Britain’s Trident nuclear program at stake in Scottish independence vote

It’s important to note that Scotland, although part of the UK, is more EU friendly than it is British friendly. The EU wants NATO out and to isolate Great Britain as well. It wouldn’t be surprising if Scotland and the EU were working hand-in-hand behind the scenes.


For decades, Britain’s contribution to the threat of global Armageddon has found a home on the tranquil shores of Gare Loch, where soaring green mountains plunge into murky gray waters plied by sporty kayakers, weekend yachtsmen — and nuclear-armed submarines.

The subs slip past this garrison town as quietly as sea monsters. Their dark hulls breach the water’s surface on their way from base out to the deepest oceans, where British naval crews spend months poised to unleash the doomsday payload.

But if Scotland votes “yes” in an independence referendum next month, the submarines could ­become nuclear-armed nomads, without a port to call home. Washington’s closest and most important ally could, in turn, be left without the ultimate deterrent, even as Europe’s borders are being rattled anew by a resurgent Russia.

Former NATO secretary general George Robertson, a Scotsman, said in a speech in Washington earlier this year that a vote for independence would be “cataclysmic” for Western security, and that ejecting the nuclear submarines from Scotland would amount to “disarming the remainder of the United Kingdom.”

The pro-independence campaign promptly accused Robertson of hyperbolic scaremongering. But the possibility that Britain could become the only permanent member of the U.N. Security Council without a nuclear deterrent underscores just how much is at stake far beyond these silent bays and verdant ridgelines when Scotland’s 5 million residents go to the polls Sept. 18.

“The loss of Scotland would be a massive thing for the U.K. — far bigger than the 10 percent of the population that Scotland represents,” said Phillips O’Brien, who directs the Scottish Center for War Studies at the University of Glasgow. “It would have a profound effect on both the external and internal view of what the U.K. represents. And the nukes are a big part of that.”

Leaders of Scotland’s secessionist movement say their independent nation would be a nuclear-free zone within four years of breaking off from Great Britain.

The vow is a popular one among the movement’s left-leaning voters, and the campaign has distributed fliers with instructions for “how to disarm a nuclear bomb” that begin and end with voting for independence.

At the moment, that argument is losing out to those who advocate sticking with the United Kingdom — and with nuclear weapons. Polls show an approximate 10-point advantage for the unionist camp.

But with a substantial share of voters undecided, U.K. officials remain nervous that Scotland could bolt — and that the nuclear program could be a casualty.

The possibility provides an uncomfortable backdrop for the NATO summit that Britain will host in Wales on Sept. 4 and 5.

With Britain’s arsenal of 160 deployed Trident missiles based in Scotland, a “yes” vote would leave the remnants of the United Kingdom to find a new home for the weapons and the four Vanguard-class submarines that can be used to launch them.

But no such home exists. Building suitable bases to house the missiles and dock the subs in England would take at least a decade, experts say, and cost billions of dollars that the government doesn’t have. O’Brien said it’s likely that Britain would decide to scrap its nuclear program rather than make painful cuts elsewhere.

Even without the challenge of relocating Trident, there are plans to slash 30,000 troops from Britain’s armed forces by 2020, and former U.S. defense secretary Robert M. Gates earlier this year questioned whether Britain could be “a full partner” to Washington given the scale of the cuts.

“There’s no doubt that the U.K. has enjoyed peace for 60 years, and part of that is down to this deterrent. But the world is changing,” said Dance, now a member of the local council. “I have a confidence in Scotland. Independence is a risk, but that’s true of everything in life. We should take the chance.”

Full article: Britain’s Trident nuclear program at stake in Scottish independence vote (Washington Post)

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