Trident will be gone from Scotland after a Yes vote, possibly scrapped entirely

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By Mark McNaught
 
I would love to have been a fly on the wall during the meetings between UK defence minister Phillip Hammond and US defense officials during his recent visit to Washington.  The evidence is growing that a part of the UK is going to vote for independence later this year, a nation which happens to house the totality of the UK nuclear arsenal and is determined to definitely remove it from its territory.

The Scottish government has advocated in its White Paper a constitutional provision to ban nuclear weapons from its land and territorial waters.  There are Westminster proposals to renew Trident to the tune of hundreds of billions of pounds, at a time of deep austerity and debt, with considerable opposition from within the coalition government.

We saw how Westminster’s ‘idea’ of making Faslane a UK ‘sovereign territory’ went over, like Aktotiri and Dhekelia in Cyprus, and Guantanamo Bay for the US in Cuba.  Westminster quickly realised the sun has set on the British Empire, and they can’t violate nations’ sovereignty as they have done habitually over the past centuries.

What could have Mr Hammond discussed with his American counterparts?  Obviously, the control over of the nuclear arsenal must have been foremost in their thoughts.  Moving it elsewhere in the UK would be expensive and would arouse English local opposition, especially if they place Trident on the Thames next to Westminster.

When Scots vote ‘yes’, it will be impossible for the UK to continue with the nuclear program in Scotland, because Scots will not countenance keeping the weapons after independence, and the r-UK could not keep its nukes in a ‘foreign’ country.

As the New Statesman pointed out, the US has laid it on the line to Westminster that it needs to decide whether it wants to be a nuclear power, or maintain effective conventional forces to supplement US military ventures.  It is too financially strapped to do both.

And perhaps the US, as the UK’s ‘defence’ master realises the UK doesn’t really need nuclear weapons.  The UK arsenal is chump-change compared to the thousands of US nukes which compose their ‘umbrella’.  What is the purpose of these weapons now?  Can’t the world do without them?

While I am by no means privy to the discussions Mr Hammond had with US officials, it may well be that he obliterated the currency threat, because he felt nuclear weapons were a bigger issue than denying Scots access to their own currency.  He is one of the principal suspects of the ‘cabinet minister’ who acknowledged ‘of course’ the UK would enter the currency union with Scotland, even though he maintained he ‘didn’t think’ he said that to the Guardian.

Given the Scottish government’s determination that it will not continue to house nukes in Faslane, and the US government’s insistence that Westminster cannot be both a nuclear and conventional power, it is evident that nuclear weapons will be gone from Scottish soil and waters after a ‘yes’ vote.

Basically, when Scots vote Yes, there is no way that the UK and more importantly the US government could make any long-term investment in Faslane nukes.  How could they?  They would be trying to coerce an independent country to house their nuclear weapons against its will.  How would that go over with any international organisation?

Also, how could the UK even begin to justify placing their nukes elsewhere? Where? Wales? Portsmouth? Embankment? No one should accept what Scots have been forced to accept for 40 years, weapons of mass destruction on their territory.  UK nukes have nowhere to go.

The US will never accept uncertainty for their UK based nuclear arsenal, and they presumably want the UK to churn out more conventional cannon fodder for future wars.  The US has no interest in trying to coerce Scotland into housing weapons they are constitutionally bound to ban.

The obvious solution is to scrap Trident and carefully decommission and dispose of the warheads, then begin to deal with the nuclear pollution unleashed at Faslane and elsewhere in Scotland over the decades.

The US has other fish to fry.  They will make the necessary pledges to justify the UK abandoning their nuclear arsenal, while helping them to strengthen their conventional forces.

After Scotland votes for independence, they need no longer be a part of that dysfunctional alliance.  Scotland can build military forces consistent with its own goals and security needs.