Looks like the government must be more concerned about the future siting of Trident than they have been letting on. So far they have been pretty blasé about the potential impact of a Scottish independence vote on Britain’s nuclear weapons system. While the SNP has made it clear that a pro-independence vote would mean the ejection of Trident from Scotland, the MoD has generally fallen back on the argument that the Scots are too sensible to vote for separation. Failing that, the fall-back assumption in many minds seems to have been that they can just be moved to the naval dockyard at Devonport in Plymouth, where the subs currently undergo regular servicing.
But now, thanks to a Freedom of Information request by Scottish CND, the MOD has admitted that they are not permitted, on safety grounds, to berth Trident submarines at Devonport if they have warheads onboard. This surely increases the chance that Scottish independence would have to lead to British nuclear disarmament. If Devonport is out as an alternative site, because a nuclear accident would have horrendous consequences for the city of Plymouth, relocation really does seem dead in the water.
But that does not automatically result in nuclear disarmament. The great danger remains that even with a pro-independence vote, an independent Scotland would be more or less forced – through economic and political pressure, and through its likely continued membership of NATO – to retain Trident, at least on a long lease basis.
Nothing makes it more clear that, when it comes to nuclear disarmament, we cannot put all our eggs in the Scottish independence basket. South of the border we need to win the political argument for nuclear disarmament, as it has already been won in Scotland. As 2013 gets under way, we have significant milestones in the next three years: the independence referendum, the next general election where Trident will surely be a key issue, and the 2016 parliamentary vote on whether or not to replace Trident.
Time to redouble our efforts and kick Trident out altogether: not only from Scotland, but from the UK as a whole.
See the FOI response here: http://bit.ly/WnkVaG