AN INDEPENDENT Scotland committed to banishing nuclear warheads from Faslane would impose disarmament on the whole of the UK, a leading defence expert declares today.
In an article for Scotland on Sunday, William Walker, professor of international relations at St Andrews University, says the SNP policy of removing Trident from Scotland after independence would “amount to a promise to shut down the UK’s nuclear deterrent and enforce its disarmament”.
As a result, an independent Scots government might have to compromise on removing the weapons or leave the UK without a nuclear shield. This is because nowhere else in the UK is suitable to house both the submarines and missiles at a realistic cost, he says.
Currently, the naval base at Faslane provides a home for Britain’s four Trident submarines - the UK’s sole nuclear deterrent - while Coulport on Loch Long is home to their warheads and missiles.
SNP policy, come independence, is to remove the weapons from Scottish territory, saying it does not want Scotland to be home to such weapons of mass destruction. SNP figures have asserted that the submarines and the warheads could be housed elsewhere in the UK.
But Walker warns that this is fraught with difficulties. He argues that a newly independent Scotland would face several diplomatic and practical obstacles in getting rid of the weapons and that SNP leaders “know that compromise may be forced on them”.
However, he also says the SNP’s position could help to form an anti-Trident coalition in the UK as a whole if both Labour and the Lib Dems also come out to oppose the vast cost of replacing the weapons system over the next few years. Some senior figures in the military would also “say good riddance” to Trident, he adds.
The clash over nuclear weapons comes with UK ministers having said they are “absolutely committed” to renewing Britain’s four ageing Trident submarines, all based at Faslane, at an estimated cost of around £25 billion. Those plans could be thrown into disarray, however, if Scots were to back independence.
On the issue of sending Trident south of the Border, Walker writes: “Although a harbour might be adapted to function like Faslane, establishing another Coulport – at a location that would meet stringent safety and logistic requirements – would be extremely difficult.
“Furthermore, transfer south would require huge investments to replace infrastructure built in Scotland over decades.”