Snub for SNP's anti-nuclear line as Faslane picked to be sole sub base

FASLANE is set to be the UK's only submarine base in a move that will boost the economy yet will also be seen as a snub to the Scottish Government's anti- nuclear stance.

Ministry of Defence documents suggest that the seven Trafalgar class submarines currently based in Devon will be relocated to Faslane on the Gare Loch near Glasgow by 2015.

If confirmed, the move will be a massive boost for the 11,000 workers connected to HM Naval Base Clyde and will protect its future at a time when cuts are seeing many of the UK's defence facilities scaled back.

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However, the decision will be a blow to SNP Scottish Government ministers who have long campaigned, along with church leaders and other civic groups, to have weapons of mass destruction and nuclear-powered submarines removed from Scotland.

While the Trafalgar class submarines do not carry nuclear weapons, they are nuclear powered and protesters believe that with Faslane Britain's only submarine base it will be far harder to remove the Trident nuclear missile carrying Vanguard submarines from Scotland.

With a report from the Scottish Government's working party into how Scotland and the Faslane area can have a Trident-free future due by June, the plans outlined in the MoD documents instead entrench the future of British nuclear weapons in Clyde.

It would also be a slap in the face for Holyrood in terms of the UK government ignoring the wishes of MSPs over reserved issues. A majority of MSPs have voted in the past for Trident to be removed from Scotland.

The Scottish Government's working party includes representatives of the Church of Scotland.

The convener for the Kirk's Church and Society Council, Ian Galloway, said that the decision was very disappointing.

He called on the UK government to rethink its decision to renew Britain's nuclear deterrent.

"The news that the Clyde is intended to be the sole base for submarines will place an additional burden on the people of Scotland," he said.

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The view was backed up by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, which has run a protest peace camp outside Faslane for many years.

CND chairwoman Kate Hudson said: "Making Faslane the Royal Navy's sole submarine operating base would further tie Scotland into Westminster's nuclear calculations.

"It is sheer madness to further entrench nuclear weapons in a nation whose parliament voted so decisively against their retention."

The documents, revealed to Channel 4 under Freedom of Information laws, state that the MoD plans to move its seven Trafalgar Class (T Class) submarines from Devonport, near Plymouth.

The document reads: "The future capability will be Nuclear Safety Implicated (NSI) on an Authorised Site within HM Naval Base Clyde Faslane. All submarine operations will be in the Northern Area. All classes of submarine are to be supported.

"The estates rationalisation programme seeks to reduce the nuclear footprint and the new submarine maintenance hub will be co-located in this area."

The move is part of the MoD's rationalisation programme and follows a clumsy attempt to reduce three UK naval bases to two, which was aborted in 1997.

Despite promising to keep the three bases (which also include Portsmouth) open, it was always clear that one would lose out and see its capabilities greatly reduced. Faslane appears to have won the battle behind the scenes for the submarine fleet while Portsmouth has come on top for the surface fleet.

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Dumbarton Labour MSP Jackie Baillie, who has the base in her constituency, said she was delighted with the revelations.

"This is very good news for the future of the local economy," she said. "Thousands of jobs depend on the base."

But she added: "The SNP is inherently dishonest about its position on Trident. If Trident goes then Faslane's future will be under threat and the SNP's working party will have to look at finding jobs for 11,000 people, not the 1,000 they claim would be under threat."

Whitehall sources also insisted that there is still strong support for Trident in Scotland.

A source said: "The last survey I saw on it said 55 per cent of people think that Scotland should pay its fair share for the deterrent."

However, the SNP has repeated its claim that Scotland wants to be rid of nuclear weapons and power. It wants Faslane to become a base for the surface fleet. The party's Westminster leader Angus Robertson said: "On the very day that the MoD has been found guilty of repeated nuclear safety breaches, there will be great concern at an apparent proposal to bring more nuclear submarines to Faslane."

A spokeswoman for the MoD refused to confirm the decision and said a rationalisation report would be published shortly containing recommendation.

"The Maritime Change Programme is considering a number of options to improve efficiency and effectiveness at the UK's naval bases but decisions have not yet been finalised."

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There was also a suggestion that Faslane's ability to cope with nuclear waste was important in the final decision on where to base the submarine fleet.

"The MOD has to make long-term plans for the future and in order to do this effectively we base our final decisions on informed working assumptions," she said. "HM Naval Base Clyde has used working assumptions to inform their Future Radioactive Waste Management Capability document."

She insisted that whatever the final outcome the future of all three naval bases are secure.


HM NAVAL Base Clyde currently supports up to 11,000 civilian jobs in the west of Scotland.

It is home to:

• Four Vanguard class submarines, which carry Trident nuclear missiles

• Four ageing Swiftsure class submarines, which do not carry nuclear weapons but now fire Tomahawk missiles.

• One Astute class submarine, which was recently launched, but is yet to be commissioned.

• Eight Sandown class mine hunters – small glassfibre vessels used to search for, rather than destroy, mines.

In the future the base will also be home to:

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• Between three and seven more Astute submarines. They will replace the Swiftsure fleet.

• The seven Trafalgar class submarines currently based at Devonport which carry cruise missiles and are used as rapid reaction vessels. One of these was responsible for a radiation leak in the Clyde in 2004.