UK ministers have admitted that Scottish independence could trigger a “seismic shock” for the UK's military budget, if the British government decides that it wishes to retain the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Trident is currently stored at Faslane in Scotland. The Scottish National Party have pledged – with majority Scottish support – to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland altogether.
This poses a major problem for the UK government, in the event of independence, as reports show that there is no suitable location elsewhere in the UK. The potential cost of relocation – which would be immense – is now under major scrutiny.
Speaking to the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat Minister for the Armed Forces, said that relocating the submarines "would take a very long time to complete and cost a gargantuan amount".
Junior Defence Minister Peter Luff, a Conservative, said that relocation would be a "seismic shock" for the UK budget.
But the discussion also raised concerns about whether the British government would accept expulsion of Trident from Scotland, as Harvey concluded: "I would have thought that relocation would be about the least favourite option possible."
Kate Hudson of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) said "for the MoD [Ministry of Defence] to even consider piling further billions into a strategically redundant and economically disastrous weapons system is irresponsible in the extreme."
She added, "Rather than seeing the potential impact of Scottish independence as a cue for a realistic strategic and economic appraisal of Britain's nuclear weapons possession, the MoD is instead considering new ways to haemorrhage taxpayers' money”.
CND expressed worry that the UK government would find political and economic ways of exerting pressure on a future independent Scotland to retain Trident in Faslane against its wishes.
Hudson said, “Neither 'gargantuan' spending on relocation, nor a 'Guantanamo-style' sovereign British nuclear base in an unwilling independent Scotland is acceptable. The only acceptable solution is to scrap Trident altogether. This is the popular choice and the one which makes strategic and economic common sense."