SCOTLAND could see the end of nuclear weapons on the Clyde within three years of a Yes vote under radical new plans be put to the SNP annual conference.
A resolution is to be submitted to the event this October setting out the time frame for the first time.
If it is passed the motion would become a central SNP policy ahead of the Holyrood election, expected to be fought on the issue of Scottish independence.
The new commitment would go further than the Scottish Government position ahead of the 2014 referendum which pledged to remove Trident but did not give a timescale. It would also update the SNP’s current policy which says the process of removing nuclear weapons should be done “speedily”.
A motion sent to party branches drafted by SNP CND and seen by the Sunday National says: “Conference reaffirms its policy, the Roadmap for Trident Removal, as accepted in 2018. Conference therefore sets SNP policy a timescale of three calendar years after the declaration of the result of a successful Scottish independence referendum for the removal of the Trident missile system and their launch platform, the Vanguard-class submarines, as a first step.”
Bill Ramsay, convener of SNP CND, warned setting the timescale was vital as he believed the UK could put pressure on an independent Scotland to seek to use Faslane as a base for its new Dreadnought submarines in the coming years.
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He said: “The three-year timescale is ambitious but SNP CND believe it is technically feasible. As happened with our successful Roadmap for Trident Removal motion in 2018, we would expect the motion to be discussed widely in the party and given that SNP CND believe important decisions be taken democratically the final wording would be for the party members to decide.
The rUK will want to extend the time frame with the aim of having the replacements to the Vanguard-class subs, the Dreadnoughts, be based on the Clyde, certainly for over five years, and then aim for the lifetime of the Dreadnought-class boats which is into the second half of the century.”
The development comes amid a debate about whether the Faslane base could – or should – be rented out to the UK Government by an independent Scotland to generate finances for public spending by the new state.
Prominent Yes supporter Pat Kane argued in The National last week Faslane must not be rented out as he responded to a suggestion by writer Gerry Hassan that the idea should be contemplated.
The discussion also follows an article written last year by Trevor Royle, a defence analyst and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, who argued Scotland could follow Iceland which leased its air force base to America from 1949 to 2006 to generate revenue in the first decades of becoming independent from Denmark.
“Faslane is an extraordinary asset, but it will be the elephant in the room should Scotland gain independence in the immediate future,” he stated in a piece in the Sunday Times last August.
“This represents a challenge and an opportunity. Given the strategic importance of Faslane and the undoubted importance of submarines in modern naval operations, not least in intelligence gathering, why doesn’t Scotland follow Iceland’s example and lease the base to Nato, just as our northern neighbour did with the air force base at Keflavik — a crucial asset from 1949 until 2006?”
He added: “I am opposed to nuclear weapons on grounds of cost, morality and lack of effectiveness, but an independent Scotland will not be so awash with cash that it can ignore an asset such as Faslane, which could attract a rental of £1.1 billion a year.”
Ramsay has written a report warning of the dangers of an independent Scotland coming under pressure from the UK over leasing out the Faslane nuclear base.
He suspects experts are already working on such plans, although he believes any such suggestion would be denied.
He told the Sunday National: “Contingency planning is bread and butter work for military staffs the world over, it is no different for the Royal Navy. When viewed from a Unionist perspective, it of course makes political sense to deny that such contingency planning makes sense. However even cursory examination of such an assertion reveals that it’s not credible.”
Ramsay believes with the prospect of a new referendum military experts may be working on a post-independence offer.
He told the Sunday National: “SNP CND believes that, irrespective of the timing of indyref2, preparatory work needs to start sooner rather than later.
“SNP CND will be circulating a draft motion to SNP branches for their consideration as they start to look at policy formulation for the 2021 SNP Scottish parliamentary election manifesto.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is a long-standing critic of nuclear weapons and ahead of the General Election in December last year made the commitment to scrap Trident as one of her red lines for the SNP supporting Labour in the event of a hung parliament.