Scotland warned Nato membership could be in jeopardy
Expulsion of Trident nuclear base would not be acceptable, say former army and navy officers
A trident submarine makes its way out from Faslane naval base in Scotland. Scottish first minister Alex Salmond said the British government’s long-standing plan to spend £100 billion on a replacement for the Trident missiles is obscene. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation “could hardly be expected” to accept an independent Scotland as a member if it expels the United Kingdom’s Trident nuclear missile base from the river Clyde, British former military chiefs have said.
The warning from the retired officers, including ex-heads of the British army and the Royal Navy, came in a letter to Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, who is leading the pro-independence referendum campaign. An expulsion of Trident from its Faslane base would “put in jeopardy the continued operation of the UK independent nuclear deterrent – a deterrent which protects not only the UK but all of Nato as well”, the letter read.
Last year, the Scottish National Party government published a White Paper in which it described Trident as “an affront to basic decency with its indiscriminate and inhumane destructive power”.
The letter, penned by former first sea lord and chief of naval staff Mark Stanhope, is cosigned by four former chiefs of the defence staff – Graham Eric Stirrup, Michael Walker, Michael Boyce and Charles Guthrie – among others.
In it, the former officers said the United States and France would be “particularly concerned at the risk that an independent Scotland was effectively pushing a unilateral nuclear disarmament agenda that they and Nato have consistently opposed. They would also view with alarm the white-paper suggestion of a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons in Scotland – a move which would be unacceptable for Nato allies.”
In a speech in Aberdeen on Saturday, Mr Salmond said the British government’s long-standing plan to spend £100 billion on a replacement for the Trident missiles is obscene, insisting a Yes vote on September 18th will mean the removal of the missiles “once and for all”.
“This, then, is what we mean by a choice between two futures,” he told the Scottish National Party conference, adding that Westminster wants nuclear weapons “that can destroy the world”, while an independent Scotland would build a childcare system that “will be the envy of the world”.
In Glasgow yesterday, British defence secretary Philip Hammond said the future of Faslane would be one of the issues that would have to be negotiated if Scotland votes Yes in September. The talks would be “long and protracted” if an independent Scottish government insisted Trident “has to go”, he said.
The defence industry in Scotland employs nearly 13,000 , he said, generating sales of nearly £2 billion annually.