In brief, and has been said previously, Scotland’s Future states that an independent Scotland would seek the removal of the RN Trident submarine force which is currently based on the Clyde. An independent Scotland would negotiate to join NATO as a non-nuclear member. It is worth noting that the Scottish Government’s proposed timescale for removal of Trident is within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence. The first parliamentary election in an independent Scotland would take place on 5 May 2016, instead of the election for the devolved Parliament. Although the white paper states various objectives to be achieved during the first parliamentary term, it doesn’t appear to define its duration. The devolved Scottish Parliament has been holding elections every four years since 1999. However, the current term has been extended to five years to avoid a clash with the UK general election due in 2015. The first term of an independent parliament, if it were to follow established practice, can therefore be expected to end in 2020 or, possibly, 2021.
The white paper might have been expected to respond to some of the points raised about Trident in the Ministry of Defence’s paper, Scotland analysis: Defence, presented to Parliament in October. Some extracts from this are also quoted below. As far as Trident is concerned, Scotland’s Future fails to respond to the MoD’s point that the NATO Strategic Concept makes it clear that:
“the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies” (paragraph 2.36)How an independent Scotland’s view that “Trident is an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power” (page 232) can be reconciled with the NATO Strategic Concept is unresolved. But then, so are other significant non-nuclear defence issues raised in the MoD paper, and these in turn are dwarfed by the problems of EU membership, currency, borders and so on which would arise if there were to be an independent Scotland.
Scotland’s Future Your Guide to an Independent Scotland
Chapter 6, International Relations and Defence, opens with summary points including:
• Our defence plans focus on a strong conventional defence footprint in and around Scotland and the removal of nuclear weapons, delivering a £500 million defence and security dividend in 2016/17
• Scotland’s security will be guaranteed as a non-nuclear member of NATO, with Scotland contributing excellent conventional forces to the alliance (page 206)
Pages 207 to 251 concentrate on Scotland’s international relations, defence, and Defence Why we need a new approach, is addressed from page 232 onwards:
Improving the way defence is delivered in and for Scotland is one of the most pressing reasons for independence.
For decades we have been part of a Westminster system that has sought to project global power, giving Britain the capacity to engage in overseas military interventions and to deploy nuclear weapons.
Scotland has been home to one of the largest concentrations of nuclear weapons anywhere in the world, despite consistent and clear opposition from across civic Scotland, our churches, trade unions and a clear majority of our elected politicians [Endnote 255 but should be 254, see below]. Billions of pounds have been wasted to date on weapons that must never be used and, unless we act now, we risk wasting a further £100 billion, over its lifetime, on a new nuclear weapons system. Trident is an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power.
Westminster’s commitment to nuclear weapons leaves other aspects of our defence weakened. Costs for the successor to Trident are to be met from within the defence budget, taking money from conventional equipment and levels of service personnel. The Royal Navy will have two new aircraft carriers years before it has the aircraft to put on them. Cost overruns are endemic and major projects have been significantly delayed. Scotland can do better.On page 237 the five defence priorities for an independent Scotland are identified, including:
• securing the speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotlandand
• reconfiguring the defence estate inherited at the point of independence to meet Scotland’s needs, including the transition of Faslane to a conventional naval base and joint headquarters of Scottish defence forcesOn page 244 the following appears:
Reserve personnel make a valuable contribution to defence capability and will do so in an independent Scotland. Our proposals include a baseline requirement for around 1,700 reserve personnel at the point of independence. However as there are currently an estimated 2,200 trained reserve personnel in Scotland [Endnote 264, see below], it would be both feasible and desirable to increase numbers beyond the baseline that requirement suggests, in order to build flexibility and enhance capability. In the longer term the Government envisages the reserve force building to 5,000 personnel after 10 years.On page 245/6 it is explained that while details will be negotiated with the rest of the UK, the Scottish Government currently envisages that among other things:
• Faslane will be retained as the main naval base for an independent Scotland.
… The transition of Faslane from a submarine base to Scotland’s main naval base and joint force headquarters will be managed gradually: personnel and equipment will be brought into the Scottish defence forces and infrastructure will be developed, while the personnel and equipment remaining within the Royal Navy are relocated by the Ministry of Defence. The Scottish Government intends the transition to be complete within ten years [Endnote 265 see below]On page 246/7 the future sharing of defence facilities is discussed, but:
Negotiations on the maintenance of shared capabilities would not include nuclear weapons. This Scottish Government would make early agreement on the speediest safe removal of nuclear weapons a priority. This would be with a view to the removal of Trident within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence. The detailed process and timetable for removal would be a priority for negotiation between the Scottish Government and the Westminster Government. However we have noted the work undertaken by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which suggests that Trident could be dismantled within two years [Endnote 267 see below]
The transitional arrangements will support both the day to day operations and the workforce levels at the base. We will retain the capacity for shared arrangements with the rest of the UK and other allies, recognising Faslane’s excellent deep water facilities and its geographical position. There are currently 6,700 military and civilian jobs at HMNB Clyde [Endnote 266]On pages 250/1 International partnerships are addressed, primarily NATO:
Following a Yes vote in 2014, the Scottish Government will notify NATO of our intention to join the alliance and will negotiate our transition from being a NATO member as part of the UK to becoming an independent member of the alliance.and
Scotland would take its place as one of the many non-nuclear members of NATO. The Scottish Government is committed to securing the complete withdrawal of Trident from an independent Scotland as quickly as can be both safely and responsibly achieved.Moving on to Constitutional guarantees, it is stated that:
Only independence will enable Scotland to play a full role working within and alongside the international community in creating the conditions for nuclear disarmament. The development of a written constitution for Scotland would also provide the opportunity to include a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons being based in Scotland.Later, in Chapter 10, further devolution as opposed to independence is discussed. It is pointed out that in those circumstances:
Westminster would continue to take decisions on defence matters and Scotland would remain the base for the Trident nuclear weapon system and its successor. (Page 336)The last part of Scotland’s Future consists of 650 questions and answers about independence. Those relevant to this post are:
285. Will NATO membership make it more difficult to secure the removal of Trident?
The removal of Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland will require negotiation with Westminster and liaison with NATO. But the aim of the current Scottish Government is clear – to secure the speediest safe removal of Trident from Scotland and to join the 20 (of 28) countries who are members of NATO without either possessing or hosting nuclear weapons. We believe that a non-nuclear independent Scotland operating within NATO will be preferable, to the UK, NATO, and our other neighbours and allies, to a non-nuclear Scotland outside of the alliance.
313. Would you sign/ratify the NPT if/while Trident nuclear weapons were still based at Faslane?
Yes. We have made a clear commitment to secure the speediest safe withdrawal of Trident from Scotland following independence. Scotland’s ratification of the NPT will not rely on the detailed arrangements for the withdrawal of Trident.
314. Would the removal of Trident from Scotland result in its decommissioning?
It is the Scottish Government’s preference to see Trident decommissioned, but that will be a matter for the government of the rest of the UK.
315. How long will it take to remove Trident from Scotland and who will bear the cost?
Nuclear weapons have been based in Scotland for almost half a century, despite the long-standing majority opposition of the people of Scotland. In addition, Scottish taxpayer contributions to Trident spending could support many more public sector jobs in Scotland than the weapons system currently brings to the Clyde, and every year therefore Scotland loses out because of the continuance of Trident nuclear weapons. The detailed process and timetable for removal would be a priority for negotiation between the Scottish Government and the government of the rest of the UK. However, following a vote for independence, we would make early agreement on removal of nuclear weapons a priority. This would be with a view to the removal of Trident within the first term of the Scottish Parliament following independence.
328. Will the armament depot at Coulport remain?
Our commitment is to securing the earliest safe withdrawal of Trident from an independent Scotland. This includes the removal of all elements of the current system, including the missiles and warheads which are stored for the Vanguard submarine fleet at Coulport.
534. What powers are currently reserved to the Westminster Parliament?
Despite many decisions being made by the Scottish Parliament and Government, many key decisions are still taken by the Westminster Parliament and Government, such as:
… defence – for example, keeping Trident nuclear weapons and going to war in countries like Iraq and AfghanistanScotland’s Future Endnotes
Endnote 254 On 20 March 2013, the Scottish Parliament voted conclusively 61 in favour, 16 against and 31 abstentions) in support of the UN Secretary-General’s five point plan for nuclear disarmament and called on the Westminster Government to acknowledge the Parliament’s opposition to Trident.
Endnote 264 This does not refer to the timeframe for the withdrawal of Trident nuclear weapons and/or the Vanguard submarine fleet, which would be decided and delivered separately as quickly as it can be both safely and responsibly secured. [This Endnote is informative but not relevant to the context it was cited in! ]
Endnote 265 Scotland Analysis: Defence, UK Government, p32.
Endnote 266 Disarming Trident – A practical guide to de-activating and dismantling the Scottish-based Trident nuclear weapons system, Scottish CND, June 2012.
Endnote 267 Cancelling Trident - The Economic And Employment Consequences For Scotland.
Scotland analysis: Defence
Chapter 1 addresses Security and protection through integrated defence and describes particular Defence capabilities including the strategic nuclear deterrent (paragraph 1.56, page 39 onwards). There is a text box providing the justification for the deterrent which draws on the 2010 SDSR and 2006 Trident replacement white papers. This is followed by:
1.57 The value of the UK nuclear deterrent to NATO was acknowledged by the Secretary General of NATO earlier this year in a letter to the Secretary of State for Defence, which stated that the UK capability “will continue to play a crucial role as part of NATO’s appropriate mix of nuclear and conventional forces that both deter and defend against threats to our alliance (Footnote 72, see below).Chapter 2 addresses Security and influence through international alliances and relationships and a section is given over to NATO membership and SNP policy on nuclear weapons (page 62 onwards) which it is appropriate to quote in full:
2.36 NATO’s Strategic Concept commits the Alliance to the goal of creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons – but reconfirms that, as long as there are nuclear weapons in the world, NATO will remain a nuclear Alliance. This position was confirmed in NATO’s Deterrence and Defence Posture Review, endorsed by all 28 NATO Allies, which concluded in May 2012 that “NATO must have the full range of capabilities necessary to deter and defend against threats to the safety of its populations and the security of its territory, which is the Alliance’s greatest responsibility” and that “the supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies” (Footnote 112, see below).
2.37 All NATO nations, whether they possess nuclear weapons or not, are required to subscribe to NATO’s Strategic Concept. Although only three NATO nations have nuclear weapons of their own (the US, UK and France), a number of other Allies host elements of NATO’s nuclear capability on their sovereign territory in peacetime; and 27 out of the 28 nations participate in the NATO Nuclear Planning Group (the remaining nation, France, is a nuclear power). The SNP’s stated policy on the UK’s nuclear deterrent capability is therefore problematic, and its opposition to nuclear weapons in the round is inconsistent with NATO’s Strategic Concept.
2.38 An insistence on the removal of the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent from Scotland would likely cause significant problems for Scotland in developing its international relationships on a bilateral as well as a multilateral basis. The Henry Jackson Society think-tank has commented that “Unlike the anti-nuclear stance of some existing NATO members (such as Norway, whose stance is held largely in principle), the SNP’s policy would have very real practical implications. Especially problematic are: the SNP’s commitment to the unilateral divestiture of Trident from Scotland, without agreement from other NATO allies; its opposition to nuclear-armed vessels docking in Scottish ports, a position held by no other NATO country; and the possibility of its demands resulting in the unilateral disarmament of another NATO member: the UK.” (Footnote 113, see below). Similarly, the Scotland Institute thinktank concluded that “IS [Independent Scotland] would have to carefully navigate the diplomatic issues related to joining NATO. If negotiations between r-UK [the rest of the UK] and Scotland were deeply problematic, the Alliance would be apprehensive towards importing r-UK and IS acrimony into the organisation. A likely dispute over Trident would also make accession tricky.” (Footnote 114, see below).
2.39 Even if nuclear weapons were to be removed from Scotland, the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee has suggested that it could take more than 20 years to identify and develop a new base elsewhere at significant cost (Footnote 115, see below). As examples of the potential complexity of these negotiations, Russia’s Black Sea fleet was due to relocate in 2017 from Sevastopol in Ukraine to Russia’s Novorossiysk port, but was granted a 25- year extension in 2010, while the Royal Navy retained access to three Irish ‘treaty ports’ for 17 years after the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1921. 2.40 The UK Government has made it clear that it is not planning for Scottish independence. If the result of the referendum were to lead to the current situation being challenged, then options would be considered, but any alternative solution would come at huge cost. It would be an enormous exercise to reproduce the facilities elsewhere. It would cost billions of pounds and take many years. Furthermore, if the nuclear deterrent had to relocate, then so would the whole of the submarine enterprise, including the Royal Navy’s attack submarines and the submarine centre of excellence (Footnote 116, see below). This would have a major impact upon the sustainability of the naval base at Faslane, which is the biggest employment site in Scotland with 6,700 military and civilian jobs, increasing under current UK Government plans to 8,200 by 2022. In its assessment of the SNP’s defence policy proposals, the Henry Jackson Society think-tank commented that “While the SNP propose stationing the Scottish Navy in place of the Trident fleet, that would be unlikely to generate more than 1,000 jobs.” (Footnote 117, see below). The 2010 cross party submission to the UK Strategic Defence and Security Review from the Scottish Government and the main Scottish party leaders concluded that Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde “provides a significant skills base in the area and is a significant employer” (Footnote 118, see below). With personnel numbers and MOD infrastructure investment increasing, the importance of the facility to Scotland as an employer and skills base is also strengthening.Scotland analysis: Defence Footnotes
Footnote 72 NATO praises Royal Navy’s dedication to delivering security, UK Government, , 4 April 2013.
Footnote 110 House of Lords Hansard Column GC56, 24 Oct 2012.
Footnote 111 Scotland couldn’t waltz into the world’s clubs, The Times, 18 June 2013,
Footnote 112 Deterrence and Defence Posture Review, NATO, 20 May 2012
Footnote 113 In Scotland’s Defence? An Assessment of SNP Defence Strategy by George Grant, Henry Jackson Society, July 2013.
Footnote 114 Defence and Security in an Independent Scotland, The Scotland Institute, June 2013.
Footnote 115 The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Terminating Trident-Days or Decades?, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee Fourth Report of Session 2012-13, 25 Oct 2012.
Footnote 116 The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Terminating Trident – Days or Decades?: Government Response to the Committee’s Fourth Report of Session 2012-13, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, 9 January 2013.
Footnote 117 In Scotland’s Defence? An Assessment of SNP Defence Strategy by George Grant, Henry Jackson Society, July 2013.
Footnote 118 The UK Strategic Defence and Security Review 2010: A cross party submission from Scottish Government and the main Scottish party leaders.