The home base of the British nuclear deterrent may be moved to America if Scotland votes for independence, according to the Daily Express. The newspaper has quoted “senior military figures” suggesting that an immediate move to America would deny Alex Salmond the ability to use them as “leverage”.
So far the Scottish National Party, the instigators of the independence campaign, have said an independent Scotland would demand the removal of the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde. This would mean Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent, comprising four trident armed Vanguard class submarines, would have to be relocated. It would also result in major job losses for Scottish workers.
The Scottish government has indicated it would be willing to allow the submarines to remain for five years. But this might not be possible as there are likely to be concerns about basing nuclear weapons in a non-NATO country.
Military sources say the solution might be to rent space from the Americans whilst a new base is built. The cost of the new base is estimated at around £3bn, and is likely to be built in Portsmouth. In the meantime America is believed to have the space for the four British submarines, and Congress is expected to be supportive of a deal to rent it.
Air Commodore Andrew Lambert, from the UK National Defence Association, said: “The great leverage that Alex Salmond currently has over the British Government is the location of our nuclear defence base at Faslane. If the vote is Yes, we should move heaven and earth to move all our submarines out of Faslane as quickly as possible.
“We must decide how important, in the short term, the word independence is in terms of our nuclear deterrent. After all, we rely on the US for our missiles and for an awful lot of intelligence. Would it make a huge amount of difference if we asked the US if we could use a base to place our nuclear deterrent there as a temporary measure?
“We could easily run Trident from the US for ten years, and prepare the rest of the UK for whatever the follow on might be.”
Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, chair of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security said the move would command support. He said Republican’s in Congress would strongly back the plan, and would vote for any legislation that might be needed to approve the plan.
Rep. Sensenbrenner said: “I emphatically think this is a good idea… The US and UK have developed a Special Relationship through two World Wars and the Cold War, and our nations have helped each other out when we have run into strategic or military difficulties.
“Obviously what is left of the UK, if Scotland does become independent, would not want to have a significant part of its nuclear deterrent housed in a non-Nato country. I believe that basing the UK nuclear deterrent in the US until such time as the rest of the UK was able to build the appropriate basis would be very welcome here.”
The most likely site for the British submarines would be the US Naval Submarine Base at Kings Bay, Georgia. It already hosts America’s Atlantic submarine fleet and a major Trident refit centre, the largest drydock in the world.
Despite the belligerence of Alex Salmond the loss of the submarines will be a major blow to the Scottish economy. The Faslane base on the Clyde is the country’s biggest single site employer, with 6,700 jobs. This is expected to rise to 8,200 if Scotland votes to remain in the UK.