The prospect of Scottish independence is the greatest “strategic threat” to the security and defence of the UK, according to a former Royal Navy chief.
Lord West, the former First Sea Lord, has previously raised concern about the prospect of a Yes vote on the ability of the UK to defend itself.
Independence would mean Scotland being forced to move it’s submarine-based Trident nuclear deterrent from its current base at Faslane on the Clyde.
“The greatest grand strategic threat to the security and defence of our islands is the possibility of Scotland separating,” Lord West said.
“This is a really, really serious issue. There is no doubt whatsoever that if Scotland separated it would diminish our ability to defend these islands.”
It came as a former SNP defence adviser Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Crawford claimed that the US would block or delay Scottish Nato membership if it insists on Trident submarines being quickly withdrawn.
“I have spoken to a source close to the White House who said if an independent Scotland were to demand the removal of Trident from the Clyde, Scotland’s accession to Nato would either be blocked or delayed for a very long time,” he said.
Michael Clarke, director-general of military think tank, the Royal United Services Institute suggested that the SNP may be forced to “drop” its policy of ejecting the UK’s nuclear weapons from Faslane if it wants to join Nato.
He said: “I’ve not met a single person who doesn’t think the nuclear issue would be very, very important to Nato because it would be a complete contradiction of Nato’s policy.
“The idea of a small new member expelling the nuclear weapons of a big member of Nato is just impossible to imagine. It is far less trouble just to keep them out or demand that they can only begin negotiations to come into Nato when they have dropped that element of their policy.”
Alex Salmond said yesterday it “wouldn’t be realistic” to keep nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland. “If the rest of the UK wants to retain a nuclear capability then they can do so,” he said.
“I think they would be very unwise to do so, incidentally, but it wouldn’t be realistic to have nuclear weapons stationed in Scotland after independence.”
Meanwhile, Lord West said the government’s cuts to the Royal Navy’s fleet are a “national disgrace.” He said: “I believe we’ve cut into the bone … it’s not to the bone, but into the bone and I think we’ve gone too far.”
“A great maritime nation like us, where we still run global shipping from London and we’re totally reliant on that, those sinews that keep the global village together, to have 19 escorts (naval vessels) I think is a national disgrace actually.”