The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Terminating Trident-Days or Decades? - Scottish Affairs Committee Contents

2  Removing the nuclear deterrent from Scotland

9.  Described by Professor William Walker, of St Andrews University, as the "heart and soul" of the Scottish National Party (SNP), the policy of removal of nuclear weapons from Scotland has been an aim of the SNP for many years,[19] and is a core issue in the referendum debate.[20] The SNP 2011 election manifesto said:

Our opposition to the Trident nuclear missile system and its planned replacement remains firm—there is no place for these weapons in Scotland and we will continue to press the UK government to scrap Trident and cancel its replacement.[21]

10.   More recently, Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, said that if Scotland voted in a referendum to be a separate country, then he would want a written constitution drawn up that included an "explicit ban on nuclear weapons being based on Scottish territory."[22]

11.  At its October 2012 Conference, the SNP agreed a resolution on Foreign, Security and Defence Policy that if Scotland became a separate state:

a sovereign SNP Government will negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane.

It also proposed a change in the party's policy on NATO, such that a separate Scotland would aim to join NATO "subject to an agreement that Scotland will not host nuclear weapons" and only remain in NATO if NATO "takes all possible steps to bring about nuclear disarmament."[23]

12.  The UK position is clear, it does not want the nuclear weapons to move and Nick Harvey MP, then Minister for Armed Forces, told us that the UK is not making plans to move the nuclear deterrent from the Clyde.[24]

13.  There is an obvious conflict here and we wanted to explore the practical implications of the 'speediest safe transition' of nuclear weapons, i.e. moving the missiles, warheads and submarines,[25] out of Scotland, particularly as Dr Phillips O'Brien, Centre for War Studies, University of Glasgow, pointed out: "You can define 'speedy' or 'safe' however you wish to define 'speedy' or 'safe'."[26] Furthermore, as removing the weapons from Scotland is not the same thing as relocating them in new facilities elsewhere, we also explored what the UK could do to relocate Trident, how long and complex that might be, and what implications that might have for Scotland.

19   "Trident: at what cost would an independent Scotland refuse the nuclear option?", Scotland on Sunday, 8 January 2012 Back

20   For example: "Independent Scotland must be on its guard with armed forces issue", Scotland on Sunday, 22 January 2012; "Scottish independence: Dilemma over future of Faslane", The Scotsman, 13 June 2012; "SNP considers trading share in nuclear arsenal", The Herald, 19 July 2012; "A question of independence: NATO policy gives SNP a dilemma", Scotland on Sunday , 22 July 2012 Back

21   Scottish National Party, Re-Elect A Scottish Government Working For Scotland, Scotland's Place in the World, p.29 Back

22   "Ban the Bomb from Scotland says FM", The Herald, 8 October 2012 Back

23   NATO debate at SNP conference: Politics live blog, The Guardian, 19 October 2012 Back

24   Q 317. See also the written evidence from the Ministry of Defence to the Defence Committee inquiry, Defence implications of possible Scottish independence Back

25   The SNP Conference resolution saidthat if it acquired any submarines, they would be conventional 'diesel electric' submarines, and Faslane would be converted into the Joint Head Quarters for the future Scottish military. Back

26   Q 1405 Back

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Prepared 25 October 2012