SNP condemns Westminster ‘bullying’ over Trident

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By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has condemned Westminster bullying over threats that the Ministry of Defence would demand billions in compensation from Scottish taxpayers to fund the removal of the Trident nuclear weapons system if Scotland votes for independence.

By a Newsnet reporter

The SNP has condemned Westminster bullying over threats that the Ministry of Defence would demand billions in compensation from Scottish taxpayers to fund the removal of the Trident nuclear weapons system if Scotland votes for independence.  MoD officials are reportedly studying contingency plans in the event of a Scots yes to independence.  In order for the rump UK to retain its weapons of mass destruction, the MoD would have to construct a new storage and maintenance facility outside of Scotland.  Currently the UK’s nuclear warheads are kept at a storage facility at Coulport on the Clyde.  

The MoD claims that London would demand billions in compensation from Edinburgh to fund the move.  Officials say that the costs of moving the four nuclear submarines from Scotland to England would be immense.

An MoD official said:  “Coulport is a major piece of infrastructure and it would cost billions to replace.  There would certainly have to be discussions about the cost of moving that infrastructure, which would be phenomenal.”

The MoD’s plans to base a new fleet of seven Astute class submarines at Faslane from 2017 would also have to be scrapped if Scotland were to break away. The MoD is building a new jetty at Faslane for the Astute submarines and says it would seek compensation from Edinburgh for this as well.

Even after independence, it seems that Westminster would still expect the Scots to pay for the UK’s nuclear deterrent.  However this claim has no precedent elsewhere in the world when one nation becomes independent of another.  

On regaining their independence from the Soviet Union, the Baltic states were not held responsible for the costs of removing Russian military bases, including Russian nuclear missiles and submarines, and the construction of new facilities to host the troops and weapons in Russia.  Why the MoD believes it would have a case for demanding payment from an independent Scotland in order to construct a nuclear base elsewhere in the rump UK is unclear.  Any such demand from London would most likely receive short shrift from a newly independent Scotland.  

The MoD’s claims are likely to be received by a sceptical Scottish public as yet another example of Westminster’s blustering and scaremongering over the independence referendum as the panicking Unionist parties lash out in all directions.  

The MoD has a history of refusing to accept the costs to the public associated with its activities.  Recently the MoD refused to take responsibilty for the clean up costs created by radioactive particles from an old defence facility on the Firth of Forth which are being washed ashore in Dalgety Bay in Fife.  

SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said the threats would backfire given that a key advantage of independence is that it is the only constitutional option which gives Scotland the powers to remove Trident from Scottish waters.  For many in the pro-independence movement, the removal of nuclear weapons from Scottish soil is one of the major reasons for supporting Scottish independence.  

Mr Robertson said:

“Westminster bullying Scotland over the future of Trident will backfire on the anti-independence parties given that these weapons of mass destruction are not wanted in Scotland, and never have been.

“For the MoD to demand compensation when the same department is responsible for a £5.6 billion defence underspend in Scotland, accompanied by 10,500 job losses and base closures over the last decade, is incredible.  And all this as Scotland has given away £250 billion of oil revenues to Westminster.

“The vast majority of MSPs, as well as the churches, trade unions, and civic society across the nation totally oppose Trident nuclear weapons being based in Scotland – and in the last Westminster Parliament even a majority of Scottish MPs opposed the renewal of Trident.

“A key advantage of independence is that it is the only constitutional option which gives Scotland the powers to have Trident removed from Scottish waters, and so attempts to bully Scotland over their removal will backfire.”