Britain to spend £350m on Trident successor plan

Tue, Oct 30, 2012, 00:00

THE BRITISH government will continue planning to replace its Trident nuclear missile fleet and will make no contingency plans for Scottish independence, a senior British minister has said.

Defence secretary Philip Hammond yesterday announced that £350 million (€435 million) will be spent on designs for a new missile to replace the Tridents located at a Royal Navy base at Faslane, near Glasgow.

The decision has angered the Scottish government, with deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon saying a nuclear strike force is “a staggering waste of money” during a time of austerity.

A final decision to replace Trident and the Vanguard-class submarines that carry them – a £20 billion (€25 billion) investment, if it occurs – has been delayed until 2016 because of divisions within the ConservativeLiberal Democrats coalition.

Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Mr Hammond said the British government is “very confident” Scots will reject the independence referendum when it is held in October 2014.

“Were there to be a Yes vote then all sorts of things would need to be reviewed but we are not making any contingency planning for that,” he said.

Rejecting the Scottish National Party’s opposition to nuclear weapons, he said: “You can’t say with any certainty today who will be threatening us in 20, 30, 40 or 50 years’ time. That is why it is so irresponsible to play games with a strategic deterrent like the UK nuclear deterrent.

“It is there to protect our nation, all the people of the UK, against any threat.”

Emphasising the jobs brought by Faslane, Mr Hammond said 6,500 people already work there and that 8,000 will be employed once all Royal Navy submarines are transferred to the base in 2017.

Liberal Democrats leader and deputy prime minister Nick Clegg downplayed the significance of Mr Hammond’s announcement about spending.

The £350 million investment is part of a £3 billion (€3.7 billion)commitment made in May 2011 to fund preliminary planning for Trident’s replacements – Mr Clegg said it was “not new money”.

However, 10 Downing Street said London remained committed to having a continuous seaborne nuclear deterrent. “What the Liberal Democrats are reviewing here are any other ways of providing that deterrent at a lower cost,” a spokesman said.

The Trident issue will play significantly during the referendum campaign. “The only way we can rid our country of Trident is by voting Yes in 2014,” Ms Sturgeon said.