A defence expert has claimed that an independent Scotland would likely host Trident for 20 years if Scotland left the UK because of a lack of alternative sites.

Stuart Crawford was a regular officer in the Royal Tank Regiment for twenty years, retiring in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. During his military career he attended both the British and US staff colleges and undertook a Defence Fellowship at Glasgow University. He now works as a political, media, and defence and security consultant in Edinburgh and is a regular commentator on military and defence topics in the print and broadcast media. He has also advised the SNP on defence matters in the past.

Crawford said the lack of an alternative sites means Trident carrying submarines based at Faslane would take 20 to 25 years to remove. He said: “An independent Scotland cannot really sensibly insist on removal of the UK’s nuclear deterrent from its waters in the short to medium term.

Therefore some pragmatic solution has to be adopted. The pragmatic solution is, in my opinion, to rent the Faslane nuclear facilities to the rest of the UK until such time as some other arrangement can be brought about.

If there is any chance of Scotland becoming an independent country in 2021, it would take the UK government at least 20 years to build the equivalent to the Faslane/Coulport facilities elsewhere in the UK.” 

Mr Crawford added:

“It is the most emotive defence-related issue in the whole independence debate. The difficult thing for the SNP leadership would be selling this to the foot soldiers. The broad base of the independence movement is very much grounded in the CND movement. I am completely sympathetic to that.

The SNP Government might look at this plan and say it doesn’t deliver our promise to remove Trident, but it would be the biggest bargaining chip that an independent Scotland could have.”

An SNP spokesperson said:

“The SNP does not support Trident either as part of the UK or in an independent Scotland. We have continually opposed the renewal of Trident at the cost of conventional and cyber defences and continue to do so. In 2014 the Scottish Government set out a responsible approach to the removal of Trident from Scotland and in the event of independence securing the speediest and safest withdrawal of nuclear weapons would be a priority for an SNP Scottish Government.”

50 COMMENTS

    • That’s funny, but there’s no submarine building skills on the Clyde, though some of the BaE workers did apparently go down to Barrow to help speed up Astute. It was difficult enough getting the skills at Barrow.

      • if
        ɪf/Submit
        conjunction
        1.
        introducing a conditional clause:
        synonyms: on condition that, provided (that), providing (that), presuming (that), supposing (that), assuming (that), on the assumption that, allowing (that), as long as, given that, with the provision/proviso that, with/on the understanding that, if and only if, contingent on, in the event that, allowing that
        “if the weather is fine, we can walk to the village”

  1. Francis Tusa of RUSI reckoned it could be done in 2 years, Hammond said it would take a minmum of 10 years, I think it could be done in 10 years, maybe a few months MOD project over-run.

    Crawford (an army not navy guy) also said the rUK would have to pay an estimated £1.1 billion a year. It could be more, but not I think in terms of cash, but defence resource barter, like logistics, detection, communication, control etc, to allow a farily leisurely transition without weakening the overall defences of rUK + iScotland while Scotland had its first DODS (Detailed Overview of Defence and Security), and worked towards being on our own two feet.

    • In a recent blog, I suggested a 30-year lease and that should be a minimum. 20-years does not allow enough time to make far-reaching plans, which are essential for such an important base. The 5-year limit was a nonstarter as proposed by the SNP, and would have meant an immediate drawdown of the base. The problem with 20 years it only allows for 15 years of free operations, as 5 of those will be drawdown. The whole issue is worthy of a separate referendum by the Scotish people to establish how they feel about the long-term future of the base.

  2. An independent Scotland should pay a defense or protection fee for the deterrent provided by the English, Welsh and NI MOD. The financial loss and economical impact of Scotland leaving Faslane alone will be massive to the rest of an independent Scotland. No one asked them to leave, no one wanted them to go, most English love Scotland, but the constant complaining and threatening to leave has used up so much good will and kinship we feel for Scotland that many of the “english” no longer care about being united with them in a Kingdom. Its going to cost them a lot more than us to break this contract. Ohhh before the responses start, my middle name is Macdonald, my mother was a highlander and I was born in Ft. William.

    • James, you could say the same about the countries in the EU, who could also share the cost of France’s deterrent. I have some sympathy with the idea, as we all shelter under the UK and France’s nuclear umbrella. Or the non-nuclear countries could provide more conventional defence pro rata. As it is, we all know where the EU average on % of GDP sits.

      • Yes, very true. I think the Uk is in many ways quite generous, compared to others, over a wide range of differing protections it provides, not just the deterrent and are conventional armed forces. We provide significant security to many countries both direct and indirect, from policing the skies in E Europe to counter piracy. Several of these countries which benefit from our international and European posture are the ones who have rebuffed our requests for support in an exit agreement with the EU. Im no longer so tolerant of users and abusers.

        International aid is another which is constantly in the news and more and more controversial. But thats for another conversation, cheers, James

    • Hi James, just wanted to post this out as you may not be aware but it’s statements like yours that make people in Scotland want to leave.

      While you profess to love Scotland, your statement suggest otherwise. At some point people like your self have to realise that you are actually part of the problem. People in Scotland voted to stay in the UK, actually people in Scotland are the only people in history to ever vote to be in the UK (excluding the Maltese) if you keep bringing up the referendum and making silly statements like you did you just alienate people even more.

      As to location of the faslane base it is only right and proper that an indendent Scotland lease this to the rUK however I think they are dreaming if they think they can move it in 20 years. It’s not possible in England to even build a railway line without putting it underground. The UK has been completely unable to get even Cumbria to host a nuclear waste storage facility despite the fact that all the waste is already stored in Cumbria.

      Now you want to put an active nuclear weapons storage facility and a dozen submarines with nuclear reactors and the number one target in Europe for a Russian nuclear strike somewhere in England. I am sure the judicial review alone would take 20years.

      Imagine a Tory party that can’t even get a runway built at Heathrow making the call where to put it and spend £ 25 billion on it knowing full well that JC and the Labour Party will come in at some point and cancel the whole thing.

      The other issue is that where ever it is located it needs rapid access to deep water from inside the UK territorial waters. That rules out Cumbria as Russian subs can park in the middle of the Irish Sea and not a thing we can do about it. Northern Ireland maybe but it would be a brave government to make that call and ultimately the base may have to be removed in future following a further break up of the UK.

      Despite what is often written about them the SNP are no daft and are also pragmatic, scotland will want to keep that base and will need the money so I am sure a suitable relationship would be worked out.

  3. How long it takes the rest of the UK to arrange alternative arrangements is irrelevant,it would be a matter for the Scottish people to decide.

    • Not really Grubbie, and I say that as a long-time Independence supporter. It would be wrong for Scotland to unilaterally disarm the rest of the UK of its nuclear deterrent by being unreasonable like “Get it out of here by midnight on Independence Day”.

      We’d still want to be good neighbours, going our different ways.

  4. And yet it’s pointless debate because they’ve had their vote and decided to stay in the UK. Cobtinues discussion on it is the rambling of deluded Nats who no longer even have a mandate, they’re a minority party who scraped into power yet pretend they talk for all Scots.

    OP, please stop giving these people oxygen.

    • I’ve always found it curious that the SNP seem to be so self destructive and he’ll bent on destroying their once impressive voting base.

      When you consider they did the unthinkable and unseated Labour in Scotland, an amazing achievement in itself, they are now in the process of welcoming them back in, as they turn off the Scottish public in steadily increasing numbers by continually banging on like a broken record….

      I

  5. I am a bit confused with this, yes it is possible that if Scotland voted yes to independence Faslane might have to close. So here is where I am having some trouble, first as far as I am aware circa 9,000 jobs in the area depend on the RN base at Faslane, how will they be replaced if the base closes.
    My main issue is that with this constant threat by the SNP why does the MOD constantly spend millions in upgrading Faslane or for that matter Clyde shipbuilding. There are several locations down South that could accommodate the nuclear sub base, for example Milford Haven. At the same time possibly the MOD should instruct BAE to start preparations for relocation to Portmouth or Plymouth. This would do several things all at once put plans into place for the future of the Royal Navy and the people of Scotland that support the SNP and independence will be forced to think on its repercussions as people will be faced with loosing there jobs and or companies.

    • Better they lose their jobs definitely than not die in an improbable nuclear holocaust. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Socialist logic.

    • I imagine the primary reason is because if any aspect of the British government are shown to be preparing to pull out of Scotland, the SNP will try and weaponise it against the union. Combined with the facts that no one in government WANTS an independent Scotland, and that a majority of Scots do still want to be part of the UK, its understandable why no one is making preparations for it.

      Also, you suggest Milford Haven as a replacement, but its not exactly practical. There are no Royal Navy facilities even remotely close, its already an incredibly busy port in a relatively densely populated area that will strongly object to its presence, and the cost of construction brand new facilities from scratch would be prohibitive. Its not suitable for a nuclear base.
      The two primary alternatives I see are returning the entire submarine fleet to Devonport, which is probably the cheapest option, at least in the short term.
      The other option could be Barrow-in-Furness. While there isn’t an actual naval base there, the presence of BAE’s yard where our nuclear submarines are built means that there is a solid starting point for a new base, potentially incorporating part of the BAE yard to handle refitting and maintenance. Additionally, Barrow already handles nuclear fuels and byproducts from the nearby nuclear power plants, which combined with the nuclear submarine construction yard the locals are unlikely to complain about more nuclear industry, and could actually actively encourage such a big investment in their home.

    • Ron, Scotland would still need some sort of Navy, and the SNP plan was to have Faslane as the base, also as the overall defence HQ. Not an unreasonable idea, for the same reason Faslane was selected for the SSBNs. Most of those jobs by far are non-nuclear, and some people say that the nuclear ones are largely not people based in Scotland. Very possibly true. So with a base you need guards, gardeners, maintenance, logistics, purchasing, dredging and so on – and defence. As well as the actual sailors.

      For the size of a navy – look at Denmark, it has a higher GDP so reduce it a bit, but spends less as a percentage of GDP than the SNP plan of 1.6% (which I think would be 1.8% by 2021), so increas it a bit, and you arrive at a size which compares with what’s there at the moment including the MCMs which are home there but largely not actually there. It even includes the SSNs which aren’t actually based there yet.

      For the argument “why spend money now”, Scotland is still part of the UK, it voted by 55% to 45% to remain in the UK in 2014, and is entitled to have a part of the defence budget spent here, wth the jobs that go with it. And it suits the RN.

      • I think the SNP massively overestimate the level of spending they would be capable of in an independent Scotland. They currently blame all their issues on Westminster (Which is funny when they are talking about the NHS for which Scotland is fully responsible for).

        If Scotland were independent then its government would no longer have these excuses.

        Oil revenue is also only likely to fall.

        I truly wish the SNP would just crawl back into its cave but loud obnoxious people always tend to get the headlines unfortunately.

        The UK is better off with Scotland and Scotland is better off in the UK, we have a great history which shows that together we are greater than the sum of our parts. But to be honest I am not sure independence will be as close as it was a few years ago and almost without exception the Scottish people I have met (family included) are some of the most patriotic British people I have ever met.

        I agree that it makes no sense for the Government to make any solid plans to relocate the Subs as Scotland is part of the UK and it is the best place for the base.

    • Devonport would be the only quick and viable option.

      But if it could be authorised Falmouth could also be an option.
      Deep water port, A&P next door and its just down the road from Devonport.
      Falmouth could host the boats whilst the majority of maintenance is conducted in Devonport but it would need the X and Z berth designation to be provided first.
      Currently there are only a few ports authorised to take nuclear boats.

      Location and number of berths.
      For conducting maintenance
      Faslane 8
      Devenport and Plymouth Sound 16
      Rosyth 11

      List of the locations of Z berths

      Falkland Islands 1
      Loch goil 1
      Rothesay 1
      Liverpool 1 or 2
      Isle of Skye 1
      Loch Ewe 1
      Diego Garcia 2
      Portsmouth 1
      Spithead 4
      Southampton 1
      Gibraltar 2
      Coulport 1

      Unless you get the clearance to berth vessels with reactors from the regulators its a non starter. The requirements are huge and stringent. Accident monitoring teams, iodate tablet distribution plans, security, jetty side monitoring systems, population isolation and evacuation plans in case of an accident, average weather conditions to allow a plume to be predicted, risk assessments for local population being exposed to radiation, it goes on and on…

      Its not quick and its not easy to get the approval.

      • We would protest any stationing of nuclear submarines in Falmouth, Cornwall. We put up with enough blown in rubbish now!

      • We don’t want nuclear submarines in Falmouth. We get enough rubbish blown down our way as it is. I can assure you of mass demonstrations and objections if this was attempted.

    • It’s worth noting that 8000 of those jobs are actually forces personnel rather than jobs in the local economy and also scotland has nearly 3 million jobs so 1000 or even 9000 is not much of a difference.

  6. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that building nuclear subs is hard and building a base to build them would take quite a long time.
    I’m not sure any Scottish people would expect the UK to just get out immediately and somehow have a base ready for suck complex machines when one doesn’t currently exist.

    • Some would, but they are the more extreme ones. I don’t mean that in a bad way, people are entitled to their views, and they view the nuclear deterrent as an abomination, but they are the minority. I think many would accept some sort of financial deal while the rUK relocated, and the more time the rUK has to relocate, in itself, the cheaper. With a lease, it would be a balance against paying per year for a lesiurely relocation, to paying more for the relocation itself if hurried.

      Like I say, though a cost value should be put on it, there could well be some sort of balancing against facilities and services bought from the rUK while Independent Scotland built them up, and in a way, the longer iScotland can take, also the cheaper. Imagine having to recreate QRA North and all the comms and detection and control in 12 months say, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

      The problem is that many are not impressed with the UK’s negotiating with the EU (and vice versa) over Brexit, so there’s a problem of “Good Faith” in negotiations.

      • The problem with Brexit is that no one really knows the real progress of negotiations. The press will print what seems sensational and Both sides will be using this to put pressure on the other. Behind closed doors it is entirely possible that the negotiations are going smoother than they seem. (Although I am not pretending that they will be perfect in any way and some of the issues in the press may well be true).

      • Well it is not going to happen as Scotland needs to leave the UK and the SNP is getting weaker and weaker as the people of Scotland realise they have one thing on their minds and are pretty useless at everything else.

        • Remember, it’s not only SNP members and supporters who call for independence. Brexit will spur on Scotland’s rightful destiny as a small independent country.

          • I am not sure how that would play out for Scotland. I am not sure Belgium, Spain and France would react to an Independent Scotland joining the EU immediately. They have their own issues with Independence calls and they have not allowed referendums like the UK did. Scotland would also have far less sway in the EU without the clout of the rest of the UK. It will basically be a tiny insignificant fish in a sea full of sharks.

          • A poll of polls using the last result from 4 different polling companies puts it at Yes 46.0%, No 54.0%, eliminating don’t knows.

          • Lee1 “It will basically be a tiny insignificant fish in a sea full of sharks.”

            Not so, in the Councils Scotland would have 1 vote, same as Malta, Luxembourg, France and Germany, and all the rest. Currentl Scotland has 0 votes, we do not ahve our own representation.

            In terms of Qualified Majority, the 13 smaller states can block the legislation of the 13 larger states.

            In the EU Parliament Scotland would have 13 MEPs instead of the current 6 MEPs. All of whom would likely be part of one or more of the 8 Groups or the 1 Non-attached Independents.

          • As part of the UK, Scotland had the use of vetoes. That will no longer be the case. Plus yes you will be part of larger groups but that means you are just at the whim of other countries, so instead of the UK you will be over-ruled by a number of other countries instead, countries where you have no power in their parliaments and also probably have vastly different needs.

            Scotland likes to pretend it does not have any power in the UK but in effect it has disproportionate power and often gets disproportionate funding etc.

          • Lee1 “Also you know full well which vetoes I was talking about. ”

            No, I don”t know what you’re talking about. From the EU itself:

            “The members of the European Council are the heads of state or government of the 28 EU member states, the European Council President and the President of the European Commission.”

            Decision-making process

            The European Council mostly takes its decisions by consensus. However, in certain specific cases outlined in the EU treaties, it decides by unanimity or by qualified majority.

            If a vote is taken, neither the European Council President nor the Commission President take part.”

            http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/european-council/

            Similar for the Council ((Council of the European Union)) except it’s ministers not Heads of States, and requires a DOUBLE majority. A lot of what people “know” about the way the EU works are absolute myths.

        • Lee1, the SNP got 37% in the snap General Election in 2017, and 35 seats out of 59 – a clear majority of Westminster seats by 35-24.

          Latest Yougov shows “Voting intention (Scotland): SNP 41%, Con 26%, Lab 25% (1-5 Jun)”

          and you think the SNP are getting weaker and weaker?

        • Lee1: “As part of the UK, Scotland had the use of vetoes. That will no longer be the case. ”

          As a full member in our own right, Scotland as one of the EU-28 would have a veto for any Council decision requiring unanimity, same as the UK has, same as Malta – or Belgium as we saw fairly recently.

          And it’s transparently clear the SNP have NO power at Westminster, as they are overruled every time, even when there were 56 out of 59, they still couldn’t get Full Fiscal Autonomy despite putting in two amendments to the Scotland Act for FFA – they were outvoted each time. So much for Westminster representing Scotland’s interests – or respecting “Devolution”, as we see from the power grab over 25 out of the 111 powers returned by the EU which are ALL in devolved concerns.

          But that is far away from the purpose oif this thread, which is about the nuclear deterrent and its location.

          • That is because they were being petulant children so had no support from anyone else.

            Midlands MPs also are outnumbered as are Northern MPs etc. That is democracy. Different parts of Scotland probably feel the same about the Scottish parliament. Should each and every individual in the UK become independent countries as a result… After all I don’t get everything I want all the time!

            Also you know full well which vetoes I was talking about. Scotland would not have those. You know… the ones that work even when the vote does not need unanimity…

          • To be fair the SNP don’t exactly do themselves many favours at Westminster, constantly griping about ships that couldn’t even be built on the Clyde and staging dramatic walkouts for the cameras. Why not instead use the influence gained by being members of the various committees (including the Defence Select Committee) instead? I rarely if ever hear about that.

          • Steve M
            The reason you don’t hear about the SNP playing an active and constructive part in Westminster and its committees on the news, is because that would show them in a good light.

            Think about it, do a bit of research to see what they do do (like Hansard), and then think about WHY you don’t hear about it.

            Current Westminster voting intentions in Scotland is 41%.

  7. It might take 2 or 20 years. What would matter is the decision of a legally independent and sovereign Scottish government. If they say go now, you must go now. So the key question for a UK government is – what leverage do I have to retain Faslane for as long as I need to transition somewhere else? Everything else is second order

  8. this whole thread has attracted the loons!…including me…

    interesting to hear the same conspiracy trumpeted around that somehow everything good for snp is censored, that basically what ever they do shows contempt for scotland by the English, but never any proof.

    I don’t think most UK people think that way or would want to loose a integral part of our national identity. It’s a shame and somewhat revealing about voters for SNP, who believe they are often being racially discriminated against as part of this huge conspiracy to keep them from realsing a huge oil soverign wealth fund and living standards; which boils down to greed and jealousy.

    It really is a twisted self fufilling prophecy snp are trying to weave with a few choice falsehoods supported by fake news, social media AI, poor London centric and investment policies and very likely foreign help…however the uk does need rebalancing.

    On trident, it’s a complete waste of money at that scale, where a thousand nuclear suitcases would create far more deterrence. Problem is the maths that justifies defence budgets hasn’t really progressed past the wars of attrition. So less nukes would mean more soldiers who add no economic value. And who wants nuclear suitcases?

    • Mdpepa
      It doesn’t really matter if readers believe me when I say that it’s only bad news about the SNP is reported, it can help make people aware of the negative reporting they get, and either check for themselves using Hansard and the voting records of MPs, watch the parliamentary channel occasionally, or just keep an open mind rather than letting opinions be formed by the media.

      That sort of thing goes for just about anything of course, the EU or Brexit, one party versus another, the deterrent versus more on conventional defence, the Type 45 is useless compared to it’s really very good, the carriers have no aircraft versus there are are already 9 F35-B in the UK and more on the way, and so on.

      And also see what I did there, I used comparisons that most defence minded people would nod their heads at to set the right tone so that my assertion about the SNP coverage fits in the same category – that’s a form of indoctrination as well! It’s literally, the way I or they, tell ’em.

      • So you definitely know the SNP do loads of good, universally of through the SNP tinted spectacles? If they do and are a more organised party, they at least two the same line, why don’t they just start to cater for the north of England aswell?

        Totally agree with the NLP aspect, it’s very clever, however most people need education to spot this, or a modicum of intelligence and time to bother. Which I doubt the majority have, as Noam Chomsky put forward; they are all too busy watching sport.

        We need a ministry of truth department…MoTD

        • “why don’t they just start to cater for the north of England as well?”

          The “S” in SNP stands for “Scottish”. A party to represent the North of England, and I agree it needs it, would be called the NENP, or similar.

  9. So let’s see now. No referendum for another 200 years. That puts it 2220 at the earliest.
    This neverendum talk is idle gossip at best.

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