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Obsolete question of whether visiting warships are nuclear-armed

Following publication of the Scottish Government's White Paper on independence there has been questioning of the SNP's response to the issue of whether they would allow visits from NATO warships if it was unclear whether or not they were carrying nuclear weapons.  This was a serious issue in the 1980s and in particular was a bone of contention between New Zealand and the United States. However it has not been a live issue for 20 years.

On 27 September 1991 President George Bush senior announced that nuclear weapons would be removed from all US Navy surface ships. These weapons were then decommissioned. Nuclear submarine-launched cruise missiles were all put into storage at the same time. These missiles and their warheads were all dismantled by March 2013. So today the only US Navy warships which carry nuclear weapons are Ohio class Trident submarines.

The French Navy has four Triomphant class nuclear-armed submarines, which are similar to Trident. In addition their aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle, carries several nuclear-capable aircraft. However Hans Kristensen reported in 2009 that the nuclear weapons for these aircraft are kept on shore and not deployed at sea in peacetime.

The SNP are to be commended for the forthright statement on removing Trident by 2020 and their proposal to include a ban on nuclear weapons in the constitution of an independent Scotland. It is unfortunate that they felt it necessary to respond to an obsolete question from the No campaign about visiting warships. If a US Trident submarine sails up the Clyde it will be carrying nuclear weapons.  Any other visiting US warship will not be nuclear-armed.