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Scottish Independence Plan Punts on Timeline for Nuclear-Arms Removal

Scotland on Tuesday said it would aim to banish British nuclear weapons from its territory by 2020 should it gain independence from the United Kingdom, but the local government left open the possibility that the process might linger further, the Scottish Herald reported on Wednesday.

Scottish officials would aim to expel the United Kingdom's ballistic missile submarines and their nuclear warheads within five years of gaining independence, the newspaper quoted a Scottish National Party-led white paper as saying. However, the Scottish government document reportedly frames the timeline as somewhat flexible.

Scottish officials have spoken of effecting the "speediest safe transition" in ejecting the nuclear arms from the country, should the territory approve independence from the United Kingdom in a public referendum scheduled for next year.

The British nuclear-weapons program "is an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power," states the white paper, issued on Tuesday. Joan McAlpine, an SNP minister in the Scottish parliament, said in a Tuesday Daily Record commentary that the paper answered 650 questions about Scotland's future, making "America’s historic Declaration of Independence look like a Post-it note."

Scotland is home to the Faslane naval base at which all four of Britain's Trident ballistic-missile submarines are ported, and to the Coulport facility at which nuclear warheads are stored. The U.K. government has said it could take decades and a huge investment to relocate the nuclear-armed fleet elsewhere.

Speaking to the BBC last month, the Scottish National Party head said the local government could wait until 2016 to formally demand withdrawal of the arms.

"If it were to be an SNP government then we would ask the submarines to be removed from Scotland as soon as was safely possible," the London Guardian quoted Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, as saying in the interview.

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