By a Newsnet reporter
The cost of relocating the Trident nuclear weapons system from the Clyde after a Yes vote is far less than previously predicted by the UK government according to a respected military think tank.
A new paper from the Royal United Services Institute challenges claims that relocating the nuclear weapons will be too difficult and too costly, and concludes that relocation is “financially and technically feasible.”
The paper, scheduled to be released on Friday, suggests that recreating the nuclear facilities outside Scotland would add between £2.5-3.5 billion to the cost for Westminster of maintaining a nuclear-armed fleet, plus the cost of acquiring and clearing land. The estimate is far less than a previously-predicted £20-25 billion.
In the paper, written by Hugh Chalmers and Malcolm Chalmers, the authors also says that the Scottish Government’s target date for removal of Trident 2020 could be extended to 2028, to provide a “more natural timeframe”.
The paper suggests a newly independent Scottish Government could show, “a willingness in principle to give the rUK the opportunity and time that it needed to relocate its nuclear force to alternative operating bases.”
The authors argue that in return: “The rUK, for its part, would probably have to accept in principle that it had a strong incentive to relocate its nuclear forces to its own territory, even if it could not commit to doing so until it could be assured that this was feasible and affordable.”
In 2013, an MoD spokesman said the costs of relocating Trident would be “eye-wateringly high” and added: “The scale and cost of any potential relocation away from Faslane would be enormous.”
Last year, the then Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “If the result of the referendum were to lead to the current situation being challenged, then other options would be considered, but any alternative solution would come at huge cost. It would be an enormous exercise to reproduce the facilities elsewhere. It would cost billions of pounds and take many years.”
Commenting ahead of the paper’s release, SNP Westminster Leader and defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:
“This report puts to bed some of the ridiculous claims being put forward by the No campaign, including UK government ministers, on removing Trident from Scotland.
“We are clear, however, that getting rid of Trident from Scotland by 2020 is a perfectly reasonable timescale – indeed, Westminster’s own Scottish Affairs Committee reported that Trident could be ‘removed within months’.”
The Scottish Government is committed to the safe removal of Trident from Scotland within the term of the first independent Scottish Parliament, by 2020 – which would mean Scottish taxpayers would not have to pay towards the over £100 billion cost of Trident renewal.
Mr Robertson added: “The new generation of Trident nuclear weapons to be dumped on the Clyde is to cost over £100 billion, with annual spending rising to £4 billion a year in the next decade.
“That’s an obscene waste of money on obscene, unusable nuclear weapons which the vast majority of Scots do not want – when with a Yes vote Scotland’s share of this money could be used instead for childcare, nurses, teachers, schools and hospitals.
“The UK Parliament’s Trident obsession highlights the democratic deficit that Scotland faces under Westminster control. It is ludicrous that we are wasting billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on Trident – a Yes vote means it will instead be used to build a fairer society and stronger economy, with more opportunities for all.”