Europe

SNP may have to keep Trident in independent Scotland ‘for 20 years’ despite vow to scrap

Nicola Sturgeon on Scottish Independence in 2015

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Mrs Sturgeon has pledged to remove the fleet of nuclear missile-carrying submarines from Scotland in the hypothetical scenario of Scottish independence. The Trident submarines are currently based at the Royal Navy’s Faslane base on the River Clyde. The Scottish National Party (SNP) won a historic fourth term in Government at the Scottish Parliament Election in May.

Since then, the party has pledged to hold another referendum on Scotland’s independence from the UK by the end of 2023, if the pandemic allows.

The last public vote on the issue in 2014 saw a majority of Scots reject breaking away from the UK.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains firmly against another referendum – or ‘Indyref2’ – and has branded the SNP’s bid for a new vote “irresponsible and reckless”.

The SNP’s defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald has said “Trident will go at pace” if Scotland votes to leave the UK in another referendum.

He claimed that negotiating Trident’s removal with Westminster “will be one of the most important tasks a newly independent Scotland will face”.

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However, Dr Nick Ritchie at the University of York has taken apart the SNP’s bold rhetoric on Trident.

The politics and nuclear weapons expert told Express.co.uk that Scotland may be forced to house the nuclear deterrent within its borders for at least another two decades.

He said: “Perhaps there would be a timeframe around that, perhaps it will be based here for 20 years, that gives 20 years to find some other solution.”

The academic reacted to a report in the Financial Times, which claimed that civil servants in Whitehall had started contingency planning for Trident in the event of Scottish independence.

Insiders quoted by the paper said one proposal being studied was the creation of a new British overseas territory to cover Falsane and the nearby weapons loading facility at Coulport.

Dr Ritchie said it is feasible that negotiations between Westminster and Holyrood will produce an agreement allowing Trident to remain in Scotland.

He said: “One can imagine a situation in which some kind of a compromise has to be reached over the continued basing of the Trident nuclear weapons system in Scotland in a sovereign base.

“This wouldn’t be sovereign territory of the Scottish state, this would be part of the sovereign territory of the rest of the UK.”

The SNP has denied that Trident will be allowed to remain in an independent Scotland in a newly created territory.

The Financial Times quoted a senior party source who said such ideas “will not be accepted and are unworkable for any state wanting to credibly operate a strategic nuclear deterrent”.

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Dr Ritchie said a strategy of letting Trident remain in Scotland could also be potentially damaging for the SNP’s popularity among voters.

He said: “One can imagine that that will be difficult to sell politically.

“But, if it was put to the Scottish people in a newly independent Scotland as, ‘this is the trade-off, we reached this agreement with London on basing Trident’.

“But then ‘we get the agreements that we want on Sterling, on entry to international institutions, on other forms of economic support that reflect SNP preferences’.

“That might be how an independent Scottish Government will have to sell it.

“Or they might not, they may say ‘we’ve got independence now’.”

The expert added that the UK could “make things really economically difficult” for Scotland in the event of independence, including over the SNP’s hopes to continue using Pound Sterling as its currency.

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