‘Scotland and the UK would reach agreement on Trident’s permanent removal’

SCOTTISH and and UK ministers would have to reach an agreement on the removal of Trident from the Clyde if Scotland became independent, according to a leading scholar in defence policy.

However, Professor William Walker said as a temporary measure the nuclear weapons system would continue to be situated at Faslane, with the base leased out to the UK Government.

His intervention comes amid an ongoing debate over independence and a new push by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to hold a second referendum on 19 October next year.

Writing in the Herald on Sunday, on the final day of the latest instalment of our Scotland’s Future series, which has been focused on defence and international relations, he said: “Come what may, Edinburgh and London would be compelled to forge an agreement on the nuclear future after a yes vote.

“Success would depend on mutual acceptance of two guiding assumptions: Trident’s operation out of the Clyde required extension; and the extension could not be indefinite.”

Mr Walker, who is emeritus professor in the School of International Relations at St Andrews University, added that the agreement would cover both a short term arrangement for Trident to remain at Faslane and the long term withdrawal goal.

“The treaty on continuation would need to cover the terms and conditions of leasing the bases (surely the only option), Scotland’s rights of consultation and decision, management and protection of waterways, transport of warheads, and policing and intelligence gathering among many things,” he said.

Professor Walker went on to say that if independence does take place in the coming years, the new state will probably step into “a febrile, polarised and dangerous” international environment in which it would need to forge close relationships.

He warned the new state would need to be able to compromise on a timetable to remove Trident though there would be a recognition internationally that in the longer term it would have to be removed. The SNP currently have a deadline of three years after independence.

“The United States and European allies can be expected to join the UK’s remnant in pressing for the submarine fleet’s stay in the Clyde,” he said.

“The rewards for Scotland’s making concessions would be substantial, as would be the costs of insistence on the nuclear bases’ early closure.”

He added: “That a sovereign Scottish state could have little or no say over the weapons’ deployment and use in war would also be hard to live with.”

Stewart McDonald, the SNP’s defence spokesman, said: “As an aspiring member of NATO, a non-nuclear independent Scotland would be in good company, joining a clear majority of non-nuclear members of the Alliance.

“Following a positive vote for independence, the UK’s nuclear arsenal will continue to belong to the UK government, and no government would ever agree to have their nuclear capability based permanently in a foreign country.

“It will be in both the UK government’s and Scottish Government’s interests to negotiate Trident’s removal as safely and swiftly as possible – not only because it’s what the Scottish people and their parliament want, but because it would also be in the best interests of an independent Scotland’s closest ally: the UK.”

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