The Government has said there are “no plans” to move the UK nuclear deterrent, after reports of secret contingency plans for the submarines in the event of Scottish independence.
The UK’s nuclear submarines are housed at Royal Navy bases in Coulport and Faslane on the west coast of Scotland, but “senior officials” have told the Financial Times that secret plans could see them moved to naval bases in the US or France if Scotland voted yes in a second referendum.
The newspaper also reported that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) could keep them within an independent Scotland by buying a long-term lease on the two naval bases, creating a new British Overseas Territory.
However, a spokesperson for the MoD denied there were any plans to move the submarines.
The spokesperson said: “The UK is strongly committed to maintaining its credible and independent nuclear deterrent at HM Naval Base Clyde, which exists to deter the most extreme threats to the UK and our Nato allies.
“There are no plans to move the nuclear deterrent from HM Naval Base Clyde (Faslane), which contributes to Scotland’s and the wider UK’s security and economy, and its supporting facilities are safe for local communities.”
The Financial Times cited “several senior officials” who had been briefed on plans for what would happen to the UK’s nuclear deterrent if Scotland voted yes in a second independence referendum.
According to the newspaper, the preferred option would be to move the nuclear deterrent to the Royal Navy base at Devonport in Plymouth.
Allied naval bases in the US and France are also reportedly being considered for the fleet.
Another option said to be under consideration is to negotiate a new British Overseas Territory described as a “Nuclear Gibraltar” within Scotland, with the UK Government leasing Faslane and Coulport from the independent Scottish government.
Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP Scottish Government was re-elected in the polls in May’s election, with the First Minister promising a second referendum on independence.
The SNP agreed a power-sharing deal with the Scottish Green Party in August, which has put the Greens into government for the first time in the UK.
As a result of the deal, Ms Sturgeon has insisted she has an “undeniable” mandate for indyref2, as the two parties together hold 72 of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament.
The SNP has long opposed the UK’s nuclear deterrent, and has previously called for Trident missiles not to be renewed.