Defence secretary says decommissioning of nuclear submarine bases must be viewed in light of Scottish independence vote
It would take at least a decade to dismantle the Trident nuclear weapons submarine base in Scotland, the defence secretary told MPs on Tuesday.
He also told the Commons defence committee that he doubted whether an independent Scotland would be able to benefit from the existing “Five Eyes” intelligencenetwork between the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The electronic eavesdropping alliance, also known by its codename, Echelon, has featured in documents leaked to the Guardian by the US whistleblower, Edward Snowden.
Hammond’s evidence related mainly to Scotland’s role as the only Trident base in the UK and its defence industry. “If removing the nuclear deterrent was the number one priority [of an independent Scottish government] we are talking of the order of a decade”, Hammond said.
Questioned by MPs, he said later the cost of decommissioning and dismantling nuclear submarines would be enormous, and described it as a problem for the whole UK.
He said there were 27 nuclear-powered submarines in Rosyth dockyard on the river Clyde waiting to be decommissioned and broken up. Some MPs on the committee questioned the figure.
The Ministry of Defence had not drawn up “specific contingency plans” in the event of a yes vote in next year’s referendum on Scottish independence, Hammond said. That was because the government took the view that it did not expect a yes vote.
Any agreement allowing an independent Scotland access to Five Eyes intercepts would depend on its ability to add “significant intelligence or analysis value” to that intelligence alliance. That might be challenging, Hammond told the committee.