SNP’s Trident hopes in tatters as UK’s ‘power’ gives it ‘economic leverage’ over Scotland

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The Scottish National Party (SNP) recently renewed its pledge to get rid of the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent if Scotland becomes independent. The party, led by Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, last month ruled out the idea of nuclear weapons remaining in the country in the hypothetical scenario that it seceded from the UK. The SNP’s reaffirmation of its anti-nuclear stance came amid a report that the UK Government had hatched plans to create a British overseas territory to house Trident in the event of Scottish independence.

The article by the Financial Times, which cited senior Whitehall sources, said that civil servants had also been looking at the possibility of moving Trident from its current locations on the River Clyde to France or the US.

The SNP has framed the independence debate as a case of “when” Scotland votes to break away from the UK rather than “if”.

Westminster would need to back referendum legislation tabled by Holyrood in order for Scots to be given a vote on their future.

However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has consistently signalled his opposition to Scotland holding a public vote on independence.

Now, a nuclear weapons and politics expert has told Express.co.uk that Westminster’s “power” gives it “economic leverage” over Scotland on independence and Trident.

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Dr Nick Ritchie, a senior lecturer at the University of York, said the SNP’s options with Trident will partly rest on the “asymmetries of power between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK”.

The SNP, he said, may have to compromise on its anti-nuclear stance because of the “importance” it had placed on securing its economic demands for an independent Scotland.

He said these include: “Continuing to use Sterling, an equitable division of sovereign debt, an equitable division of pension liabilities, support for – or at least not outright obstruction from London – for Scotland’s entry into a whole range of international institutions.”

He added: “There’s a negotiation to be had there.

“Assuming there is a government in London that is as equally committed as the Conservatives are now to retaining Trident, then that is one of its main negotiating cards, I think, with a future independent Scottish Government.

“If independence happens in 10 to 15 years, then there could be a different government in London at the time that is more open to radically scaling down or even over time disarming.”

Ms Sturgeon’s hopes of achieving her lifelong goal of independence were boosted after she led the SNP to victory at the May election.

Her party secured a fourth consecutive term in office but failed to win a majority in the Scottish Parliament.

Following the result, she promised to hold an independence referendum by 2023 as long as the COVID-19 situation permits.

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A so-called ‘Indyref2’ would follow Scotland’s last public vote on the issue in 2014, which saw Scots reject breaking away from the UK.

Dr Ritchie claimed that London could also frustrate Edinburgh’s attempts to hold a referendum, giving it “leverage” over the Scottish Government on Trident.

He added: “It will come down to economics and the economic relationship between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.

“Because, to a certain extent it might be a bit of biting your nose off to spite your face.

“But I think London can make life economically very difficult if it wanted to for an independent Scotland in terms of that process of attaining independence.

“Or it could make it as smooth as possible and I think that that will be the bargaining position.

“You give us what we want in terms of a sovereign base carved out of the newly independent Scottish territory that would have the naval base on the Clyde.

“There must be a whole lot of other agreements around that to enable the actual functioning of the Trident submarines.”
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