Scottish independence could result in nuclear disarmament being imposed upon the United Kingdom for an indeterminate period, according to a report published by the UK Parliament's Scottish Affairs Committee.
The report follows an investigation by the Committee into the consequences of the Scottish National Party's pledge for the “speediest safe transition” of Trident nuclear weapons out of Scotland following a vote for independence.
The Committee concluded that the SNP's insistence on the speediest possible removal of nuclear weapons from a separate Scotland would undoubtedly have consequences for the negotiation of the terms of secession and upon a future separate Scotland's relationship with other countries and international organisations.
The Committee agreed with evidence presented by Scottish CND and defence experts which indicates that nuclear weapons in Scotland could be disarmed within days and removed within 24 months. Since the construction of replacement host facilities elsewhere for the Trident nuclear weapons system could take 20 years or more, such action would inevitably create the prospect of nuclear disarmament being imposed upon the UK government regardless of Whitehall's intentions.
Developing a new base in England or Wales to replace the facilities at the Coulport nuclear weapons store “could only be done at great expense”, whilst relocation of Trident outside the British Isles, possibly in the USA or France, or an arrangement to allow the UK to operate Trident out of the Clyde would be “very difficult” to achieve.
To date the UK government has refused to comment publicly on the implications of Scottish independence for Trident, with Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stating "We are confident that the Scottish people will choose to remain part of the United Kingdom."
"We have made a clear commitment to maintain that deterrent and there is absolutely no question that the UK will unilaterally disarm.", he said in response to the Scottish Affairs Committee report.
Defence ministers told the inquiry that they have made no preparations for alternative basing for the Trident fleet if there is a 'yes' vote for independence in the 2014 referendum and are pressing ahead with plans to move the Royal Navy’s entire submarine fleet north of the border by 2017.
In written evidence to the Committee, the Ministry of Defence also suggested that an independent Scotland would be refused to entry to Nato because of its opposition to nuclear weapons, regardless of the vote at the SNP conference in October to reverse the party’s long-standing opposition to Nato membership.
The Scottish Affairs Committee is calling for the UK and Scottish governments to detail the consequences of the removal of Trident from Scotland as soon as is practical before the vote on independence.