By Martin Kelly
The Trident nuclear weapons system should be scrapped, the SNP has said a week after it emerged the MoD was looking into the possibility of seizing the areas around Faslane and Coulport in the event of Scottish independence.
As the Westminster Government fell into disarray and confusion this week over a plan to annex the Clyde bases after Scottish independence in order to keep nuclear weapons in Scotland, the SNP has said that the sensible solution to Westminster’s Trident fiasco is to ditch Trident altogether.
According to the Guardian newspaper, Chair of the anti-independence Better Together campaign Alistair Darling pleaded with Downing Street to swiftly distance itself from the Ministry of Defence after the newspaper revealed plans to grab the bases in the event of a Yes vote.
The spat comes as the UK Government prepares to publish its long-awaited review on alternatives to Trident this week – just two days before Westminster rises for its long summer recess – which would leave weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde for another 50 years.
Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader and Defence Spokesperson Angus Robertson said:
“There is a very simple solution to Westminster’s Trident fiasco – ditch Trident weapons of mass destruction altogether.
“This week the mask slipped, laying bare the true attitude of Westminster toward Scotland. By trying to bully Scotland in this ludicrous way, the message from the MoD is that the express wishes of the people of Scotland should play second fiddle to what Westminster wants.
“The hollow claims from the anti-independence parties that they are all committed to a world without nuclear weapons fly in the face of their actions, and prove that only a Yes vote next September will empower Scotland to get rid of Trident, and the money saved help build a fairer society and stronger economy.”
The Guardian newspaper revealed that plans to annexe regions of Scotland in the aftermath of a Yes vote were being considered by the MoD alongside claims from the UK government that removing the nuclear weapons from the Clyde would be colossally expensive.
Last week an MoD source said: “It would cost a huge amount of money, running into tens of billions of pounds, to decommission Faslane. Those costs would be factored into any negotiations on an independence settlement. The sovereign base area is an option. It is an interesting idea because the costs of moving out of Faslane are eye-wateringly high.”
Plans were being laid for post-independence negotiations that would have seen Westminster try to shift the cost onto a newly independent Scotland.
However, today a Sunday newspaper has revealed that the true cost of removing Trident from Scotland is in fact much less than being touted by Unionists.
According to the Sunday Herald an official estimate of Trident decommissioning costs published in 2006 put the sum at £150 million. Scotland’s share would amount to £12 million.
The estimate does not include the costs involved in transporting the weapons from Scotland, something that Westminster would be expected to shoulder given they would be accepting ownership.
Responding, Angus Robertson said it backed his parties view that the weapons system should be scrapped altogether.
“These figures underline that the UK Government would do well to follow the advice of Hans Blix and scrap Trident altogether, rather than waste money dumping it anywhere else.”
“Neither the people nor parliament of Scotland want nuclear weapons dumped here, and we are clear that Trident would have to be removed as quickly as possible after a Yes vote.
“Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix has urged the UK Government to scrap Trident. It is a matter for Westminster what to do with Trident after a Yes vote and to pay for it – but rather than dump it elsewhere it may well be that most people in the rest of the UK would regard Scottish independence as an opportunity to follow Mr Blix’s wise advice and get rid of nuclear weapons altogether, saving £100 billion in the process.”
The SNP MP has now written to UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond demanding an inquiry into the plans to annex the Clyde bases and whether any UK Government ministers knew of the work.
Earlier this year it emerged that plans to house the nuclear weapons system in England were considered “too dangerous”.
The Ministry of Defence said that Trident could not be moved to the Devonport base in Plymouth because an accident there would endanger too many lives.
The MoD said: “Neither the Devonport naval base nor the dockyard safety case permit the berthing of an armed submarine.”