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British Defense Police Cuts Raise Nuclear Security Fears

The British Defense Ministry's plans to cut 1,800 security positions have heightened concerns about protections for nuclear installations in Scotland, the Scotsman reported on Tuesday (see GSN, Feb. 14; David Maddox, The Scotsman, March 27).

Defense personnel minister Andrew Robathan informed the British Parliament that the ministry would reduce its police force from slightly less than 3,100 officers to roughly 2,400 by April 2016, while the Defense Ministry Guard Service would drop from about 3,300 to 2,200 personnel by April 2015.

The reductions would leave some installations with a smaller number of security officers and protective activities more broadly provided by guards without police authority. Law enforcement agencies in nearby jurisdictions would also provide a greater level of support. A "modest increase" is also expected in the count of facilities that would employ only physical security measures "part of all of the week," according to the official.

"There will be some very real concerns about the impact on protecting munitions stores but most importantly our nuclear bases," said shadow defense secretary Jim Murphy. "We must be told the full implications of this decision" (Press Association/Google News, March 28).

Defense Ministry police officers provide security for the Clyde naval base in Scotland, which encompasses the home port for British Vanguard-class ballistic missile submarines and a nearby storage depot for Trident missiles and nuclear warheads.

"The [Defense Ministry] police play a vital role and are an extremely professional force, and these major cuts in manpower are deeply concerning," said Angus Robertson, defense spokesman for the Scottish National Party.

The party has vowed to push for removal of the nuclear weapons and submarines from Scotland if the nation's citizenry calls for independence from the United Kingdom in a planned 2014 referendum (see GSN, March 12).

"Even though the majority of people in Scotland, like the SNP, oppose nuclear weapons being stored here, they must be properly secured," Robertson said.

Robathan argued that the reductions had become necessary in today's security climate: “I do not expect staff affected by these changes to welcome them, and I recognize -- and very much regret -- the uncertainty and anxiety caused to the personnel involved, who have made a vital contribution to defense security over many years.

“The fact remains, however, we must focus on our new security requirements, not on the past but on what is essential for the future," he added.

“We can and will make savings in guarding and civil policing, but effective security arrangements will be maintained at all defense sites," according to Robathan (Maddox, The Scotsman).

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