to war. Investment in remote warfare technologies lowers the threshold for foreign interventions at a time when we already don’t know where the most potent military assets of the UK are deployed and what they are doing in the name of national security. The Chancellor’s announcement of an ill-defined £1.5 billion Joint Security Fund for intelligence also raises questions of accountability in the face of creeping counter-terrorist policy.
Last and by no means least is the weakness of any strategy underpinning government security policy, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. We can be fairly sure that the UK will have superior firepower to adversaries such as the Islamic State for the foreseeable future but what is the end state that we are trying to deliver and how, if at all, does military action help the UK to deliver it? Doubtless the parallel NSS review and SDSR are not being conducted in isolation from each other but without the long-term strategic context of the former the tools that the latter delivers will not make the nation or wider world any more secure.