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The vanishing options for Trident

Speaking on Radio Scotland Admiral Lord West ruled out using Falmouth as a possible Trident base. He said that Milford Haven was the only place it could go. But he is ignoring the fact that the Welsh estuary is not a serious option because it handles a large proportion of Britain's oil and gas.

West also added himself to the list of prophets of doom. Following Lord Robertson's comment that independence would be "cataclysmic", West said that a Yes vote would be a "catastrophic thing". He suggested that Scottish independence was a more serious problem than the conflicts in the Ukraine and Syria - "I think it is one of the biggest grand strategic threats to our islands. People might look at the Ukraine, Syria and this sort of thing, but I don't think they've though that through". 

 Interviewed by James Naughtie on Good Morning Scotland, the former First Sea Lord suggested that Falmouth had been the Navy's first choice when they were considering where to base Polaris in the 1960s. However, he said "There is no doubt now it would be very difficult to build it at Falmouth now - a Coulport-like at Falmouth - and I imagine that the only place you really could realistically do it would be Milford Haven".

Milford Haven in Wales was on the short list for Polaris in 1963. It was ruled out because introducing nuclear submarines would only have been possible if the one oil refinery in the estuary was shut down. Since 1963 many more petrochemical plants have been built at Milford Haven. There are two Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) terminals which handle 30% of the UK's gas supply. In addition there are two oil refineries and a large tank farm. Together these handle 25 % of Britain's petrol and diesel. Closing down these facilities to accommodate Trident would have a devastating impact on the British economy.

As an anonymous MOD source told the Guardian, the reality is that there is nowhere else in the UK where they could do what is done at Coulport.

This means that if Scotland votes Yes and then rejects nuclear weapons. Then the most logical course for London to adopt would be to scrap Trident. There is nowhere for it to go and an independent Scotland is not going to do a deal to allow these Weapons of Mass Destruction to remain within 25 miles of our largest city for the next half century.

There have been arguments about how long Trident would have to remain in Scotland. These have centred on the question of how long it would take to build an alternative site. The most realistic estimate is 20 years. But, because there is no viable place to put Trident, this is not the real issue. Taking Trident away in order to dismantle the warheads could be done much more quickly. All the warheads could be removed from Scotland in two years and dismantled in four.

Find out more:

No Place for Trident: Scottish independence and nuclear disarmament

Disarming Trident

Radio Scotland interview  (from 1.35.00)


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