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Navy cuts 'a national disgrace'
The Government's cuts to the Royal Navy's fleet have gone too far and are a "national disgrace", a former head of the service has warned.
Lord West of Spithead, a former first sea lord, said the coalition had not just cut to the bone but "into the bone", as he insisted the UK had been left with too few ships to escort naval convoys.
The Labour peer also warned the possibility of Scottish independence poses the greatest security and defence threat to the UK.
Asked about the scale of today's navy, Lord West told the Andrew Marr Show on BBC One: "I believe we've cut into the bone... it's not to the bone, but into the bone and I think we've gone too far.
"A great maritime nation like us, where we still run global shipping from London and we're totally reliant on that, those sinews that keep the global village together, to have 19 escorts I think is a national disgrace actually.
"And I think we really do need to think very, very hard about that because we have a very dangerous and chaotic world.
"If you look at the LNG (liquefied natural gas) carriers, every 20 hours from Qatar to Milford Haven there is an LNG carrier - 13% of our gas supplies in this country.
"If you stop that we suddenly have not got any power and that's just that. There's the same for food and all these other things."
Turning to the possibility of Scottish independence, Lord West said: " The greatest grand strategic threat to the security and defence of our islands is the possibility of Scotland separating.
"This is a really, really serious issue. There is no doubt whatsoever that if Scotland separated it would diminish our ability to defend these islands."
He added he did not blame anyone for this situation potentially emerging.
A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "Tough decisions had to be taken to deal with the budget deficit left in defence.
"The Royal Navy's ability to project power and influence around the globe is evident with deployments of vessels to assist in the search for the missing Malaysian airliner; a helicopter carrier and destroyer following the typhoon in the Philippines; while taking part in operations in counter-piracy, counter-narcotics and safeguarding chemical weapons being removed from Syria."
She said these activities were carried out while a large naval presence was maintained in the Gulf and vessels are also "defending the Falkland Islands and maintaining our continuous-at-sea deterrent".