What would happen if an independent Scotland got rid of the Trident nuclear system?

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September 9, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

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In amongst all the arguments, there are some issues on which I know many Scots agree, whether they are in the “Yes” or “No” camp. One of them is on whether Scotland should be hosting Trident, Britain’s nuclear submarine system. I have spoken to many people from both sides and almost all of them want it gone. The difference is that the “Yes” campaign will effectively have a mandate to get rid of it whilst the “No” campaign know that they ares stuck with it, which is why it has been presented as a “Yes” issues. So, given the way the polls are looking we may well have an independent Scotland very soon, it is worth looking at what “removing Trident” will actually mean.

Trident is located in Faslane, which is off the West coast of Scotland. It is in a huge bay, the size of which is only really replicated in Milford Haven in the South of Wales. The facility needed to store everything on and underground ground is massive, which is why 8000 jobs are created by looking after Trident. If Trident were to be dismantled, Alex Salmond has said that Faslane would become the headquarters of the Scottish military, which neutralises this as a jobs issue. Milford Haven, whilst being big and deep enough, is now the centre of our methods to importing liquid natural gas (LNG) and so would not really be able to fit Trident in. So what would effectively happen if Scotland refused to host Trident is that it would have to be decommissioned and unless we found an alternative quickly that decision would mean the unilateral nuclear disarmament of the whole of the UK.

Now, looked at out of international context and in isolation, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. After all, wouldn’t it be great if this started a domino effect of nuclear disarmament around the world? Wouldn’t we be nearer to peace and have less to worry about as weapons of mass destruction would not exist? Well yes, but international politics doesn’t work like that.

There are many international political theorists who argue that nuclear arms CREATE peace, because if powers have nuclear arms they can’t afford to go to war with each other as there would be mutually assured destruction (MAD for short). Some even argue that Iran’s nuclear capability makes the Middle East a safer place, because if Israel AND Iran have nuclear weapons they simply can’t afford to go to war with each other. Britain’s maintenance of a nuclear capability within a much closer range of other countries who have them than the USA is could be argued to be good for peace under this theory.

But not many buy that, and so one has to look instead at the influence that possessing nuclear weapons gets the UK. Due to way that the United Nations was created in the aftermath of the Second World War, the UK finds itself a permanent member of the UN Security Council, which is extremely important. If we lost our nuclear capability, that could be the catalyse to remove the UK from that. If that happens, don’t be surprised if moves to also remove us from positions of influence in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank follow.

The point is that when I look at my children, I want a nuclear free world. I still remember the videos we were shown at school about what to do in the event of a nuclear attack and it was terrifying. But I also am concerned about the Uk losing influence around the world, and so we can’t make decisions in a vacuum, pretending that we are the only country.

This is why I would expect keeping Trident to be part of the negotiations that bring Scotland into monetary union with the rest of the UK. Salmond holds a big hand there, and I would expect him to use it. The rest of the UK holds a big hand with Sterling, and I expect it to use that too. Hence those in both sides who think that independence will make us nuclear-free shouldn’t get too optimistic.

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