We’ll make Scots pay for removal of nuclear weapons say Tories

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By G.A.Ponsonby
 
A furious row has erupted between Edinburgh and London after UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond insisted that Westminster would bill an independent Scotland for the costs of removing the Trident nuclear weapons system from the Clyde.
 
Speaking on radio yesterday Mr Hammond claimed that any removal of the Trident weapons system would cost billions and said an independent Scotland would have to shoulder part of the cost.

By G.A.Ponsonby
 
A furious row has erupted between Edinburgh and London after UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond insisted that Westminster would bill an independent Scotland for the costs of removing the Trident nuclear weapons system from the Clyde.
 
Speaking on radio yesterday Mr Hammond claimed that any removal of the Trident weapons system would cost billions and said an independent Scotland would have to shoulder part of the cost.

“And obviously the cost of doing that would be a factor that had to be taken into account in any reckoning on Scottish independence, if that is the way it goes.” he said.

Mr Hammond’s threat was immediately ridiculed by First Minister Alex Salmond who labelled it “arrogant”.

“Only somebody with the arrogance of a Westminster politician would say to the Scottish people, apparently in all sobriety, that you’d place and station weapons of mass destruction in Scotland over a period of half a century, impose substantial clean-up costs and then try to send Scotland the bill.” said the First Minister who added: “I don’t think that’s a feasible position.”

The spat followed an announcement by Mr Salmond who said that an independent Scotland’s defence requirement could be met with one naval base, one air base and one mobile armed brigade.

As part of the UK, Mr Salmond has argued for the retention of Scotland’s defence footprint, including the RAF bases at Moray and Lossiemouth arguing that, in terms of UK expenditure, an underspend existed north of the border. 

However, with independence comes the assurance that Scotland will no longer have to fight for a proportionate share of defence spending.  The SNP have already let it be known that it will focus on a conventional defence model.

Outlining his defence plans Mr Salmond said: “The configuration of the Army in Scotland, the mobile brigade, which is the outcome of the defence review, looks exactly like the configuration you’d want for a Scottish defence force — so that’s one naval base, one aircraft base and a mobile armed brigade.

“The great argument in favour of having a Scottish Defence Force is two-fold — one, you wouldn’t have to have the biggest concentration of nuclear weapons in Western Europe situated in Scotland, which many people support the removal (of), and secondly, of course, we’d have the right to decide whether or not to participate in international engagements.”

However the proposal was attacked by the Tory Defence Secretary who suggested that his government would not allow British Army assets to be divided between Scotland and the rest of the UK.

Mr Hammond claimed that an independent either took all of its current defence components, including Trident, or it took none.

He told the BBC’s World At One programme: “The UK Armed Forces are a highly integrated and very sophisticated fighting force.

“The idea that you can sort of break off a little bit, like a square on a chocolate bar, and that would be the bit that went north of the border, is frankly laughable.

“You get them all or you get none of them. That is the simple logic with submarine bases.

The Tory Minister was backed by Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy who called Mr Salmond’s proposal a threat that would hit Scotland’s defence communities.

Mr Murphy said: After denouncing Tory defence policies, the SNP have suddenly announced it is the best they can threaten if Scotland was independent.

“This raises huge questions about separation.  Scotland knows that leaving the UK would be a huge blow to Scottish defence communities.”