SNP anger over ‘obscenity’ of new £1bn nuclear submarine order

HMS Victorious, one of the Royal Navy's submarines based at Faslane. Picture: Tam McDonald
HMS Victorious, one of the Royal Navy's submarines based at Faslane. Picture: Tam McDonald
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ORDERING new nuclear-armed submarines would be an “obscenity”, the SNP said yesterday on the eve of the UK Defence Secretary laying the groundwork with a £1 billion order.

Philip Hammond will today place a contract for nuclear reactors to power new submarines.

However, he has insisted a decision over replacing the Trident nuclear weapons in the current Clyde-based Vanguard submarine fleet will be left until 2016.

Scottish Government strategy secretary Bruce Crawford said it was committed to the “earliest possible withdrawal” of the nuclear deterrent.

“It’s estimated that the costs for the new Trident weapon system could be anything up to £25bn and, over the lifetime, £100bn,” he said.

“What is quite clear from Scotland is that the people of Scotland are opposed to the new nuclear weapons system on the Clyde.

“I think it’s an obscenity that we’re going to be pressing ahead at this time with this particular system.”

Under the Trident programme, the Royal Navy operates 58 nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missiles and about 200 nuclear warheads on four Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines from Clyde Naval Base at Faslane.

Replacing it has proved a flashpoint for the UK government coalition, with Liberal Democrats opposed to “like-for-like” replacement and Conservatives committed to a full renewal by 2028.

Mr Hammond will today formally announce the contract for two reactor cores, one of which will be used for the seventh Astute class non-nuclear armed attack submarine and one for the first of the next generation nuclear deterrent submarines.

The funding will also be used for an 11-year refit of the Rolls-Royce plant in Derby, which will carry out the work and create 300 jobs.

Mr Hammond said the final “main gate” decision on Trident renewal will still not be made until 2016, but long lead times mean the reactor contracts needed to be signed now.

He said: “What we are going to be announcing is a commitment to the major refurbishing of the plant at Rolls-Royce in Derby, which builds these core reactors – not just for the nuclear deterrent submarines, but also for our attack submarines, the Astute class submarines.

“We have already done a review of options and value for money of the Trident programme, and that concluded that replacing the Vanguard submarines and continuing with Trident was the best-value solution to maintaining a nuclear deterrent.

“But the Liberal Democrats wanted to have another look at some emerging technologies and Nick Harvey, the armed forces minister, is leading a review to look at whether there are any.”

Mr Crawford also welcomed a report published by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) which included plans for removing Trident from Scotland within two years.

The cabinet secretary said the Scottish Government wanted to re-develop Faslane “as a vibrant and sustainable conventional naval base in an independent Scotland”.

He added: “The suggested timetable is a welcome indication of how quickly Trident could be removed once Scotland has the powers to decide its own policy.”