Scottish Leader: Nuclear Arms Could be Removed in 2016

Global Security Newswire Staff
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Global Security Newswire Staff
Oct. 21, 2013, 7:02 a.m.

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.”

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