Tag Archives: Faslane

Trident submarine base: No 10 disowns MoD’s Faslane sovereignty proposal

Whitehall row and SNP anger ignites over report of plans to make naval base UK territory if Scots vote for independence

Faslane naval base in Scotland which hosts the UK's nuclear submarines

Faslane naval base in Scotland which hosts the UK’s nuclear submarines.

A furious behind-the-scenes row has prompted Downing Street to disown a proposal to designate as sovereign UK territory the Scottish naval base that hosts Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent, in the event of Scottish independence.

No 10 rushed out a statement saying that it was neither “credible or sensible” to give the Faslane base the same status as the British sovereign military bases in Cyprus, following an argument involving senior members of the cabinet and the former chancellor Alistair Darling.

Amid an angry reaction from the Scottish National party (SNP), which drew parallels with Saddam Hussein’s annexation of Kuwait, a No 10 spokesman said: “This government has not commissioned contingency plans over Faslane. No such ideas have come to the secretary of state or the prime minister. They would not support them if they did. It is not a credible or sensible idea.”

Downing Street swung into action after Darling, who heads the pro-UK Better Together campaign, telephoned No 10 on Thursday morning to warn about the impact of a report in the Guardian about the Faslane base on Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute.

The Guardian reported that Ministry of Defence officials were starting to examine plans to designate the Faslane base as a Sovereign Base Area along the lines of its military bases in Cyprus.

The report dominated the morning lobby briefing in No 10, usually chaired by David Cameron, after the MoD confirmed the report in an email to the BBC late on Wednesday night.

A decision was taken to try to kill the story after the unit in No 10, run by Andy Dunlop who co-ordinates the government’s handling of the independence referendum, issued a stern warning that the sovereign base idea was a gift to the SNP.

One source close to a senior cabinet minister said of the MoD’s interest in the sovereign base idea: “What a ridiculous thing to say. Talk about handing a gift on a plate to the SNP.”

The SNP accused Westminster on Wednesday night of seeking to bullyScotland. Speaking during the weekly session of business questions,Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar said: “May we have a debate on the dangers and evils of imperialism and annexation of another country’s territory, whether it be Saddam Hussein in Kuwait or, at the other end of the spectrum, the Westminster government who, as the front page of the Guardian reports, are bullying Scotland as part of ‘project fear? Free peoples across the world will condemn that and stand with Scotland in the name of freedom.”

Darling was understood to be particularly concerned because he feared that the MoD’s proposals for Faslane would undermine the central theme of a major lecture he gave at the University of Glasgow on Thursday on the referendum. The former chancellor he said he wanted Scots to make a positive choice to remain in the UK and “not merely to reject the risks and uncertainties of independence”.

It is understood that a senior official from Darling’s Better Together campaign telephoned the No 10 Scottish referendum unit late on Wednesday night to express deep alarm about the Faslane plan. The group was assured that the No 10 unit was equally appalled that the private thinking of the MoD on such a sensitive matter had entered the public domain.

One source in the Better Together campaign said: “We phoned Downing Street to bluntly ask what was going on. They were already on to it.”

Darling, who called No 10 himself, showed his irritation after his speech in Glasgow. Picking up on the submarine theme, he said: “It was a row that quickly surfaced and equally quickly it was sunk. It was a frankly ridiculous proposal to suggest we could possibly designate part of Scotland as different from the rest. I am glad the UK government has hit it hard on the head – that’s exactly what it deserved.

“Any normal person looking at it for more than 10 seconds would come to the view that this was something that should just go straight into the bucket.”

The Guardian reported on Wednesday night that MoD officials were starting to examine plans to ensure that the Vanguard submarines could remain at the deep-water Faslane base and nuclear warheads could continue to be stored at the nearby Coulport base on Loch Long. The Guardian reported that, ahead of next year’s referendum, the MoD was officially working on only one option for the Faslane base – a defeat for the SNP. An MoD spokesperson told the Guardian: “No contingency plans are being made to move Trident out of Scotland. The scale and cost of any potential relocation away from Faslane would be enormous.”

But a defence source said the idea of designating Faslane as sovereign UK territory in the event of an SNP victory was being taken seriously. The source said: “It would cost a huge amount of money, running into tens of billions of pounds, to decommission Faslane. Those costs would be factored into any negotiations on an independence settlement. The sovereign base area is an option. It is an interesting idea because the costs of moving out of Faslane are eye wateringly high.” A version of this was emailed to the BBC, which ran a story on its website with the headline: “Faslane Trident base could be in UK after Scottish independence”. The MoD emailed the BBC to say: “The sovereign base area is an option. It is an interesting idea.”

Source – The Guardian

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UK – Nuclear submarines banned on two lochs following safety failures

DEFENCE watchdogs took action after Navy exercises at Loch Goil and Loch Ewe showed up inadequate plans in the event of accidents.

HMS Ambush
HMS Ambush
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NUCLEAR submarines have been banned from two lochs over safety fears.

Three Royal Navy exercises to test responses to simulated submarine accidents in March and April failed assessments by Government safety regulators.

And the MoD’s internal watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator (DNSR), have responded by imposing the ban.

It prohibits nuclear subs from berthing in Loch Goil, near the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, and in Loch Ewe in Wester Ross.

Nuclear subs have been banned from Loch Goil

Loch Goil

 Loch Goil is used for testing the noise range of the Navy’s 11 nuclear subs to ensure they can navigate oceans undetected.

But the DNSR are demanding a satisfactory rerun of Exercise Strathport, which was staged last month, before the subs are allowed in the loch again.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation, who work with the DNSR, said: “Exercise Strathport was deemed an inadequate demonstration as their plan was considered inadequate.

“This needs to be revised and reissued, after which the DNSR and ONR will reinspect as a basis for providing consent to use Loch Goil on a case-by-case basis.”

Nuclear subs have been banned from Loch Ewe

Loch Ewe

Emergency exercises at Loch Ewe have been plagued with problems for years, prompting the DNSR to secretly ban submarines from the loch in 2008.

An exercise late last year failed “due to an inadequate plan, communications and facilities”, said the ONR spokesman.

The DNSR have also ordered an emergency exercise at the nuclear weapons depot at Coulport, near Faslane, to be rerun.

The specifics of the exercises are classified so it is not known what failures were recorded. But in past exercises, there have been communication breakdowns, radiation exposure risks and
failures to properly account for the number of casualties.

John Ainslie, of Scottish CND, said: “We cannot sleep easily in our beds so long as these floating Chernobyls remain in our lochs. The MoD has been given a red card by its own internal regulator. It is clearly not ready to respond to a nuclear accident at Coulport, Loch Goil or Loch Ewe.”

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson promised to raise questions in Parliament.

He said: “Any suggestion that there are inadequate safety plans in place will be deeply disturbing to the local communities and to Scotland as a whole.”

The MoD last night declined to say what impact the loch bans might have on their submarine operations.

A spokesman said: “The MoD takes its nuclear safety responsibilities seriously and conducts regular training to maintain high standards.

“We are taking steps to address issues raised by regulators following recent exercises but there is no risk of harm to the public or to the environment. The Royal Navy continues to operate submarines safely out of HM Naval Base Clyde.”

Source – Daily Record

Barrow built submarine due to be commissioned into Royal Navy today

HMS Ambush off Rhu spit near Faslane

BARROW-built Ambush is due to officially join the Royal Navy today.

A commissioning ceremony will take place at Faslane naval base on the Clyde where the 7,400-tonne sub will officially become “Her Majesty’s Ship”, or HMS Ambush. The second Astute-class attack submarine was launched in January 2011 at BAE Systems shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria. The nuclear-powered submarine arrived at her home port of HM Naval Base Clyde in September last year where she has undergone extensive sea trials. Ambush is 97 metres-long and holds around 100 personnel. She travels at a speed of up to 30 knots.

Source – North West Evening mail

UK – Amec appeal refused over £94m costs on submarine job

 Screen Shot 2013-02-12 at 07.55.42

Amec’s legal battle to reduce the amount it must pay of a £93.6m cost overrun on a nuclear submarine jetty contract at Faslane has failed.

Now Amec and partners Morgan Sindall face a huge bill as they hammer out with the Ministry of Defence what proportion of cost overruns were properly incurred on the troubled project.

A costly legal battle has been running as both firms struggled to finish the Faslane SSN Berthing Project, first revealed in the Enquirer, more than four years late and at an expected final cost of £235.7m.

When the project was first awarded Amec was sole contractor for the jetty. But after Morgan Sindall acquired Amec’s construction arm for £26m back in 2007, the job became a 50:50 joint venture between the two firms.

Under the terms of the contract, the contractors are liable to pay the first £50m of overruns on the agreed maximum target price for the job, which has itself already risen from £89m to £142m.

This element was not challenged in the latest legal contest, but Amec held that the remaining £43.6m cost overrun should be split between client and contractor, with Amec due any costs howsoever incurred.

An arbitration panel rejected this saying the only costs payable were the actual costs reasonably and properly incurred within the contract.

A High Court judge has now refused Amec’s attempt to appeal this decision in a written ruling this week upholding the arbitration decision.

Source – Construction Enquirer

UK – Ruling on submarine facility costs

Faslane Naval Base (Scotland)

The cost of creating a nuclear submarine support facility at a Royal Navy base could be £145 million more than the initial estimate, a High Court judge has said.

Experts originally quoted an £89 million target figure for the facility at the Faslane base in Argyll and Bute, said Mr Justice Coulson.

The current “agreed maximum price” was around £140 million, said the judge. But engineers thought that the “ultimate cost” could be as much as £235.7 million.

Details emerged after lawyers debated terms of a contract, drawn up when the Ministry of Defence (MoD) engaged engineering firm Amec in 2000, at the High Court in London.

Mr Justice Coulson said the MoD and Amec could not agree on who should foot the “extensive overrun” bill.

The judge said a difficulty had arisen out of “badly worded” contract provisions.

He decided that the MoD should pay a “reasonable” amount but not costs incurred as a consequence of Amec’s contract breaches.

His ruling did not specify exactly how much of the overspend would be footed by the MoD and how much by Amec.

He had heard legal argument at a hearing in December and published a written judgment.

Source – Paisley Daily Express

Plymouth to lose more than 600 Royal Navy jobs

MORE than 600 Navy jobs will be lost from Devonport when the base’s nuclear submarines move to Scotland.

The grim revelation is set to fuel calls for the next generation of warships to be based in Plymouth to “backfill” the personnel gap left by the subs’ departure.

  1. submarine

    The Ministry of Defence says about 630 military personnel are due to transfer to Faslane when the five Trafalgar-class hunter-killers relocate.

It was unable to say what impact the change would have on civilian staff, but it was not expected to “lead to any significant changes” in the number at Devonport.

The decision to make Faslane the dedicated home for the UK’s entire submarine fleet was taken under the last Labour Government and so has been known for some years.

But it is the first time the impact on manpower has been revealed.

Plymouth has already suffered from redundancies and the scrapping of warships as part of the biggest round of defence cuts since the end of the Cold War.

The latest news will lend added urgency to a campaign to bring the hi-tech Type 26 Global Combat Ship to Devonport.

Due to enter service after 2020, they will replace the Type 23 frigates, seven of which continue to be based in Plymouth after ministers lifted the threat of a move to Portsmouth last year.

Three of Devonport’s five Trafalgar class subs – Trenchant, Talent and Triumph, are to move to Scotland by 2017, where they will join the nuclear-armed Vanguard fleet and new Astute boats as they enter service. The other two, Tireless and Torbay, will be decommissioned.

That not only has implications for the dockyard’s workload and the knock-on effect for jobs, but also the economic benefit generated by naval personnel and their families.

Base-porting on the Clyde has become central to the high-profile debate on Scottish independence.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) is demanding the submarine-based nuclear deterrent is removed in the event of a vote to go it alone in 2014. Continue reading