SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE: The SNP leadership in Scotland may use the powers it has at Holyrood to pressure to the UK into removing nuclear weapons from the Clyde even after a referendum No vote, academics have warned.
The Scottish Government could introduce hardline environmental controls to make operations at Faslane “difficult” while a breakdown in relations with councils and increased political pressure could force Trident out in the longer term.
Scotland is also likely to demand a bigger say in the way the Faslane base is operated in future even if there is a No vote, according to nuclear expert Hugh Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute.
The military think tank published a report this week which suggested the cost of removing the UK’s nuclear deterrent from the Clyde Trident may be cheaper than first thought at £2.5-3.5 billion.
Mr Chalmers told a conference in Edinburgh today that as the referendum approaches there has been a “greater willingness on the part of the Scottish Government to question Westminster’s approach to operating Faslane.”
He added: “There’s certainly a chance that the regulations in terms of what type of release is allowed from Faslane and what isn’t, would certainly become a very big issue in the event of a close No vote.
“There would still be an expectation to have more of a say in how Faslane is run, because the opposition to a nuclear Scotland is not going to vanish in the event of a No vote. It’s still going to be there.”
The Scottish Government has control over policing north of the border, but the analyst said it was unlikely that the SNP would use its powers to effectively “wind down” patrols at Faslane, effectively “ejecting the UK’s nuclear forces from Scotland.”
Instead nationalist ministers may would use the “levers” at its disposal to make Faslane seem “less and less and less viable over time.”
Mr Chalmers added: “It may well be as the UK continues to operate a successful submarine out of Faslane, it sees this becoming more and more difficult, the regulations are becoming stricter, the political opposition is getting harder, co-ordinating with local councils is getting harder.
“It may start to look to the successor of the successor to move away. It could be that there is a gentle push away from Scotland.”
The SNP Government is vehemently opposed to nuclear weapons. If there is a Yes vote in next month’s independence referendum it is demanding they are removed from the Clyde by 2020.