Tag Archives: SNP

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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Fears over Rosyth nuclear submarine waste

The issue of storing retired nuclear submarine at Rosyth has been a source of anger.

SCOTLAND has been chosen for the pilot project to break up some of Britain’s old nuclear submarines, prompting fears it could become a dumping ground for radioactive waste.

 

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials will test the removal of reactors in Rosyth, but politicians and anti-nuclear campaigners have hit out at the plans, fearing nuclear waste will be dumped in the area.

A total of 27 submarines are to be dismantled at UK naval bases, with one at Rosyth the first to be cut up.

The Fife yard has been home to the old vessels for years, but concerns have been raised that the site could become a toxic dump after the MoD ordered the “demonstration of the radioactive waste removal process”.

However, the pilot will not go ahead until a storage facility for the waste is identified and further consultation is undertaken, expected to start next year.

SNP defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said: “The Ministry of Defence’s approach to nuclear safety in Scotland clearly leaves a lot to be desired.

“Instead of experimenting with cutting up these submarines and worrying about the consequences later, the MoD needs to put a credible plan in place for what to do with the radioactive parts of these subs before it begins work.”

The Nuclear Submarine Forum, a coalition of pressure groups, has called for an end to building such vessels until a proper way of dealing with the resulting waste is found.

Jane Tallents of the forum, said: “Communities and local councils close to the Rosyth and Devonport have said clearly that the dockyards are not suitable sites for the storage of radio- active waste from submarine dismantling. We will be watching the MoD to ensure they stick to their promise that no radioactive waste will be removed from submarines until a storage solution has been agreed.”

There are seven retired vessels understood to be at Rosyth: Britain’s first nuclear submarine, HMS Dreadnought, HMS Churchill, HMS Resolution, HMS Repulse, HMS Renown, HMS Revenge and HMS Swiftsure. Another eight are in Devonport, in south-west England, including the Churchill-class HMS Conqueror, which sank the Belgrano during the Falklands War in 1982.

More vessels are due for decommissioning, bringing the total to at least 27.

Minister of state for defence equipment, support and technology, Philip Dunne, said the most radioactive part of a submarine – the 70-tonne reactor pressure vessel – will be removed intact and stored whole.

He added that an interim storage site for “intermediate level waste” – the classification for the fuel that once powered the nuclear vessels – could be found in any “UK nuclear licensed and authorised sites that might be suitable”.

More than 1200 people were consulted before the MoD made the decision, said a spokeswoman.

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) regulates the disposal of nuclear waste in Scotland, as laid out under the Radioactive Substances Act 1993. The MoD is largely exempt from the act, but insisted it would work with Sepa on the pilot at Rosyth.

A Sepa spokeswoman said: “Now that Rosyth has been selected, we will require any radioactive waste generated at Rosyth to be properly disposed of.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government declined to comment, directing The Scotsman instead to the SNP.

Source – Scotsman

 

Devonport – Nuclear accident at Dockyard “would cause thousands of deaths” campaigners say

  1. HMS Vanguard, one of the Trident-carrying submarines, arriving at Devonport naval base

    HMS Vanguard, one of the Trident-carrying submarines, arriving at Devonport naval base

THE Ministry of Defence has not ruled out the possibility of moving Britain’s nuclear armed submarines to the Devonport naval base, despite safety concerns from campaigners.

The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) asked the MOD whether the fleet of armed Vanguard class submarines carrying Trident missiles could move from its current home in Faslane in Scotland to Devonport.

The response stated that neither the Devonport Naval Base nor the dockyard would safely permit the berthing of an armed Vanguard submarine.

But the campaigners were also told the MOD’s internal safety watchdog, the Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator, “has not provided any advice” on the feasibility of docking a Vanguard class submarine at Devonport.

John Ainslie, co-ordinator of Scottish CND, has drawn up a report looking at the risk of nuclear contamination in Plymouth in the event of a serious accident.

He told The Herald: “If Scotland were to go independent there are questions over what would happen to Trident. I have always been a bit wary about how easy it would be to move them.

“I was thinking they would have real problems basing them at Devonport because of the whole safety issue.

“You have got such a high population close to the submarine base at Devonport, there would be a very serious risk of fatalities and so forth.

“A missile accident at Devonport, in the centre of Plymouth, could result in thousands of deaths.

“In addition, a large proportion of the city would be abandoned for hundreds of years.”

Scotland is due to vote on independence in 2014, and the SNP has stated it hopes to remove Trident missiles from Faslane.

But an MOD spokesman said there are currently no plans to move the submarine fleet.

Ian Ballantyne, editor of Warships magazine, said in the event of Scottish independence Devonport would be the only feasible alternative for the submarines.

“They already spend years of their lives here, they already come and go and get re-fitted at Devonport,” he said.

“If Scotland goes independent and says ‘take your nuclear submarines away’ then they would have to operate from Devonport. “There is no way if we are a nation that operates nuclear submarines they would go anywhere else.”

Source – This is Plymouth