Government ‘has no plan B for Trident if Scotland goes it alone’
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 29 October 2012
The UK government has no contingency plans in its Trident replacement programme for Scotland voting ‘yes’ in the independence referendum, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond claimed today.
In a BBC Scotland interview during a visit to the Trident base, Hammond said: ‘The UK government is not planning around the possibility of a “yes” vote in the referendum. We are very confident that the Scottish people will recognise the value of remaining in the UK and that they will choose to do so.’
Asked what would happen if the vote backed independence, he admitted: ‘Were there to be a “yes” vote, all sorts of things would need to be reviewed.
‘You can be confident that, around a capability as important to the UK’s defence as our strategic nuclear deterrent, we will have all sorts of contingency plans for maintaining the deterrent in place in all sorts of circumstances. That is sound, good operational planning. The Royal Navy is very good at operational contingency planning.’
The Scottish referendum will take place in autumn 2014, the year before a likely UK general election and two years before the Westminster government is due to commit the UK irrevocably to the £20bn replacement programme.
Hammond used his trip to the Trident site, based in Faslane on the Firth of Clyde, to announce the latest contract in the development phase of the programme – a £350m research project for BAe Systems. He also argued that some 8,000 jobs would be lost to Scotland were the Scottish National Party to fulfil its objective of an independent nuclear-free Scotland.
Labour has previously put that number as high as 11,000. But the Ministry of Defence’s own figures, secured under a Freedom of Information request by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and used as the basis for an SNP media release, puts the Trident-related civilian workforce on the Clyde at just 520.
Hammond said that the SNP had ‘picked their figures very selectively’ and that his own estimate included civilian and military personnel and contractors’ employees.
‘The political debate that is going on is around the future of Scotland and the future of the Scottish economy, and it is for the Scottish nationalists to explain how they would support the Scottish economy by removing what will be 8,000 well-paid jobs by the end of the decade in the West of Scotland,’ Hammond said.