Carmichael backs committee concerns on proactive approach to subsea infrastructure

27 Oct 2023

Orkney and Shetland MP, Alistair Carmichael, has today backed concerned raised by the Scottish Affairs Committee following exchanges with the Ministry of Defence on the security of subsea infrastructure around the UK. The Ministry of Defence recently published its response to the committee’s report on subsea security, in which it agreed with the committee that the UK’s defence approach in the High North must adapt to new security threats.

The MoD does not, however, address a number of the Committee’s recommendations, including the vulnerability of offshore infrastructure. The Committee's report expressed concern at the Government’s lack of leadership in repairing subsea cables. The Ministry of Defence’s response does not detail how subsea cables could be quickly repaired, despite being one of the departments responsible. The report also highlighted the need for more proactive efforts to inform the public of the security of offshore links.

Mr Carmichael said:

“While I am confident that there is a high degree of awareness in the Ministry of Defence around threats to subsea infrastructure, clearer communications would not do any harm. The committee’s suggestion of a government report on the security of offshore links is a good one.

“The fact is that we are more reliant on subsea links than ever before. There is growing awareness of vulnerable cables and pipelines in the Baltic and the waters around the UK are no different. Whether or not any one disrupted connection is the result of hostile actors is really beside the point. It all shows the need for a proactive plan to keep links secure and improve their long-term resilience.

“There is a longstanding problem across government that when an issue crosses multiple departments, no one wants to be the first to take responsibility. In the case of subsea infrastructure that includes multiple UK and Scottish government departments as well as a swathe of private companies in different sectors. These vital connections are far too important to be allowed to slip through the cracks.”