The top Welsh government official has said that the United Kingdom's ballistic missile submarines would be "welcome" in Wales in the event an independent Scotland evicts the British nuclear deterrent, the Press Association reported on Tuesday (see GSN, June 14).
The nation's Trident ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads are stored at the Coulport depot in Scotland, while four Vanguard-class submarines home port at the nearby Faslane installation. However, the governing Scottish National Party is pushing for a public vote on secession as soon as 2014, after which it hopes to see the weapons removed from Scotland.
The British government opposes secession and the relocation of the weapons systems. A principal argument is that there is no other suitable location in the United Kingdom to house and service the fleet.
First Minister Carwyn Jones touted the potential economic benefits of moving the British nuclear fleet to Pembrokeshire in southwest Wales. "I did notice the Scottish government no longer wishes to have the nuclear submarine base at Faslane. ...There will be more than a welcome for that fleet and those jobs in Milford Haven," he told Welsh lawmakers.
A Welsh government official said Jones' remarks were entirely separate from the matter of Scottish secession. "As a staunch supporter of the union, the (Welsh) first minister has made it clear on many occasions that he wants to see Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom.
"However, the Scottish government has made it clear they wish to see the (nuclear) fleet leave Scotland at the earliest opportunity," the spokesman continued.
Moving the submarines to Wales would bring "thousands of high-quality, well-paid jobs to the area," the spokesman said.
Jones' remarks were not accepted by all Welsh Assembly members. "The first minister clearly has no grasp on reality if he believes the people of Wales want nuclear weapons stored in Wales," said assembly member Simon Thomas. "It would be far better for the U.K. government to scrap the Trident project completely and spend the massive cost on plausible job creation schemes to boost our economy."
"The Welsh government has just announced it wants to prevent fishing to protect the waters around Milford Haven but wants to invite rusting nuclear subs instead," Thomas continued. "This just demonstrates the lazy way this government makes policy."
The British Defense Ministry emphasized it has no intention of moving the nuclear arsenal from Scotland.
"No plans for independence are being made as the government is confident that people in Scotland will continue to support the U.K. in any referendum. We are therefore not making plans to move the nuclear deterrent from HM Naval Base Clyde," a ministry spokesman said. "The government is committed to maintaining a continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent and has begun the work of replacing our existing submarines" (Benjamin Wright, Press Association/Scotsman, June 20).
The top Welsh government official has said that the United Kingdom's ballistic missile submarines would be "welcome" in Wales in the event an independent Scotland evicts the British nuclear deterrent, the Press Association reported on Wednesday.