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Independence could halt Trident replacement - MPs

After contacting a range of MPs, Kiran Stacey and Carola Hoyos write in the Financial Times "Scottish independence would reignite the battle over the future of Britain's nuclear deterrent, driving up the price so much it might no longer be considered value for money, senior Westminster figures have told the Financial Times. MPs from all three main parties said they would reconsider whether or not to invest in a replacement for the Trident-based missile system in the event of a Yes vote in September."



Tory MP James Arbuthnot, who is chair of the Defence Committee and a former defence minister, said "we might even have to consider the option of unilateral nuclear disarmament" if Scotland votes Yes in 2014.  Senior Labour and Lib-Dem representatives made it clear that independence would place a serious question mark over the Trident replacement programme. A shadow defence minister said: "We've decided to back continuous-at-sea deterrence, but Scottish independence is the one event that would force us to reconsider that". A senior Lib-Dem MP said that a Yes vote would "reopen the question of a like-for-like replacement". 

Philip Dunne, Minister for Defence Equipment, said, "In the event that Scotland were to vote for independence, it would take years and billions of pounds to reprovision."

The Financial Times article reports that one former minister suggested the option of mooring the submarines at Barrow, with the missiles being loaded in the United States. However the tidal conditions at Barrow make it completely unsuitable for use as an operational base. It was not seriously considered as an option in the detailed review of possible sites for Polaris in 1963.

Scottish CND has published a detailed assessment of possible relocation sites, Trident: Nowhere to Go. This concludes that none of the options are really viable. The report examines the reasons why various sites were rejected in the 1963 Polaris study. In every case the arguments against them today are even stronger. Safety considerations and the problems of trying to create a new nuclear weapons' base on a greenfield site mean that none of the alternatives are credible options. Operating the nuclear fleet from the US was considered in 1981, but rejected. This alternative would be dismissed today for similar reasons. Operating from France is even less likely.

A Yes vote in September would be of huge significance for nuclear disarmament. It would not just lead to a nuclear-weapons-free Scotland but it is likely to result in there being no nuclear weapons in Britain.


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