Trident? It’ll cost you!

Imposing a timetable for the removal of Trident would be a serious mistake. Adopting such a policy would leave the SNP open to accusations of being prepared to compromise safety for the sake of political posturing. The paramount consideration of safety means that we must be resigned to Trident remaining for an undefined period. But ‘undefined’ need not mean ‘indefinite’.

It’s no use anybody, however well qualified, claiming that Trident can be removed safely within a specified period. The horrific nature of nuclear weapons is such as will outweigh any reassurance. A host of world-renowned experts testifying that Trident could be moved within a couple of years of independence without compromising safety would be trumped by one guy in a white lab coat making that noise plumbers make when they look at your ailing boiler.

We will be stuck with Trident for a while. Let’s all get used to that idea. But Scotland would be in a position to dictate the terms on which Trident remains on Scottish soil. We could demand that the facilities are immediately marked for decommissioning and taken out of service. We could demand proof of preparations for complete removal and a timetable for completion with margins for safety. And, of course, we could charge the rUK government for use of the facilities.

Trevor Royle says an asset such as Faslane, which could attract a rental of £1.1bn a year. Profiting from WMD even in this tangential way might be regarded as somewhat mercenary. But one shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth. Unless it’s big and wooden and hollow and filled with enemy soldiers. In which case a precautionary peek is likely to be forgiven.

It will be pointed out that leasing the base would open the possibility of the rUK government being purposefully tardy and perhaps seeking rolling extensions to the short lease. This is wrong. It is not a possibility but a racing certainty that the Brits would play such games. There is, however, a very simple way of disincentivising such shenanigans. Ramping rent!

By setting the rent to increase at an exponential rate an economic imperative is introduced. Let the rent start at a level which can be portrayed as reasonable, if not generous. But put in place annual increases which will bring the rent up to, say, double or even treble that £1.1bn figure within the maximum time period considered acceptable, without actually specifying any time limit. That way, the rUK government is put in the position where protesting the exorbitant rent is seen as putting money before safety.

The Scottish exchequer benefits and the Scottish Government avoids accusations of playing fast and loose with safety while hard-line anti-nuclear campaigners can be satisfied knowing that there is an irresistible economic imperative driving removal of Trident. Everybody wins! Except the fans of WMD, of course. But who gives a toss about those freaks?



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9 thoughts on “Trident? It’ll cost you!

  1. The escalating rents idea is very sound but I’ve always thought that escalation needs to be very sharp and painful to ensure removal actually happens (don’t underestimate the price that rUK would pay to avoid having them stored in England).

    Regarding the safety aspects, it’s important to be clear that the safety for Scotland is not the central problem of removal, it’s the safety and acceptability for the destination.

    Warheads are moved in and out of Clyde Naval Base and Coulport all the time. The transport risks are accepted by the U.K. government, if not the population. Simply not accepting their return to Scotland would run down stocks without adding to the transport risk (I don’t know how quickly but I would guess years rather than decades).

    Alternate sites:

    -USA (they have storage facilities on their East and West coasts). Florida is already a destination for RN range testing every few years. This would require American spare capacity and good will. It’s also an inconvenient distance and would undermine the already threadbare illusion of the nuclear force being independent.

    -U.K. sites. The most likely is Cornwall but would take time to build and cause a political uproar. Wales or Barrow are less likely. The days when the U.K. was relaxed about nuclear powered (let alone armed) vessels near London are long gone -they used to open reactors and refuel them in Chatham!

    While they are sorting this, the other very pressing problem is the decommissioning of the old nuclear boats parked close to Edinburgh. They absolutely must be part of the deal. The Americans dismantle theirs and store the most radioactive part (reactor compartment) on land. The longer this is left, the greater the risk of mishap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good point about the nuclear hulks at Rosyth. They definitely must be included in the arrangements for getting British WMD out of Scotland. As to making the rent escalation “sharp and painful”, there are plenty of ways of doing that. Annual percentages increases, from an already high base, which double every due date would quickly bring the cost up to an unsustainable level. Even the prospect of the rent increasing at a rate of over 100% within five years would give any Chancellor of the British Exchequer nightmares.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Was accused of lying about these in The Herald by a British Nationalist. I often wonder if we are the ill-health capital of Europe (and, occasionally, the world, in some fields) because of all the c**p that is either dumped and left to rot and, perhaps seep into the soil and air, or the toxic stuff that is washed ashore off our coasts? This flagrant ill-treatment alone, used as a dump for all sorts, should be enough to prompt independence.

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  2. How can they be stopped from sneaking their Trident fleet out and just leaving the mess for Scotland and refusing to pay anything? Refusing to pay anything – Scotland could refuse to be part of any shared leaving debt but that wouldn’t cover the clean up if Scotland were left with it. We have to ensure they don’t get away with this.

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  3. The Russians removed their from all satellite states within a couple of years or so. No one made them do so, but the international community did warn about rogue elements. We must not be tricked into keeping them forever and a day.

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  4. Peter it’s a brilliant irony.

    Scotland will be charging rent for a penis extension , when England is a busted flush. I hope the people of England are angry enough when the time comes. To have a revolution, and kick out the Tories and the Royals.

    I think Scotland and England will be better places 10 years after Brexit, for differing reasons.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The truth is this:

    The USN / Lockheed-Martin own the actual Trident missiles which are serviced by USN technicians working as if for Lockheed-Martin at Coulport. When the missiles need major work they are returned to USN Maryport for overhaul.

    As far as I am aware if an independent Scotland requested the USN to remove the leased missiles currently at Coulport, they would – under current NATO agreement on nuclear weapons – do so. In effect, by closing Coulport through removal of the missiles, you close the UK nuclear detterent.

    The only alternative is for the Greater England’s navy to have them replaced in RN Vanguard class Trident submarines in the US. This adds the technical and logistics problem of where you attach the UK nuclear weapons to the missiles, if Coulport is closed by an independent Scotland.

    Now add the USN considers the UK seabourne nuclear threat as unnecessary, hence why use of the Trident missiles themselves is decided on by the Pentagon. The USN would rather the current UK spent the money on rebuilding its attack submarine and surface fleets. The US in NATO has signalled this on a number of occassions to the UK Government.

    The current Trident development program ceases in 2020 and the USN expects the final mark of the Trident missile to be out of service by 2050, at the latest, to be replaced by a US joint services weapon in the mid 2040’s.

    I will continue to argue the UK nuclear deterrent can be out of Scotland within six months of independence and the USN will not be likely to be any sort of block on the process.

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    1. All that might be true, but for a little thing called politics. Something may be technical feasible and yet still be politically impossible. Or, at least, politically problematic. The thing that I note is absent from your scenario is any consideration of the steps the rUK government might take to retain possession of it’s precious nuclear deterrent. The fact that they have just lost Scotland would make retention of some nuclear capability an imperative.

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