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British Nuclear Arsenal Can't be Moved From Scotland, Report Claims

The only viable locations for the United Kingdom's nuclear-tipped missiles and the submarines that carry them are in Scotland, an antinuclear organization concluded in a report issued on Monday (see GSN, Jan. 27).

Today, the United Kingdom's submarine-launched nuclear warheads are maintained at the Royal Naval Armaments Depot at Coulport and its four-vessel fleet of Vanguard-class submarines is based out of Faslane, the London Guardian reported.

Alternative locations raised for hosting the nuclear-weapon facilities include Barrow, Devonport, Falmouth, Milford Haven and Portland. However, all of those options were ruled out in a classified 1963 analysis by the British Defense Ministry as it considered where to field its force of Polaris nuclear submarines. The environmental, logistical, and expense calculations that caused the other sites to be discounted decades ago hold even more true today, according to the new report by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament's John Ainslie

The ruling Scottish National Party under leader Alex Salmond wants to see the submarines and weapons removed from Scotland in the event the nation votes vote to secede from the United Kingdom. A vote on independence could be held as soon as 2014.

The British government has indicated it would seek to reach an agreement with a potential independent Scotland to continue hosting the nuclear weapon facilities. British Defense Secretary Philip Hammond has indicated Scotland would have to shoulder some of the expense of transferring the Trident submarines should they be evicted.

"These are idle threats," asserts the report by Ainslie. "Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan found themselves as independent countries with large numbers of nuclear weapons. It is ridiculous to suggest that these three countries should each have paid Russia to build new nuclear silos."

Conference on Nuclear Disarmament General Secretary Kate Hudson said, "Trident is at a dead end, strategically and economically. Now we can add "geographically' to that list too."

Hudson said British government defense insiders have verified the CND study's conclusion that there "simply isn't anywhere else" for the nuclear deterrent to be relocated (Richard Norton-Taylor, London Guardian, Jan. 29).

NTI Analysis

  • Innovating Verification: Verifying Baseline Declarations of Nuclear Warheads and Materials

    July 16, 2014

    The findings and recommendations of the Verifying Baseline Declarations of Nuclear Warheads and Materials working group of NTI's Verification Pilot Project.

  • Ukraine Must Not Become a New Berlin Wall

    March 13, 2014

    On Friday, March 14, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov meet to discuss the crisis in Ukraine. Five statesmen from Germany, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States call for the urgent formation of a Contact Group of Foreign Ministers to address the crisis and more broadly, create a new approach to building mutual security in the Euro-Atlantic region.

Country Profile

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United Kingdom

This article provides an overview of the United Kingdom’s historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

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