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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