Memorandum from Scottish Campaign for
SECTION 1: MAINTAINING
1-3. If the decision is delayed then in
16 years time there might, in the worst case, be some weeks when
there wasn't a Trident submarine at sea on patrol. The fixation
with Continuous at Sea Deterrence should not be allowed to dictate
the timetable for making a decision.
1-4. The US Navy has extended the life of
their SSBN for much longer than their SSN because of their different
operating routines. The experience with Churchill and Resolution
class submarines suggests that British SSBN might also have a
longer service life than SSN built at the same time.
1-9. Documents describing the procedure
for the Trident agreement in 1980 suggest that the timeline for
the announcement to Parliament on 4 December and the exchange
of letters on 7 December may have been agreed with Washington
some time ago. On 8 January the US Navy placed large contracts
with Lockheed Martin and BAe. Both include work on Trident Life
SECTION 2: THE
2-3. The practical step made towards disarmament
at the time of the Strategic Defence Review in July 1998 was the
removal of 36 warheads from submarines. These were not scrapped
but placed in storage. The White Paper does not propose any reduction
in the number of warheads deployed at sea. So the reduction will
be achieved by scrapping warheads that are currently held in reserve,
but operationally available. This means that the Government can
make one reduction but claim the credit for it twice.
Box 2-1. In 1990 there were 96 Chevaline
warheads on submarines, today there are 144 Trident warheads on
submarines. In 1990 the warheads could be used against 48 targets,
today they can be used against 144 targets.
2-10. The replacement of Trident is not
consistent with the spirit of Article VI of the NPT. The arguments
presented in Section 3 are ones that could be used in future decades.
This implies that the UK has no intention of seriously moving
towards disarmament. This attitude is contrary to the pact made
at the NPT conference.
2-11. The ICJ opinion only failed to agree
about the legality of the threat or use of nuclear weapons "when
the very survival of the state would be at risk". The White
Paper repeatedly refers to the possible use of nuclear weapons
in defence of Britain's vital interests. This is a far broader
term than the narrow area in the ICJ opinion. The ICJ did not
say that it would be legal in these circumstances, only that the
judges could not reach a common agreement. By failing to keep
within this ICJ opinion the wording in the White Paper undermines
the strength of international law in restricting nuclear weapons.
SECTION 3: NUCLEAR
3-3. "nuclear weapons pose a unique
terrible threat". The MoD employs a number of specialists
to calculate the precise effects of nuclear weapons in particular
scenarios. Yet they have not asked one of their analysts to assist
in the drafting of the White Paper by giving an example of the
effect of these weapons. A report by Scottish CND in 1999 calculated
that an attack with the 48 warheads on one submarine against command
bunkers around Moscow would result in three million civilian deaths
within 12 weeks.
A second omission from the White Paper is any
consideration of the morality of the use of nuclear weapons. The
document is presented as a subject for public and parliamentary
debate, yet it does not even try to identify and tackle the fundamental
issue of whether it could ever be acceptable for this country
to use a single weapon that would kill tens of thousands of civilians.
The Moderator of the Church of Scotland, Rt
Rev Alan McDonald, and the leader of the Scottish Catholic Church,
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, have taken a strong united stand against
the replacement of Trident on the grounds that it is morally and
theologically wrong. They have been effective in encouraging churches
in England and Wales to adopt a similar position. One of the leaders
of Scotland's Islamic Community has echoed this stance.
3-3. This paragraph goes on to say that,
because they present such a terrible threat, nuclear weapons "have
a capability to deter acts of aggression that is of a completely
different scale to any other form of deterrence". In fact
the weapons are so destructive that they are self-deterring and
obviously so. Their ability to influence how other governments
behave is not greater than any other military forces, but less.
3-4. This makes a virtue of ambiguity, but
is only an attempt to obscure the fact that any threat to use
nuclear weapons in an independent nuclear attack would be a bluff
and would be seen as such.
The role of nuclear forces in NATO today is
by no means clear. Numerically the main component is the 480 US
B61 bombs scattered across Europe. These are on an alert state
measured in months. There is pressure from within the US military
to withdraw these bombs to America as they have no obvious function
and present a target to terrorists.
The Cold War argument that, as a second centre
of decision-making, Britain might order a nuclear attack if the
United States showed restraint was always a weak one. In future
scenarios this argument becomes so tenuous as to be meaningless.
A credible independent deterrent would require not only real independence
but also that those who might be deterred perceive the British
force as independent. The nations that might be presented as potential
future adversaries currently consider Britain as little more than
a puppet of the United States. Faced with the ambiguities promoted
by current policy, they would conclude that British forces could
not be used without American permission.
3-5f. In addressing the potential dangers
of the future there is a need to move beyond the perspective of
Britain alone, or an as ally of the United States, to that of
Britain as a responsible member of the international community.
Every nation in the world could use the arguments presented here
to show why they needed the bomb. But if each country only considers
itself then nuclear proliferation will accelerate. Rather than
willing on this apocalyptic future we should be working with others
to prevent it.
SECTION 4: ENSURING
4-2. Others nations can interpret the British
submarine on patrol as a threat. If nuclear weapons are dismantled
on-shore then other nations can verify that these warheads cannot
be used at short notice. Whereas they will assume that the weapons
in a submarine on patrol can be launched in minutes. This encourages
them to keep their own forces at a dangerously high state of alert.
4-4. Britain does not currently have the
capability to use Trident against targets anywhere in the world,
or at least not with any accuracy.
4-6. The provisions detailed are not sufficient
to constitute operational independence. The computers that draw
up British nuclear attack plans rely heavily on US software. The
fire control computers on the submarines run entirely on American
software. While experts in the UK may check the programmes before
they are deployed their task is hampered by the fact that there
are substantial gaps in the US software, where items have been
removed because they are too highly classified. They cannot guarantee
that US programmers have not crippled the software to prevent
The British Trident system is so substantially
intertwined with the American system that it is hard to see how
Britain could launch a nuclear attack if Washington was strongly
4-9. A force of 144 nuclear warheads with
48 deployed on patrol is far more than a minimum. The statement
that a lower yield warhead "can make our nuclear forces a
more credible deterrent against a smaller nuclear threat"
echoes US studies which argue that nuclear weapons should be more
"useable". This is dangerous as it blurs the distinction
between nuclear and conventional forces.
SECTION 5: DETERRENT
5-9. The suggestion that the number of submarines
will be limited to three is unlikely to be implemented.
5-11f. The figures given for the cost of
replacing Trident are incomplete. The White Paper does not give
a full estimate of the costs of redeveloping the Atomic Weapons
Establishment or of operating the new system from 2024-55. It
does not reveal the total cost of the new system, nor does it
give average annual costs of components or the entire programme.
A senior Whitehall source in the MoD was reported
as saying that "the most expensive bit of an independent
British nuclear deterrent is maintaining the capability to manufacture
our own warheads".
The projection that the annual costs of Aldermaston will rise
to 3% of the Defence budget is consistent with this.
Following the publication of the White Paper
a number of MPs from different political parties have asked questions
in an attempt to fill in gaps. Ministers have referred them back
to the wording in the White Paper and have not revealed the full
costs. Either the Ministry of Defence has not calculated them,
in which case they have not carried out a thorough review, or
they are not disclosing them to Parliament. The failure to give
detailed costs is in itself sufficient grounds to reject the White
SECTION 6: INDUSTRIAL
6-7f. Removal of the used fuel to Sellafield
is mentioned here as if it were a short term measure. The only
reference to long-term storage is of intermediate level waste.
The White Paper does not provide an adequate and fully costed
SECTION 7: FUTURE
7-4. There would be major financial savings
if a decision were made now to close off the option of a replacement
warhead. The potential life of the warheads is not unlike that
of the submarines. Extending both for a small number of years
may be an option. Keeping the existing warheads in service for
60 years is not a credible alternative.
7-6. The White Paper is presented as primarily
a decision to build new submarines. But in due course the MoD
are planning to acquire a new missile system. This is not the
renewal of the Trident system, but its replacement.
There is no mention of how a new supply of tritium
for warheads will be secured. The current reserve will be exhausted
long before 2055. Nor is there any reference to how the fuel rods
for new submarines will be manufactured. This will take place
after the current RRA plant in Derby has been decommissioned.
The White Paper marks out a future in which
Britain will continue to have nuclear weapons on submarines based
in Scotland until 2055. It plans improvements to the Trident infrastructure
at Faslane and makes no provision for basing the submarines elsewhere.
During 2006 there were three debates on Trident
replacement in the Scottish Parliament. The latest occasion was
an SNP motion on 21 December. The Scottish Liberal Democrats put
down an amendment calling on the UK Government not to go ahead
with the proposal in the White Paper at this time. This was defeated
by only five votes. Several of the Labour MSPs who voted against
this amendment have made it clear that they are opposed to Trident
During these debates only a small number of
MSPs attempt to use the points made in the White Paper. The main
argument that is used to justify the retention of Trident is that
it will employ people at Faslane. Exaggerated claims are made
about the number of jobs in Scotland which depend on Trident.
Throughout the 1980s Ministers argued that Trident
would bring thousands of jobs to Scotland. Then the number of
long-term jobs was halved when the refit contract was awarded
to Devonport. There is considerable public scepticism about promises
The Scottish Trades Union Congress has recently
sponsored a study into the potential for redeploying the workers
who are employed on Trident at Faslane.
A YouGov opinion poll in November 2006 found
that 61% of those questioned felt that the Scottish Parliament
should have the power to prevent the deployment of nuclear weapons
in Scotland. On 8 January Michael Matheson MSP and John Mayer,
Advocate, launched a proposal to introduce a Bill which would
outlaw the threat or use of nuclear weapons in Scotland. Chris
Ballance MSP is preparing to introduce a Bill that would outlaw
the transportation of nuclear weapons on Scottish roads.
The plan to replace Trident and keep nuclear
weapons in Scotland for 50 years will not improve the relationship
between Edinburgh and London. It is likely to be a growing point
10 January 2007
24 Article by Edward Heathcoat-Amory, Daily Mail, 14
December 2006. Back