The British government could maintain control of a ballistic missile submarine installation in Scotland in the event the territory votes to secede from the United Kingdom, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said on Wednesday (see GSN, April 17).
Scotland's governing Scottish National Party has pushed for a referendum on secession as early 2014. The party hopes an independent nation would evict the Trident ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads stored at the Coulport depot and the four Vanguard-class submarines based nearby at Faslane.
London opposes removal of its nuclear arms assets from Scotland. Harvey told lawmakers that should secession occur, the Faslane submarine facility could still stay British territory in a manner similar to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, the Scotsman reported.
The Scottish National Party on Wednesday quickly rejected Harvey's suggestion as it wants to see Faslane converted into a non-nuclear naval installation.
The future of British nuclear sites would be the most important thing to be negotiated with an independent Scotland, said Harvey, a Liberal Democrat in the Conservative-led government.
The expense of relocating the ballistic missile submarine installation "would be absolutely immense," he said to the House of Commons Scottish affairs panel. New improvements to Faslane that cost $5.4 billion would be "dwarfed" by the expense of readying another location to host the country's ballistic missile submarine mission.
Defense Minister for Equipment, Support and Technology Peter Luff said moving Faslane would be a "seismic shock" to the national budget.
It might take as long as two decades to withdraw British nuclear-weapon bases from Scotland, the Scotsman said.
Were an independent Scotland to be open to allowing Faslane to remain under British control, Harvey said London would likely require "complete freedom of action, complete control and complete sovereignty over the facility."
Luff and Harvey told lawmakers that at present the government was not preparing a response plan for the future of Faslane in an independent Scotland as they expect Scottish voters will elect to remain part of the United Kingdom (David Maddox, Scotsman, June 14).
The British government could maintain control of a ballistic missile submarine installation in Scotland in the event the territory votes to secede from the United Kingdom, Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said on Wednesday.