By Bob Duncan
Welsh First Minister Carwyn Jones has said that Britain’s nuclear armed submarines would be “more than welcome” in Wales if they were kicked out of Scotland.
The UK has four Royal Navy Vanguard submarines, which can deploy Trident ballistic missiles carrying nuclear warheads, all four of which are currently based at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde.
The Scottish government wants the fleet removed from its base on the west coast of Scotland, making Scotland a nuclear free nation.
At question time in the Welsh Senedd, Mr Jones stated that the Trident submarines could come to Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire if forced by the Scottish Government to look for a new home.
When asked about the potential to invest in Welsh ports, he said: “I did notice the Scottish government no longer wishes to have the nuclear submarine base at Faslane, it no longer wishes to house the UK naval nuclear fleet. There will be more than a welcome for that fleet and those jobs in Milford Haven.”
At the weekend the Scottish government said it was “firmly committed to the earliest possible withdrawal of Trident from Scotland”, stating that independence is the only constitutional option that would give it the power to remove Trident from Scottish waters.
Plaid Cymru, AM for Mid West Wales which takes in the area of Milford Haven said the comment begged the question of whether the Labour Party in Wales is now planning for the successful outcome of the referendum on Scottish independence. If so, this is diametrically opposed to the stated positions of both the UK Labour Party and the Westminster coalition government.
The UK government is insisting that a final decision on replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent will not be taken until 2016 – after the next general election.
The Ministry of Defence says the £1.1bn reactor core contract announced recently secures 300 jobs at Rolls-Royce and will fund an 11-year refurbishment of its plant at Raynesway in Derby.
In response to Mr Jones’s statement, an MoD spokesperson said: “The government is clear that Scotland benefits from being part of the UK and the UK benefits from having Scotland within it. No plans for independence are being made as the government is confident that people in Scotland will continue to support the UK in any referendum.”
The MOD also stated, “We are therefore not making plans to move the nuclear deterrent from HM Naval Base Clyde. The government is committed to maintaining a continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent and has begun the work of replacing our existing submarines.” This suggests that plans to replace Trident have, in fact, already been made, contradicting the government’s position as stated above.
The Welsh government later said Mr Jones’s comments had nothing to do with the SNP’s referendum on Scottish independence and that he was a “staunch supporter” of the union.
A spokesman said: “The first minister recognises the substantial economic benefits of relocating Britain’s nuclear submarine to west Wales. There would be more than a welcome in Wales for this kind of economic boost, which would bring thousands of high quality, well paid jobs to the area.
“The First Minister is of the view that he would be neglecting his duty to do what he can to boost the Welsh economy he were to dismiss the possibility of bringing these jobs to Wales.” This statement will make interesting reading for Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont, who has been attacking Alex Salmond recently for making a very similar statement about Scottish Jobs.
The statement from Carwyn Jones led to an angry response from Plaid Cymru politicians and activists.
Writing on Twitter, Plaid AM Jonathan Edwards said: “This is a hugely significant development. Milford is a huge energy portal. LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and nukes don’t go together.”
Simon Thomas from Plaid Cymru, who represents the area earmarked for the nuclear arsenal, said the Welsh Labour leader’s comments were “strange” and claimed that clearly Welsh Labour were preparing for Scottish independence.
Mr Thomas said that a much better way to progress would be to remove the weapons from the whole of the UK and that this would in fact create many more jobs than the one thousand currently reliant on Trident.
Mr Thomas also explained that the very busy deep water port in his constituency was wholly unsuitable for the nuclear fleet which required relatively quiet waters.
Hear a recording of Mr Thomas here: