Trident could be forced overseas or scrapped entirely if Scotland were to leave the UK, according to Rear Admiral John Gower.
The author of the paper, Rear Admiral John Gower CB OBE, served, until his retirement in Dec 2014, as Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Nuclear & Chemical, Biological) in the UK MoD. Previously, he had spent nearly half his 36-year military career at sea in ships and submarines culminating in the sequential command of two globally deployed submarines.
He then spent 17 years ashore, mostly in the MoD in London, increasingly specialising in UK nuclear weapon and counter-CBRN policy but also with time in Washington DC as the
Assistant Naval Attaché and twice on the staff of the UK Defence Academy. He had a key leadership role in the UK contribution to the international activity between 2011 and 2014 to counter the threat of Syria’s CW programme, culminating in the successful removal and destruction of Assad’s UN-declared stocks. With very close ties to his US and French counterparts, he represented the UK in senior relevant NATO committees for the last 6 years of his career.
“The ballistic-missile submarine base and the bulk of the operational support facilities for the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent are based on Scottish soil or in Scottish inland waters and territorial seas. A Scottish secession would therefore generate fundamental operational and fiscal issues for the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
The changes in UK nuclear policy announced in the 2021 Integrated review have further distanced UK policy from the principles of the Scottish National Party, thereby increasing the risk of secession. This would significantly impact the UK’s ability to field a submarine-based deterrent.”
The report also states:
“NATO must also clarify that, should an independent Scotland adopt policies that seriously jeopardise or remove a nuclear deterrent which provides a vital element of Alliance security, this would at the very least present a major obstacle to, and could very well render impossible, NATO membership for a future independent Scotland.”
One of the alternatives would be to base Trident at King’s Bay in the US or with the French nuclear fleet at Ile Longue, in Brittany. A third possibility would be scrapping the system all together due to the increased costs.
These plans, say Gower, are “highly speculative” but he adds “There appear to be no prima facie absolute blocks to an overseas basing” of Trident.