UK needs to keep Trident missiles, says Hammond

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THE “potential” threat from major military powers like Russia means the UK must keep its Trident nuclear deterrent, the Defence Secretary said yesterday.

Philip Hammond also warned that Scottish independence would weaken the country’s military strength, during a speech in Edinburgh.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says a Scottish defence force would mean fewer opportunities for troops. Picture: Getty

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says a Scottish defence force would mean fewer opportunities for troops. Picture: Getty

The Tory minister poured scorn on the SNP’s proposals for a Scottish Defence Force, insisting it would leave the country with a depleted share of existing UK assets, including “half a submarine and under one Red Arrow.”

The Ministry of Defence had previously suggested Scotland would get thousands of extra troops, but only 600 more were announced last week as part of relocation plans for personnel based in Germany, prompting widespread criticism of the Coalition.

The SNP Government says it would demand the removal of the submarine-based Trident after independence.

Mr Hammond warned that the nuclear deterrent was needed in an uncertain global climate.

“We have good relationships with Russia but we should never forget that there are very large strategic forces out there, potentially, that could be ranged against us,” he said.

The SNP says it would have 15,000 serving personnel in defence forces. The annual budget for defence and security would be met by about

£2.5 billion, according to the party’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson.

But Mr Hammond, who also visited Rosyth where he saw work being carried out on aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth, attacked the “credibility” of the SNP’s plan to inherit a share of the UK military, insisting: “That, to me, sounds like a high-level shopping list based upon a fundamental misunderstanding of how defence works and how military effect is generated – the chocolate bar approach that pretends you can just break a chunk off a bigger entity and it works as a standalone force.”

The SNP accused Mr Hammond of making “veiled threats” of targeting Russia with nuclear weapons.

Mr Robertson said: “He came to insult Scottish service personnel and demean his office by making jokes about Scottish defence needs.

“People will make their own judgments about the wisdom of making that kind of speech when the reality is his government . . . has cut the defence footprint in Scotland relentlessly over the years.”