DAVID Cameron has told Scots that keeping Trident as part of the UK is the country’s only safeguard against “nuclear blackmail” in years to come in a speech in Glasgow.
• Warning coincides with Cameron’s Scotland visit
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The SNP government has pledged to remove the Clyde-based nuclear weapons from Scotland if voters back independence in next year’s referendum, and opinion polls suggest the majority of Scots oppose Trident’s renewal.
The Prime Minister visited Faslane yesterday and was winched aboard HMS Victorious, a Vanguard-class submarine which carries the Trident missiles, and met the crew.
He later took questions from an audience of defence workers in Glasgow where he underlined the importance of the industry which employs 12,800 across Scotland.
The estimated £100 billion cost of replacing Trident has come under fire at a time of swingeing budget cuts and the Tory leader was accused of being “out of touch” by the SNP government. But Mr Cameron insisted that an increasingly volatile international situation means the four Trident submarines must be replaced in full.
“The world is very uncertain and dangerous,” he said as he addressed workers at Thales in Glasgow yesterday.
“There are nuclear states and one can’t be sure how they will develop and we can’t be sure about the issue of proliferation.
“To me having that nuclear deterrent is quite simply the best insurance policy that we have that we will never be subject to nuclear blackmail.”
He had earlier warned in a newspaper article that only the retention of Trident “makes clear to any adversary that the devastating cost of an attack on the UK or its allies will always be far greater than anything it might hope to gain.”
But Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland has faced unfair military cuts under the Coalition government and insisted that only independence will rid the country of nuclear weapons.
“Trident isn’t the answer to the threats we face as a country,” Ms Sturgeon said. “It diverts resources from conventional defence – which in Scotland has faced disproportionate cuts by successive UK governments – and the vast amounts of money spent on Trident and its replacement would be far better spent on other priorities.
“Furthermore, all of the available evidence – including votes in our own parliament – point to the people of Scotland being utterly opposed to nuclear weapons being based here.
“We are pledged to get rid of Trident, and only an independent Scotland will be able to do so.” The SNP has pledged to retain Faslane, where Trident is housed, as a conventional naval base and the HQ of its planned Scottish Defence Force , ensuring Scotland is “properly defended.”
Mr Cameron, who says he remains committed to keeping defence jobs in Scotland, said the 12,800 defence workers in Scotland amounts to around 0.5 per cent of the working population.
Jobs include shipbuilding, manufacturing, and making components for jets which are sold to foreign countries.
The Prime Minister also again appealed to Scots to reject independence yesterday, insisting the case for keeping the union can be won on both the “arguments of the heart and arguments of the head.”
He added: “The Scottish Nationalists believe they have an advantage when it comes to the heart – with Braveheart and all of that. “I actually think we should be very proud of what the UK has achieved together – that fact that we together have defeated fascism, we built the national health service, produced the BBC.
“We produced so many great works of art and architecture, so many great businesses – we should be proud of those things.
“But the arguments of the head like jobs, finance, stability – I think the arguments of the head are even stronger in the direction of retaining the UK.”
But the Lib Dems last night reaffirmed their belief that alternative nuclear deterrents to Trident shoud be considered.
Senior Lib Dem MP Sir Malcolm Bruce said: “ment. We are saying we shouldn’t replace Trident on a like-for-like basis but we are looking at alternative nuclear deterrents once Trident has passed its sell-by date.
“We also recognise the cost of a nuclear deterrent is extremely high and there are many people inside the Ministry Of Defence and the armed forces who desperately want to ensure that we have the latest and most up-to-date conventional equipment.”