The British fleet of nuclear missile-carrying submarines is housed and loaded at Faslane and Coulport in western Scotland. The SNP has pledged to get rid of Scotland’s Trident nuclear deterrent if the country votes to leave the UK in another independence referendum. The Scots rejected independence in a public vote in 2014. Boris Johnson’s UK government is strongly opposed to an independent Scotland and has said efforts to prosecute so-called ‘Indyref2’ are ‘irresponsible and reckless’ .
The nuclear issue is on the agenda of the SNP’s national conference, which is being held at a distance this weekend.
On Sunday, delegates will consider a motion that “calls on a future SNP government of independent Scotland to withdraw nuclear weapons from Scotland within three years”.
A proposal to change the declaration says the Scottish government is expected to “start practical work on removing nuclear weapons within three years”.
The Scottish Trident housing issue has returned to the forefront of public debate since Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon led the SNP to victory in the May parliamentary elections.
Along with independence, the removal of Trident has become one of the key issues the party has campaigned on in recent years.
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However, according to Dr Nick Ritchie of the University of York, the SNP’s anti-nuclear stance risks creating a deep rift within the party.
In an unearthed 2017 article published in “The Nonproliferation Review”, the international security lecturer explains the dangers of the SNP defining itself by its opposition to Trident.
The document reads: “Whatever the interpretation of its origins, the anti-nuclear position has become integral to the identity of the party and its very conception of an independent Scotland.
“The SNP is now trapped in the rhetorical trap of its arguments, forced to comply with them, and has become, in part, made up of them.
“To renege on a central, even totemic, electoral promise of disarmament would entail a considerable political risk, would undermine the credibility of the party and would invite a deep internal split. “
The academic said the effect of the removal of Trident on the UK “would be almost as profound as the loss of Scotland itself”.
The idea of repatriating Trident has also reportedly received in-depth scrutiny in Westminster recently.
A Financial Times report earlier this month claimed officials had made contingency plans to move Trident bases from Scotland to the United States or France in the event of independence.
The report, which cited high-level government sources, said another proposal being assessed was to create a British territory within an independent Scotland so that the government could continue to house Trident there.
Responding to the report, the SNP said in a statement: “The plans disclosed in the Financial Times are a sign that the UK government recognizes the unwavering opposition to nuclear weapons that is found not only within the SNP, but across the country. Scottish political and civic life.
“With a clear multi-party majority of Scottish elected officials in Holyrood and Westminster who are committed to a world without nuclear weapons, there is no possible parliamentary arithmetic that would allow these weapons to remain in Faslane after a yes vote.”
A UK government spokesperson denied the report, saying he was “strongly committed” to maintaining nuclear deterrence in Scotland.
They said: “There are no plans to relocate the nuclear deterrent from HM Clyde (Faslane) Naval Base.”