Some U.K. Conservative Party leaders are said to support temporarily basing British nuclear arms in the United States if they are expelled from Scotland.
The Tory-led coalition government in London is fiercely opposed to a campaign sponsored by Scottish nationalists to secede from the United Kingdom. If voters choose independence in a September referendum, the locally governing Scottish National Party has vowed to quickly begin removing from Scotland all nuclear-armed Trident D-5 missiles — and ultimately the submarines that carry them — by 2020.
London has not officially acknowledged any contingency scenarios for a possible future in which the nuclear-armed fleet of four Vanguard-class vessels is ordered out of an independent Scotland.
Privately, however, some senior Conservative members think the submarines and weapons could be temporarily sent to the United States, the Glasgow Herald reported on Saturday. The two allies have a longstanding cooperation agreement related to equipping and maintaining the U.K. submarines with the Trident missiles.
“Trident could go to America if Scotland votes for independence,” an anonymous Conservative source told the newspaper. “It would not be ideal for the U.K.’s nuclear deterrent to be based outside the U.K. But it would be a perfectly doable solution in the short term, as a ‘stop gap’ measure.”
Under such a scenario, the fleet would be returned to the United Kingdom as a home base once new facilities have been constructed to replace the lost sites in Scotland.
A 2012 report by a British parliamentary panel recommended the government weigh temporarily relocating some Vanguard submarines to the U.S. Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in southeast Georgia; navy facilities in France were also suggested as a potential hosting solution.
Meanwhile, a new British Defence Ministry report has disclosed that there were more than 260 atomic-safety incidents at its nuclear facilities in Scotland in the last half-decade, RIA Novosti reported on Monday.
The ministry said human error was responsible for 75 percent of the incidents, which included “false alarms and system failures” for computers that oversee warheads.