04/12/2012 13:32 GMT | Updated 04/12/2012 13:33 GMT

Scottish Independence: Job Losses Caused By Yes Vote Hidden Amid 'Climate Of Fear'

Defence firms are hiding plans to quit Scotland if it votes for independence because of a "climate of fear", a former defence chief has said.

Lord West of Spithead, the ex-first sea lord and Labour security minister, said he had spoken to a number of organisations that intended to shift operations south of the border.

However he said the potential damage of a "yes" vote in the 2014 referendum to Scotland's economy was being deliberately kept from the people.

The claims came in evidence to an investigation by the House of Lords economic affairs committee on the implications of secession.

"I believe that the damage to our islands' defence and the economic costs, particularly to Scotland, of separation have not been properly exposed and indeed that there have been attempts to hide the detail from the Scottish people," Lord West said.

"There are of course many variables...but it is quite likely that over 10,000 jobs would be lost in Scotland, bases would close.

"I have spoken to a number of defence firms that have parts of their organisations in Scotland and they would also close in Scotland and move south.

"I asked why haven't they come out and said this publicly, and they refer to a climate of fear in Scotland and that they can't say anything, which I found quite remarkable."

Committee chair Lord MacGregor told the panel that defence secretary Philip Hammond had declined to give evidence because he was "not making plans for Scottish independence".

Admiral Lord West said that if that was true and not a political stance because of opposition to the break-up of the union it would be a "dereliction of duty".

"There are huge implications for the United Kingdom and I know jolly well that were I the First Sea Lord today, I would turn a Nelsonic blind eye to such instructions from the secretary of state for Defence and I would set up a 'black team' to work out all of the options and possibilities, for example for our nuclear deterrent.

"These are issues that are much too important, I believe, to suddenly do on the back of a cigarette packet."

He repeated warnings that the massive cost of repatriating the Trident nuclear deterrent from its Scottish base could well lead to it being abandoned altogether.