An independent Scotland could wait until 2016 to order the removal of British nuclear weapons in the event a planned 2014 succession vote is successful, the head of the locally governing Scottish National Party said on Sunday.
SNP leader and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond in an interview with the BBC indicated the expulsion of British ballistic missile submarines and their nuclear warheads would be contingent upon the Scottish National Party winning Scotland's first general election as an independent nation in May 2016, the London Guardian reported.
"The time period for their removal: once Scotland became independent and after, of course, people have elected their first government in an independent Scotland, but if it were to be an SNP government then we would ask the submarines to be removed from Scotland as soon as was safely possible," Salmond said.
The Scottish National Party last year said if voters choose secession in 2014, then leaders of the newly independent nation would "negotiate the speediest safe transition of the nuclear fleet from Faslane," where the United Kingdom's fleet of four Vanguard-class submarines armed with Trident ballistic missiles are based. London has pushed for the SNP to provide more specifics about its timetable for the removal of the nuclear weapons from Scotland. A British parliamentary committee last October concluded that nuclear weapons in Scotland "could be disarmed within days and removed within months" of a 2014 vote in favor of succession.
Salmond's remarks suggest a lengthier timetable than what was earlier feared by the British government. The extended schedule would give the United Kingdom more time to figure out where it will base its nuclear weapons if Scotland is no longer an option and could open the way for a compromise to be reached on Scotland's desire to be admitted to NATO as a nuclear-free nation. London previously said Scotland's admittance to the alliance would be contingent upon there first being in place a mutually acceptable agreement on the disposition of the SSBN fleet. SNP leaders have made NATO membership a cornerstone of their plan for Scotland's national defense.
"Trident would certainly be part of negotiations [with the British government] following a yes vote," SNP defense spokesman Angus Robertson said. "Of course Trident could only be removed from Scotland once Scotland becomes and independent country, and SNP policy on that is clear, which is at the earliest possible safe moment."