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

Conclusions and recommendations

The speediest safe transition of nuclear weapons from Scotland

1.  It is possible to deactivate Trident within a matter of days, and for the nuclear warheads, missiles and submarines to be removed from Scotland within twenty four months. (Paragraph 21)

2.  Scotland could not carry out this process by itself as all handling and transport of the warheads must be carried out by specialist staff from the UK. It would require full co-operation between the UK and Scottish Governments. (Paragraph 22)

What would happen to the UK's nuclear deterrent?

3.  If the Scottish Government insisted upon the removal of the nuclear deterrent from Faslane by the 'speediest safe transition' then it would mean the armed submarine on patrol would be recalled, and in effect, Continuous At Sea Deterrent would stop. The UK at that point would no longer be able to operate its nuclear deterrent and it is not clear how quickly the UK could restore Continuous At Sea Deterrence. (Paragraph 27)

Relocating Trident

4.  Identifying and recreating a suitable base to replace Faslane and Coulport would be highly problematic, very expensive, and fraught with political difficulties. In particular, it would be difficult to find a site that satisfied the requirements for the co-location of the submarine base, the warheads depot and the facility to marry the warheads and missiles on to submarines that adhered to the safety requirements. (Paragraph 45)

5.  We were told that the Ministry of Defence was not making contingency plans for the event of Scotland becoming a separate country. Estimates suggest it could take up to twenty years or longer to develop a long-term replacement for Coulport. It is possible that the clock on relocating Trident would not start until after the result of the referendum is known. (Paragraph 46)

6.  The Minister for the Armed Forces has said that if a newly separate Scotland insisted upon the removal of Trident out of Faslane, and the UK was forced into developing a new base at great expense, then the associated costs would be included in the separation negotiations. (Paragraph 47)

Alternatives outside England and Wales

7.  Any agreement whether to relocate the UK nuclear deterrent outside the British Isles, possibly in France or the USA, would be a decision for the UK in discussion with its allies. However, the evidence presented to us suggested this would be very difficult, both logistically and politically. (Paragraph 60)

8.  An arrangement to allow the UK to continue to operate Trident out of the Clyde in a separate Scotland could be negotiated in theory but it would be very difficult in practice. The Scottish Government would need to agree to the UK retaining complete freedom of action, either as a sovereign base in Scotland or some sort of lease arrangement. The agreement would have to assure the UK Government that the Scottish Government would cooperate sufficiently to ensure the base could operate on a day to day basis. A political deal or a gentlemen's agreement would be vulnerable to a change of government and withdrawal of cooperation. Any agreement would have to be formalised. (Paragraph 61)

9.  An agreement allowing Trident to remain on the Clyde would enable the UK to continue to operate Continuous At Sea Deterrent. Such an agreement could be to allow Trident to remain indefinitely, or allow time for the UK to develop a new base elsewhere in England or Wales for the new Successor submarines. (Paragraph 62)


10.  A separate Scotland would be presented with a choice over Trident. It could honour the long held policy of the SNP that there should be no nuclear weapons in Scotland and insist the 'speediest safe transition' of Trident from Scotland, which can be done within twenty four months. In fact, Trident can be deactivated within a matter of days. The process requires the Vanguard submarines to come off patrol, the UK would lose the ability to operate its nuclear deterrent and inevitably create the prospect of unilateral nuclear disarmament being imposed upon the Royal Navy and UK Government, since the construction of facilities elsewhere could take upwards of 20 years. (Paragraph 63)

11.  Alternatively, a separate Scotland could, in cooperation with the UK, allow Trident to remain on the Clyde long enough for the UK to identify and develop a new base elsewhere. This would mean armed nuclear submarines operating out of Scotland for 20 years or longer. Developing a new base, particularly replicating the facilities at Coulport, could only be done at great expense, and the UK Government has made it clear that any such costs would be included in the separation negotiations. This would be alongside other items such as retaining the Bank of England as a lender of last resort and financial regulator for Scotland, or access to intelligence and the work of GCHQ. (Paragraph 64)

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Prepared 25 October 2012