Trident is costing Scottish taxpayers £163 million a year, Alex Salmond said yesterday, as he accused London of treating Scotland as a “nuclear dump”.
The coalition government this week set out plans to replace the Clyde-based nuclear weapons system, despite the possibility of Scots voting for independence in 2014 and Trident being forced to leave Scottish territory.
The SNP wants to outlaw the possession of nuclear weapons in Scotland if the country becomes independent and Mr Salmond spelled out its claimed cost during First Minister’s Questions yesterday. The amount represents almost £500,000 a day.
“Scottish taxpayers currently pay £163m a year towards the running of the Trident,” the SNP leader said. “That money could be spent on 3,880 nurses, 4,527 teachers or a host of new schools and hospitals in our community.”
Mr Salmond added that an extra £84m a year is proposed to fund the replacement over the next 15 years.
UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond visited the Faslane nuclear base this week where he announced £350m of funding towards the replacement for Trident and said there were no plans to move the submarine-based system because Westminister does not believe there will be a “yes” vote.
Mr Salmond added: “He plans to foist on this country nuclear weapons over the next 50 years, the next half a century. I think the arrogance of that kind is very typical of Tory ministers who believe they can continue to treat this country as a nuclear dump. I think they’re not on.”
Defence has become a key issue in the referendum debate, with 6,500 jobs based at Faslane, a UK submarine base. This is earmarked to rise to 8,000.
The SNP plans to outlaw nuclear weapons as part of a written constitution of an independent Scotland.
He said: “In a situation where this government, a majority of this parliament, a majority of the Scottish people, Scottish civic society, do not want to see nuclear weapons renewed in Scotland, can we not declare as a people and as a nation that ‘Enough is enough’ and we’re not standing for it any more?”
The SNP recently voted to change policy and back membership of the nuclear-armed international defence alliance Nato, despite opposing the weapons.
Tory leader Ruth Davidson questioned how Scotland could join Nato, while “kicking the submarine fleet out of Faslane”.
“Can he [Mr Salmond] tell us what facts he has sought or received to support this assertion?” she asked.
But the First Minister said 25 of the 28 countries who are currently Nato members are not nuclear powers.
He then attacked Mr Hammond who “in the space of one question firstly said he had no contingency plans for an independent Scotland and then in the same interview said they had contingency plans for every eventuality”.
Johann Lamont also faced calls to make her position clear on the future of Trident, with SNP backbencher Christina McKelvie calling for the Labour leader to reveal her position.
“It is incumbent on all political leaders to make their position known,” Ms McKelvie said.