HMS Victorious, one of Britain’s nuclear submarines, which is based at the Royal Navy base in Clyde ANDY BUCHANAN/GETTY IMAGES
Trident nuclear submarine bases could be moved from Scotland to the United States or France in the event of Scottish independence under government contingency plans.
Officials have considered a range of options in the event of a Scottish breakaway, from relocation to securing a long-term lease at their present sites on the west coast of Scotland. A long-term lease would effectively create a British territory within the borders of a separate Scotland, the Financial Times said.
Boris Johnson has repeatedly said that an independence referendum would be “reckless and irresponsible”, with ministers arguing that one should not take place for a generation.
However, the return to power of the governing Scottish National Party in May, with a pledge to ban all nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland, is said to concern Whitehall.
An exercise was undertaken recently concluded that there are three options for the future of the Trident bases following a vote for independence.
The first would involve the submarines being relocated to the Royal Navy’s Devonport base, which experts believe could cost as much as £4 billion.
The second would be to move them to an allied country such as the US. The Treasury is said to favour this as it would be significantly cheaper.
Sign up to receive Red Box, our poke at politics delivered every weekday morning. Sign up now
A third option is to negotiate a new British Overseas Territory within an independent Scotland that would include the Faslane and Coulport bases. This is likened to a “nuclear Gibraltar”.
The Ministry of Defence said: “The UK is strongly committed to maintaining its credible and independent nuclear deterrent at HM Naval Base Clyde, which exists to deter the most extreme threats to the UK and our Nato allies.
“There are no plans to move the nuclear deterrent from HM Naval Base Clyde, which contributes to Scotland’s and the wider UK’s security and economy.” The SNP said that it was “committed to the safe and complete withdrawal of Trident from Scotland”.
Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament as a teenager. “Like many other Scots, I’ve always been appalled that Britain’s nuclear arsenal has been kept in my backyard,” she wrote in 2019.
Her party is said to be considering plans to remove nuclear weapons from Scottish soil within three years of independence. It is drawing up plans to cushion the economic impact. The Fraser of Allander Institute at Strathclyde University has estimated that the Ministry of Defence employs 4,700 people in Argyll and Bute, accounting for 34 percent of all MoD jobs in Scotland.
A motion backed by four SNP branches, including in Sturgeon’s constituency, says that a future government of an independent Scotland should remove nuclear weapons within three years — in line with the endorsement by all SNP candidates in this year’s Scottish election of the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.