Westminster may continually dismiss the prospect of Scottish independence but it takes it seriously enough to draw up contingency plans to move Trident submarines from Scotland in the event of a Yes vote.
It’s no wonder the UK government is so opposed to even the prospect of a second independence referendum … the cost of relocating the nuclear subs is estimated at between £3bn to £4bn.
A story in today’s Financial Times says secret contingency plans have been drawn up by the UK because both the SNP and the Scottish Greens are signed up to the removal of the UK nuclear arsenal from an independent Scotland.
Whitehall is becoming increasingly worried at the prospect of the break-up of the UK
According to the FT, Westminster has drawn up the plans as Whitehall is becoming increasingly worried at the prospect of the break-up of the UK.
The plans were drawn up recently and include three alternatives to the nuclear submarine bases in Faslane and Coulport:
1: Relocate the bases to another site in Britain, the most likely location being the Royal Navy base at Devonport.
2: Move the bases to an ‘’allied country’’, such as the USA. One defence expert is mentioned in the story citing King’s Bay Georgia, which is the base for America’s Atlantic fleet of Trident submarines. The UK sees advantages of such a move as including the fact it would require minimal capital investment. Disadvantages include the potential for disputes with the USA over who would have the ultimate control of the weapons.
3: The UK would seek to lease land within an independent Scotland where it would continue to store the submarines. It’s almost impossible to imagine such a deal being acceptable to the Scottish government after a Yes vote.
The Financial Times quotes the Ministry of Defence saying there are ‘’no plans’’ to move Trident from Scotland but adds that it refused to comment on the existence of the contingency plans.
Westminster has insisted it will seek to block a second independence referendum, although it has been inconsistent on the circumstances which would lead it to ever sanction such a vote. Boris Johnson has said now is not the time. Some senior Tories have suggested it should be ‘’blocked’’ for decades. Cabinet secretary Michael Gove suggested indyref2 could not be held until at least 2024. And, most recently, the Tory Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said opinion polls would have to show 60% support for the referendum for ‘’a reasonably long period’’ before Westminster sanctioned it.
The Scottish government plans to hold indyref2 within the current parliamentary term, preferably in the first half. That would see the vote take place by 2023 at the latest – Covid allowing – whether Westminster ”allows” it or not. The government says it will hold the vote and it would then be up to Westminster to decide to mount a legal challenge.
The SNP points to its election victory in May as a mandate for indyref2, a mandate which has just grown stronger with the SNP–Scottish Green power sharing agreement, which effectively creates a majority government.
Boris Johnson unveiled plans to lift a cap on the number of UK nuclear weapons
Scotland’s role as the location for the UK’s nuclear weapons arsenal became even more important earlier this year when Boris Johnson unveiled plans to lift a cap on the number of nuclear weapons. UK plans involve increasing the number to 260 warheads, a rise of 40% on the capped number. The UK had previously been committed to cutting the stockpile to 180 warheads by the mid-2020s.
The change in policy has been described as a violation of international law by campaigners and experts.