TAXPAYERS in Scotland will face a multibillion-pound bill to pay for a new generation of nuclear weapons if plans to renew Trident are backed, Veterans Minister Keith Brown has warned.
The UK Government is due to make a decision about renewing the programme in 2016.
The Scottish Government has set out plans to remove Trident from Scotland if the country backs a Yes vote in the independence referendum.
Speaking during a debate at Holyrood, Mr Brown said the decision on renewal “appears to have already been made”, with the Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and Labour backing the retention of Trident.
The cost of renewal will also have implications for the UK’s conventional defence forces, Mr Brown added.
“The Scottish Government position is that Trident should be removed from an independent Scotland by 2020 - before we are hit with a share of the further £100 billion in lifetime costs, at 2012 prices, which are estimated for its replacement,” he said.
“We will also propose a constitutional prohibition on nuclear weapons being based in Scotland, ensuring they would never return.
“As the Trident Commission reported, when spending reaches its peak in the next decade, taxpayers will be spending nearly £4 billion a year on nuclear weapons at 2012 prices, the equivalent of swallowing up almost one third of the entire current defence capital budget - with clear implications for other defence projects.
“That is money which could and will be far better spent on other priorities - something underlined by statistics showing one million people in Scotland are living in relative poverty.”
Mr Brown said the costs would also impact on other defence spending, such as helicopter support and equipment for troops, and could result in delays or cancellations to other defence projects.
Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the SNP had chosen to focus on 5% of the total defence budget.
“Perhaps they (the Scottish Government) are hunting for a game changer which resurrects their campaign for September,” he said.
“They imply that you are not serious about nuclear disarmament unless you support independence. I would put aside that in this chamber we are all disarmers - some are multi-lateral disarmers, some are unilateral disarmers.
“On the Labour benches there are many people who support unilateral nuclear disarmament, but their commitment to this cause has been questioned, and I think that is unfair.”
Mr Rennie went on to state that the Government had not taken account of the “significant economic loss” if Trident were to be removed, given the number of people employed in the Faslane area.
Green co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “Consistently, the majority of Scotland’s people, the representatives at Westminster and here in this Scottish Parliament have opposed current UK policy on the nuclear weapons which are based here.
“There is a clear possibility and a growing momentum for a global ban on nuclear weapons, as shown at the conference attended by 120 governments in Mexico.
“A written constitution can achieve this in Scotland.
“But not only that, it can challenge the nonsense that a journey from unilateral disarmament to multilateral disarmament is in any way compatible with the UK policy of unilateral rearmament.”
Labour MSP Iain Gray said: “The Government’s position that Trident should be moved to England, then Scotland should join Nato and thus position ourselves four-square behind Nato’s nuclear deterrent, which would of course include the very Trident that we had just expelled.
“It is hypocritical to say that we shouldn’t have nuclear weapons, and then want to belong to Nato.”
Conservative MSP Annabel Goldie said: “We cannot dismiss the possibility that a major direct nuclear threat to the UK might re-emerge.
“The fact is that since acquiring Trident, and its predecessor, Polaris, we have had four decades of non-nuclear conflict.
“At present, as part of the UK, we have a strong defence capability. An independent Scotland’s defence capability would be much more limited, giving it much less clout, and much less influence, on the international stage.”