Misconceptions can often take root and spread quickly, one claim I’ve encountered a lot recently is that the UK stores all of its nukes in Scotland because they’re too dangerous to keep in England.

We’ve all read a variation of this claim “There are 220 nukes in Scotland, none in England as it’s too dangerous to have them there but Scotland is stuck with them!”.

The lifecycle of the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system unfolds across various locations throughout the country, far beyond the confines of Scotland. This intricate network of facilities each serves distinct, crucial roles in the creation, maintenance, and storage of these weapons.

Aldermaston: The Birthplace of Warheads

Located in proximity to London, Aldermaston, home to the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE), plays a pivotal role in Trident’s operations. This is where Trident’s warheads are designed, produced, and maintained. The warheads often split their time between here and Coulport.

Burghfield: The Assembly and Maintenance Facility

Just seven miles from Aldermaston, and similarly close to London, is the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Burghfield. This facility is responsible for the assembly of the UK’s nuclear warheads, their in-service maintenance, and eventually, their decommissioning. Nuclear components are transported from Aldermaston to Burghfield for assembly and are then transported by road to Coulport, Scotland for deployment on Trident submarines.

Faslane: Submarine Base

Scotland does indeed play a significant role in the UK’s nuclear operations, specifically at the Faslane naval base at HMNB Clyde, near Glasgow. Faslane is home to the Vanguard-class submarines, which are armed with the UK’s nuclear weapons.

Coulport: Warhead Storage and Deployment

The Royal Naval Arms Depot Coulport, located in Scotland, is where Trident warheads are stored prior to deployment. The warheads are housed in reinforced concrete bunkers built into the hillside, and are loaded onto the Vanguard-class submarines at a dock beneath the bunker.

It’s important to note that these warheads frequently traverse the route between Burghfield and Coulport, as they return to Burghfield for refurbishment. This cyclical pattern illustrates the interconnectedness of the UK’s nuclear operations and the critical role played by facilities outside of Scotland.

In conclusion, while Scotland is home to key sites in the UK’s Trident nuclear system, it’s incorrect to claim that the UK exclusively stores its nuclear weapons in Scotland. The development, storage, and maintenance of these weapons involve a wide-reaching, nationwide network, extending far beyond Scotland’s borders.

Avatar photo
George has a degree in Cyber Security from Glasgow Caledonian University and has a keen interest in naval and cyber security matters and has appeared on national radio and television to discuss current events. George is on Twitter at @geoallison
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

58 Comments
oldest
newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Nick Cole
Nick Cole
8 months ago

Not quite as simple as explained in the article. The weapons at Coulport are the ones immediately(sort of) deployable. Those elsewhere in the system apart from the patrolling submarine are really not a lot of use, and if the fleet is neutralised it doesn’t matter how many warheads we have as they are in effect unusable.

DMJ
DMJ
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

👍

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

If the EHJ at Coulport and Kings Bay, Georgia are neutralized, then yes, they are. Not aware of where else Trident D5 could realistically be loaded aboard RN Vanguard Submarines.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
8 months ago

Though realistically once they have launched their retaliation strikes there isn’t a lot of point worrying any more! The infrastructure for loading missiles into a submarine is relatively simple to replicate. It is the warheads themselves that are the main issue.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

Yes, that’s true. Aldermaston, Burghfield, Coulport and Faslane will all be primary targets, so all warheads in maintenance and storage are gone.

FormerUSAF
FormerUSAF
7 months ago

Naval Base Kitsap, Kitsap Peninsula, Washington State. Although, if King’s Bay is history, probability is high that Kitsap is as well. Almost guaranteed. 🤔😱

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
7 months ago
Reply to  FormerUSAF

Going all the way to the Pacific…a non starter mate.

Kev Allon
Kev Allon
6 months ago

The Trident wharf at Canaveral in Florida, that’s where we loaded once.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
5 months ago

That is because there are no other facilities – yet. And the time it would take for the subs to travel to an alternative backup location, load, and return to some hidden place really preclude immediate further retaliation. In essence these devices (the system not just the warhead and missile) become single use.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

Quite probably, which is why our dependence on a few expensive capital ships is dubious.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

Angus I believe is ex RN.

Seconds out….Round 1…Ding Ding!

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

So a Tiger Class Light Cruiser, a County Class Guided Missile Destroyer, a Amazon Class Frigate and Leander Class Frigate

It has often been said the Tiger Class Light Cruisers were past it cause they were designed for a war that had gone

Knight7572
Knight7572
8 months ago
Reply to  Knight7572

Frankly the Tiger Class Light Cruisers could have been better if instead of wasting money converting them into helicopter cruisers and just upgrade the electronic systems

Airborne
Airborne
8 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

The RN or the people employed? It may be different now than your day mate but in my (agreed none RN) opinion it seems to be doing very well with the platforms it has. The RN head sheds have planned much better then the Army for example, in regard to future planning, deployments and careers.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
8 months ago

Did u have a bad camping experience as a child in Scotland? Most people who visit Scotland say it’s wonderful. It’s mostly the same with other parts of the U.K.
One big happy country made of 4 nations.

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Agreed.

DaveyB
DaveyB
8 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Depends if you wild camp. Scottish midges are the worst! Been to pretty much every shite hole around the World. Surviving most wee flying bitey things. Mosquitos in the jungle weren’t a problem. The Sandflies of the Sahara don’t even come close. Though the Black fly in Canada do come a close second. But those bloody midges, definitely a gift from the devil……

Mark F
Mark F
3 months ago
Reply to  DaveyB

DaveyB, Our Midges ware pit boots,camo paint and have a bite you will have nightmares about ( they are Scots after all and they love the free food)🤣

Ex-Marine
Ex-Marine
2 months ago
Reply to  Mark F

Davey, I agree with you 100% mate. Whether it’s the flying nasties in the jungles of Sierra Leone and their black flies, Brunei, Belize and other flying things of all sorts in Africa (both West and East coast), those bloody black flies in Canada are all tolerable. The Midges and Nats on the West coast of Scotland are something else. I have heard tales of lambs, even young children being descended on in bit Midgies in their million, sucking every mill of blood out of the victims. I once camped on a weekend beside a lovely secluded wee lake only… Read more »

Mark F
Mark F
2 months ago
Reply to  Ex-Marine

🤣🤣🤣Call em the Scots Mig’s (no bombs required)

Arson Fire
Arson Fire
1 month ago
Reply to  Ex-Marine

They would take too long to procure and go over budget.

Monkey spanker
Monkey spanker
8 months ago

Tends to be people that quote this kind of stuff say it out of ignorance/lack of knowledge.
They don’t understand how a nuclear weapon works, the parts of it, how these need to be maintained and so on and so on.
Knowledge is power and if u don’t know, keep quiet and fake it until you find out.

HF
HF
5 months ago
Reply to  Monkey spanker

Not sure they are bothered. All they want is to make a political point, not deal with facts. One SNP supporter thought I’d made up the term ‘sea room’…

pete
pete
5 months ago
Reply to  HF

The Tritium has a half life of about 12 years , yield ,batteries and components degrade due radiation so need regular overhauls to be reliable. Expensive compared to cost of nasty virus delivered by missile !

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
5 months ago
Reply to  HF

What has labelling an ‘SNP supporter’ got to do with the debate?

HF
HF
5 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

I’m not sure what your problem with this is. It wasn’t a ‘label’, it was a fact. Another fact is that removal of nuclear weapons is SNP policy. They tend to ignore anything inconvenient on this, dispute clear facts, or come out with ideas like the myth that the entire column is about. So an SNP supporter told me, when I pointed the geographical reasons for the current base, that he’d never heard of the concept of ‘sea room’ and that I’d made it up. It illustrates the ignorance about the whole subject that they seem to have.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
5 months ago
Reply to  HF

I’m not sure of the relevance of your comment! Removal of nuclear weapons is a policy of many many people cross party. It may be a policy for one or more but the practicality of implementing such a policy means that it may not actually be achieved or even achievable. Instead of your rant and diversion it would have helped if you contributed to the debate. Defence is important and party politicising it does not help. Cherished policies end up subject to pragmatism and practicality. The point of the debate is the actual value of the deterrent and where parts… Read more »

HF
HF
5 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

How very patronising of you. It would have been much better to say ‘oh, I see why you mentioned he was SNP’ than come out with all this waffle to justify yourself. There was no ‘rant’ or ‘diversion’. I explained clearly why I made the comment. You just don’t to admit you misunderstood it.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
5 months ago
Reply to  HF

Funnily enough all political parties are composed of individuals, most of whom have varying opinions of whatever policy has been dreamed up, usually based on their own circumstances. Mentioning any political party in the context of the thread is a diversion and red herring. You didn’t explain your point at all. And the point of having a nuclear weapon facility in your backyard will tend to create an opinion which will be different to anybody else. Ask everyone at Devonport if they would like the weapons/boats stored there, or Portsmouth? And the point really remains that if a nuclear exchange… Read more »

Jim Camm
Jim Camm
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

And had it been the Green party campaigner who brought it up in the context of a political discussion, I’m sure they would have said “One green campaigner…” (I presume he knew they were an SNP supporter because this issue came up in a political discussion.) I have heard similar things from several vocal SNP supporters when discussing Scottish Independence with them. In case you didn’t read it properly, the statement being challenged was about how ‘nuclear weapons are kept in Scotland because they’re too dangerous to be kept in England’… That’s specifically an SNP campaign issue (the UK/England is… Read more »

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Camm

The reality is that there was nowhere in England that was as good (or convenient) as Faslane and Coulport. So while it may not actually have been the case of as far away from big English centres of population as possible it does then create a convenient bone of contention, which has considerable credibility! Regardless of any debateable reasons, the fact remains that they are both sited within fallout reach of Scotland’s largest cities. And any deep penetration of Coulport could have an enhanced fallour consequene beyond that of the immediate weapon. While yes tangential issues do not always help,… Read more »

Daniele Mandelli
Daniele Mandelli
8 months ago

Spot on George.

All those lightening conductors around the Gravel Gerties at Burghfield must be for show….🙄

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
8 months ago

The issue is that regardless of Faslane and the at sea boat, it is the ‘target’ of the weapon storage facility at Coulport where the operational warheads are kept. Close to (in nuclear weapon terms) and upwind of the Scottish Central Belt. Posing a much reduced risk to England!

Last edited 8 months ago by Nick Cole
Mark B
Mark B
7 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

Surely if there is a nuclear exchange Coulport might be an early target however our Russian friends have form for turning cities to rubble. Scotland is a militarily strategic location however the population would be surplus to requirements. The Russians have many many warheads to go around I don’t think that it matters where you are, if you are part of a democracy you are likely to be a target.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
7 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

This thread is actually more about the fact that these target locations are a ling way from English population centres! My comments were in relation to this. Your response though assumes that it is a wipe-out scenario. Though possible it is perhaps less likely that all major cities and other installations are automatically struck at the same time. Not denying that this can occur, but merely pointing out that the principle military target would be Coulport as the weapons store rather than the next to impossible to find underwater weapin platforms. The benefits of an all out multiple nuclear exchange… Read more »

Last edited 7 months ago by Nick Cole
Mark B
Mark B
7 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

Yes you are correct I am assuming that a strike on military targets (many of which will be in England and close to population centres) is likely to be closely followed by a wipe out scenario just as night follows day. Military strikes on strategic locations invite a strategic response from the UK, France and the US. What has Russia then got to lose? It must strike whilst it still can and not just nuclear powers. Yes a conventional war could in theory remain conventional and small battlefield nukes might (big might) be shrugged off however ICBMs …..

Last edited 7 months ago by Mark B
HF
HF
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

I’m told that strikes on military targets would have been widespread and immediate certainly from a NATO point of view and probably Soviet. Hackett’s WW3 scenarios have been widely derided over the years.

Mark B
Mark B
5 months ago
Reply to  HF

The whole purpose of the nuclear deterent is that it deters which it has done successfully for over 70 years. Once nukes start flying it is difficult to see restraint as an option. If we assume that without nukes world wars would have continued at the same rate we might consider that instead of being in the middle of WW5 we might now have saved a conservative 150,000,000 lives including our own.😀Any scenario, like Hacketts, (and including those I have outlined) are likely to be derided but are interesting and perhaps helpful nevertheless.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
5 months ago
Reply to  Mark B

All options need to be considered and up to a reasonable point planned for. Hackett was writing a docu-drama, but the scenarios shouldn’t be dismissed. As the saying goes, plans fall apart on first contact witht the enemy. Which means adaptability and resourcefulness is the key, so having a plan to dust off in case it is needed is essential.

HF
HF
5 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

 launched directly into the air – got to be submerged.

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
5 months ago
Reply to  HF

I know. I was just pointing out that being able to reload the subs and get them back out to somewhere hidden is not viable for a second strike. Which means that our deterrent is a single use weapon and the storage site let alone the reloading faciity will have been destroyed, and the remaining subs if not also now destroyed are useless.

HF
HF
5 months ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

Not sure if it was on here but an ex-RN sailor who’d served on the boats said they’d practised surge deployments and were able to get at least one, and sometimes two extra out on patrol. There should have been five, of course, to ensure at least two continuously at sea.

Jim Camm
Jim Camm
1 month ago
Reply to  Nick Cole

Didn’t you read the article? This thread is actually more about the fact that these target locations are a ling way from English population centres! Only last time I checked, Aldermaston & Burghfield were in central southern England. And if you think Coulport is close to Glasgow (27 miles), Burghfield is less than 4 miles from the centre of Reading. The naval bases in Portsmouth and Plymouth are also first-strike targets (as are the American airforce bases in Suffolk). Given how much more densely populated southern England is than southern Scotland, I’d bet way more people in England are in… Read more »

Nick Cole
Nick Cole
1 month ago
Reply to  Jim Camm

Your are right about distance, but the main weapon store is not in England, that is merely the tertiary maintenance location and has no immediate military use. Coulport is where the weapons are stored for use. If however Aldermaston as well as Coulport, Faslane are all targetted together in the same strike the argument is null and void! These of course only affect our nuclear strike capability, I would think there would be others. But another critical thing to think about is that of a targetted single strike as an expression if intent, then perhaps Coulport becomes more relevant on… Read more »

Rob Barker
Rob Barker
8 months ago

Coulport, My favourite draft in 17 years in the Royal Navy! Loved the place.
Interesting comments written when you don’t know the facts…….

The Artist Formerly Known As Los Pollos Chicken
The Artist Formerly Known As Los Pollos Chicken
8 months ago

I think you mean “Some” Scots ……… I certainly don’t believe the drivel the “London boys” come away with in here is representative of everyone in engerlandshire.😉

🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🇬🇧

John Hartley
John Hartley
8 months ago

You should talk to my Scottish cousins, of which there are many. My mother was Scottish, one of 4 sisters. Now large numbers of children & grandchildren.

Busta
Busta
8 months ago

👍

David Barry
David Barry
6 months ago

If only we’d kept Broughton Moor open…

On serious point, given rail is safer, why are the moves not conducted by rail?

Duker
Duker
5 months ago
Reply to  David Barry

Disruption to the existing rail traffic. A few lorries plus escort vehicles on the motorways and local roads. all done probably at night

Andrew
Andrew
5 months ago
Reply to  David Barry

taking a wild guess here, but there is only a single rail line near to the base, so any protesters would know with ease where to block the tracks…. At least with roads the further you get from the base the more road options open up…

River Rha
River Rha
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew

Even “the Man Who Never Was” took to the rudimentary roads of Britain in the Second World War to keep his berth appointment Aboard HMS Seraph before he washed up on a Foreign Shore for his story to develop further, It would seem I refer to “Operation Mincemeat” here

Scientific Research Instruments would seem to have been the cover story for the contents of his travel container (Body) and Commander Jewell no stranger to Covert Operations, Apparently, I read the Obituary in the Glasgow Herald Print Edition some years ago

David Barry
David Barry
5 months ago

Given that the Russians always know far more than the civpop, I welcome the transparency.

The Defence admin waste billions behind secrecy.

Stc
Stc
5 months ago

More from the liars and misinformed otherwise none as the CND supporting SNP. Boy the SNP are getting desperate. Our policies have failed, we have failed and we need distraction from the Lorna Green DRS catastrophic policy. Let’s frighten the people into voting for us. However, I suspect the Scots are aware of the consequences of radiation and that the English are not immune from its affect !

HF
HF
5 months ago
Reply to  Stc

This was one SNP’s main arguments before they managed to prove their total incompetence as a government.

HF
HF
5 months ago

The RAF command bunker at High Wycombe north of London was apparently third on the UK Soviet target list. I also recall from ‘Cabinets & The Bomb’ that quite a few places were considered along the UK west coast.

Caribbean
Caribbean
4 months ago

Just to inform the debate, I used Nukemap to model a 2.4Mt groundburst (largest Russian warhead I could find in their pre-set options) at each of the sites above Assuming a (most likely) prevailing wind from the SW & groundburst to maximise fallout The model doesn’t calculate likely fallout deaths, so all figures are for blast deaths & injuries Burghfield – 61,000 dead, 155,000 injured (with large parts of London in the fallout zone) Aldermaston – 21,000 dead, 110,000 injured (ditto for fallout zone) Faslane – 3000 dead, 29,000 injured. Glasgow outside of light damage zone. Fallout avoids Glasgow, Edinburgh… Read more »

Rob N
Rob N
2 months ago

a good article…. The locations are based on practicality not politics. If you want to arm SSBNs you need weapon’s storage nearby. The SSBNs are in Scotland as they have good access to the Atlantic and the harbours are sheltered in all weathers. There is also something to be said for a more remote location. The Scottish side could be done in England but that would take some extra work. For example Barrow could be extended further to do SSBN maintenance. SSBNs could be based with SSNs. A secure storage site could be added to a base down south. The… Read more »