Thursday 7 March 2013
[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair]
Scottish Referendum (Trident)
[Relevant documents: The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Terminating Trident—Days or Decades? Fourth Report of the Scottish Affairs Committee, HC 676, and the Government Response, HC 861, and the response from the Scottish Government, contained in a letter from the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, to the Chair of the Committee, copies of which are available in the Vote Office.]
Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—(Greg Hands.)
This debate is about the consequences of separation. Independence would mean the separation of the United Kingdom armed forces into a Scottish section and a United Kingdom section. The Select Committee on Scottish Affairs therefore felt that it was important that we thoroughly explored what the consequences of separation would be for the people of Scotland.
As Members will no doubt be aware, we have been conducting a number of inquiries, partly about procedure but now mainly on issues of substance. It is our view that the people of Scotland must have put in front of them the full information about the consequences of separation. I am therefore particularly grateful for this debate, because Trident is obviously one of the most important single issues that will play a part in the dialogue after separation, should it happen.
The theme of our approach is taken from the words of Blair Jenkins, leader of the Yes Scotland campaign, who said in a Committee hearing:
“I think that in any referendum the onus is on the side of the campaign that is proposing a change to make the case for change. I have always accepted in this referendum that there is a fair onus, if you like, on the yes campaign to make the case for change.”
The Committee agrees. We believe that those arguing for separation must make the case for change by putting all the facts before the people of Scotland.
The Committee has made it clear that we believe that both sides in this debate—the Government and the various Ministries and those arguing for separation—should indicate much more openly than they have been willing to until now exactly how they intend to respond to various initiatives. In this case, having examined the matter in our report, we believe that the initiative now passes to those arguing for separation.
Our report is entitled “Days or decades?” because we believe that nuclear Trident could effectively be terminated in either days or decades. The onus now lies on the Scottish National party to clarify which it prefers. We had a meeting with shop stewards from Coulport and Faslane this morning; Martin McCurley, Jim Conroy and Richie Calder are all here in the Public Gallery. I name them so that their management will know that they have actually turned up here.
Neither I should. The shop stewards said to us this morning that they have 50 years of security from the United Kingdom for those employed at Faslane and Coulport. They outlined to us that they understand that they might get answers from those seeking separation in November, after the publication of a White Paper, or maybe earlier, but they have not been promised any clear, categorical assurances before that time.
Indeed. That is a very valuable point. At the moment, 6,700 jobs are based at Faslane and Coulport. Under the existing United Kingdom Government proposals, which I understand are supported by all parties, that number would rise to 8,200 in the fairly near future. We have the opportunity to balance 50 years of security of employment and job growth with the United Kingdom on one hand and the great unknown of separation on the other.
Indeed. Some 6,700 jobs would be lost. To be fair, many are naval jobs in uniform. Presumably many of those people would be relocated elsewhere, and therefore would not be directly made redundant, but the other jobs would obviously be lost if Faslane and Coulport were closed, as would all the support jobs in the community. It has been estimated that up to 11,000 jobs could be lost. The information that I have seen makes that figure higher; it suggests a multiplier of roughly 2.5 plus the additional jobs, or potentially about 19,000 jobs lost in the Faslane and Coulport area, which will clearly have a horrendous impact. It has not been made obvious what would replace those jobs or what alternative naval facilities would be provided there.
Before the hon. Gentleman moves on, does he share my concern and consider it to be extraordinary that the gentlemen who appeared before the Select Committee this morning have been seeking answers from the Scottish Government to perfectly reasonable questions, and that the Scottish Government, despite the fact that they have been considering separation for Scotland for decades, have refused to give any answers to those questions for at least another eight months? Does he agree that it is extraordinary that after decades of plans, it will take another eight months even to consider answering important questions?
My understanding is that the SNP has existed for some 80 years. It seems somewhat incredible that it has not thought through its plans for how separation would affect the armed forces in Scotland as a whole and Faslane and Coulport in particular, although it is fair to point out that one of the shop stewards at Coulport, in an e-mail exchange with the convenor of shop stewards at Rosyth, said of closure:
“I’d sacrifice for the better of the country.”
That was from an SNP councillor who is also a shop steward at Coulport, Mr Christopher McEleny. In his view, the sacrifice of those jobs would be worth it in the interests of Scotland. To be fair, he said that he did not think it would actually happen, although whether he meant Coulport jobs or Rosyth jobs is not entirely clear, but he was prepared to sacrifice a lot of other people’s jobs in the interests of separation.
The report is worth summarising quickly before I move on to other comments. It is our view, from the evidence that we heard, that nuclear weapons in Scotland could be disarmed within days and removed within months. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear!”] I am glad to hear Scottish Nationalist Members cheering that. If they accept that analysis, it means that there will not be any dispute about the fundamentals; it will then be a question of political will.
We as a Committee have accepted the analysis of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament that, with the co-operation of the Royal Navy and the UK Government, the process of disarming within days and removal within months could be both speedy and safe. Of course there would be consequences. We understand that it is likely to mean the unilateral nuclear disarmament of the United Kingdom, which I notice SNP Members have also cheered, because the construction of facilities elsewhere would take up to 25 years or so.
An insistence upon the speediest possible removal of nuclear weapons from a separate Scotland would obviously have consequences for other negotiations taking place at about the time of separation. Trident is the elephant in the room. It is likely to be the single most expensive item under discussion, and would spill over into all the rest of the dialogue, debate and discussion. The hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey), a former Defence Minister, whose presence in the Chamber today we welcome, gave us clear and explicit evidence of that. The conclusion of our summary, therefore, was that we wanted the UK Government and the Scottish Government to come clean with people in Scotland as quickly as possible about the consequences of separation and the removal of Trident. The onus now lies on the SNP and the Scottish Government to tell us the timetable that they intend to apply.
I congratulate my hon. Friend on his contribution so far. As he is aware, Trident is one of the systems based at Faslane. There are different views, which the Committee has no doubt heard, of how many jobs are directly reliant on Trident, but we also have seven Astute class submarines, eight Sandown class minehunters and the administrative headquarters at Faslane. Has he had any indication from the Scottish Government which parts they would wish realistically to retain?
The key word is “realistically”. We have not had any estimates from the Scottish Government that we regard as solid; we have had to search around. On the point about the number of jobs directly involved with Trident, the UK Government have made it absolutely clear that, on the solid trade union principle of “one out, all out”, if the Trident missile-firing submarines were removed from Faslane, everything else would go—the Trafalgar submarines, the Astute submarines and the headquarters. Within the United Kingdom, the intention is not only for 50 years of secure employment, but for Faslane and Coulport to become a centre of excellence for submarines for the entire United Kingdom. The new Trafalgar boats would therefore be moved there as and when, as well as the training facilities scattered throughout a number of locations in the United Kingdom, so that everything connected with submarines would be on the west coast of Scotland. That is why the number of jobs involved would go up from 6,700 to 8,200 over a period. It is security and growth with the United Kingdom and the great unknown with separation.
To return to the question of removing the nuclear deterrent from Scotland, the statements made so far have the merit of clarity: the SNP wants to remove Trident. Alex Salmond, the First Minister, has said that he wants a written constitution that includes
“an explicit ban on nuclear weapons being based on Scottish territory”.
Interestingly, that does not include a ban on nuclear weapons visiting Scottish territory. The SNP might well intend Scotland to be similar to Norway and Denmark, which have a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and therefore allow nuclear weapons in their waters and on their soil while pretending that they are not. No doubt we will get clarification on that in due course.
The key issue for us is, what are the parameters? Our role as a Committee is to provide information and evidence to the people of Scotland to inform their decisions. If the nuclear weapons are to be removed, we wished to establish the parameters within which that could be done. At one end of the range, according to the CND, it could be done quickly; at the other end, it would require 20 to 25 years to build alternative facilities. Somewhere within there, in the event of a separation decision, will come the solution. People in Scotland, in particular those employed at Faslane and Coulport, deserve to be told now which of those alternatives is favoured by the SNP; it is then the responsibility of the UK Government to respond. The Committee does not accept that it is reasonable for the UK Government not to say anything in such circumstances, but we understand that the first step has to be taken by the SNP, the forces of darkness in the Scottish Government.
The CND, from its evidence, clearly believes that the missiles can be disabled within days. Apparently, there is a fuse thing that can be pulled out, which effectively disables the missiles and means that they will not work any more. Those to whom I cannot refer will no doubt tell me that it is much more complicated than that, but that is the gist. There seemed to be general agreement that those fuses I pulled out could be put in the boot of my car—for the interest of the population, a Vauxhall Vectra, which is not a particularly specialist vehicle—and driven down to England, therefore being removed from Scotland. In such circumstances, the missiles would not work so, within eight days, the missiles could be disarmed, defused, defanged or whatever simile is wished. It would then take eight weeks for the warheads to be removed from the submarines—basically, a big hand comes down, grabs them up and puts them down. Again, the process is a bit more complicated, but that is the gist. Believe it or not, that takes people eight weeks. It is then anticipated that the removal of the nuclear weapons from Scotland would take two years—a figure based on the existing timetable for the replacement of the missiles, because they regularly get lifted out of the submarines in Coulport, with the warheads taken off to be polished or whatever, to be recycled and come back up.
The weapons, therefore, could realistically be removed from Scotland within two years. The subsequent disarming and so on would be a longer process, but that would take place in England; that would be the remaining United Kingdom’s position. No one has come forward to say that that timetable is not viable, feasible or safe. It comes down to a question of political will. The Scottish Government could not do that on their own, however, and they would require technical assistance from the Royal Navy and the Atomic Weapons Establishment in Aldermaston and elsewhere, but if there was co-operation, it could be achieved. That is one parameter: the weapons could be removed within that time scale.
The other parameter, if the United Kingdom wishes to retain a nuclear, at-sea deterrent, relates to the need to construct alternative facilities elsewhere in the United Kingdom or to base the missiles abroad in some way. Some who came to see us suggested that the missiles, warheads or boats could be based in France or the United States. The responses we have had, however, indicate that that is not as realistic as was once anticipated, so we are setting that option aside. We therefore want to focus on the other parameter, which is the replacement of Faslane.
Nuclear weapons require three functions: support facilities, docking, including loading, and maintenance. A number of alternative locations have been looked at: Devonport, Barrow, Milford Haven and a number of others. Opinion varies about the amount of work necessary for a relocation. One argument is that the facilities could be split. Faslane and Coulport are clearly separate facilities, but they are obviously proximate. The question is whether to have a 20-mile gap and so on, or more. It has been generally accepted that that could be done, but planning requirements are much more stringent now and our evidence indicated that 20 to 25 years is the most realistic estimate of how long it would take the United Kingdom to build replacement facilities, and there is an issue of whether it would want to do that. The political and economic costs of relocating Trident would be huge, and some of the arguments suggest that part of those costs would be borne by a separate Scottish Government. The cost of relocation would be imposed on the United Kingdom by a separate Scottish Government, and the United Kingdom’s view is that it would be reasonable for the Scottish Government to pay at least part, if not all, of those costs.
I expect that that view would not be shared by the Scottish Government, but it would become part of the discussion and debate, and part of the argument. My understanding is that the view on both sides is that nothing is settled until everything is settled, so other lines of the separation budget could not be agreed without this issue also being agreed. Everything would have to be settled together.
The Select Committee took evidence on relocation, and perhaps its Chair could enlighten me on exactly where and by whom that relocation would take place. The document, “Trident: Nowhere to Go”, analysed every option and historical document going back 30 years when planning was less stringent, and concluded that there was no alternative to Faslane anywhere in English waters. It would be useful to know why the Committee thought there was a possibility of relocation in England.
The Committee took the view that there was a possibility of relocation elsewhere in the United Kingdom, not just in England. Locations in Wales were also mentioned. Francis Tusa, editor of Defence Analysis, was perhaps most optimistic about how to do that. He pointed out helpfully that the loading facility at Coulport, which unloads nuclear weapons and so on, is a floating dock. By definition, it floats, so it could presumably be moved, and the facility would not require complete rebuilding in the way that those of us who had not realised that a floating dock floated had assumed. The matter might not be as difficult as it appears, but we are not experts, and it might turn out that that cannot be done, in which case the parameter would change, but it is clear that if it were relocated that would take 20 to 25 years.
I am incredibly interested in what my hon. Friend is saying. My understanding is that one difficulty is storage, because at the moment a hill or a mountain is used. One proposal seems to be to rebuild such a mountain elsewhere in England or Wales. Did the Committee receive evidence on that ?
We visited the storage facility, which is indeed built into the side of a hill, but, with respect, it is not the only hill in the United Kingdom. There are hills and mountains in quite a lot of locations in the United Kingdom. The search for hills is not the main constraint, and several locations were identified.
The matter can be split into different parts. One is the submarines, and we believe that their maintenance could probably be done in places such as Devonport, where there are enough bays and so on. The warhead element is slightly more complex and there are two issues. One is loading and a floating dock; the other is storage. There is storage at Coulport, but I understand—we were not told much—that weapons are not held there for an enormously long time. They are polished and whatever at Aldermaston, then moved to the hill, which is rather Hobbit-like, and then loaded on to submarines. They are not kept there for an enormously long time. It would be possible to store them at Aldermaston or elsewhere, although the journey would be longer and less convenient in many ways and perhaps less safe, but that would be for the Ministry of Defence and the UK Government to determine.
Our view was that that could be done. It would take a long time and it would be expensive. Professor Walker of St Andrews university helpfully said, “Don’t ask me to put a figure on it. I have no idea at all, but certainly it would be billions of pounds.” Francis Tusa thought it would be much less and said, “I have seen reports that it would cost £50 million. No, it wouldn’t. It would cost much less.” The then Minister for the Armed Forces, the hon. Member for North Devon, pointed out that a recent upgrade of the facilities at Faslane had cost £3.5 billion. That was just for an upgrade, so presumably the cost of replacing it would be much higher. We then come back to the extent to which that would form a major part of the dialogue between the Scottish and UK Governments after a separation decision.
I have touched on France and the United States. The other alternative we looked at was maintaining a United Kingdom base in a separate Scotland, similar to the Holy Loch base that the United States had, and the United Kingdom’s sovereign territory in Cyprus. That would have to be negotiated in the spirit of the Edinburgh agreement, which would require best endeavours on both sides.
The matter is not as straightforward as it seems because obviously not just the base would have to be secure. Access and so on would have to be secure, and a substantial amount of water would have to be UK sovereign territory, at least during the period when submarines were leaving. There could be an interesting situation if the Scottish Government instructed Strathclyde police to beat back protestors from outside a UK-owned and maintained Faslane base. The situation could be quite complicated, and not one that the Scottish Government would want.
If a Scottish Government wanted to join NATO, they would have to be part of a nuclear alliance. The compromises that that might involve have not been fully explored. The United Kingdom and Scottish Governments must be much clearer about such matters, particularly the relationship with NATO. The Scottish Government have indicated that they are enthusiastic about the concept of joint air bases with the RAF and the Scottish air force sharing facilities. The Ministry of Defence and others have said that there is an issue of control, and if the UK Government wanted to bomb somewhere that the Scottish Government did not want them to bomb, would they have a sovereign right to do so, or would the Scottish Government be able to block the runway?
Joint and shared bases are complicated, and even more so if there were any suggestion that that would be applied to a nuclear base. We took the view that that was a dead end, and that a shared base on Scottish territory or a UK sovereign base on Scottish territory were not runners. We will wait to hear from the Ministry of Defence and the Government in due course, when the Scottish National party has made its proposals.
Has the hon. Gentleman had any indication from NATO that if a separate Scotland took action to eject an important part of NATO, such as Trident, from Scottish shores it would be welcome in NATO? Has he had any indication from NATO that a Scottish state behaving in that way would be welcome in NATO?
I must confess that NATO has not communicated with me directly on that matter. They might very well listen to me, and I have noticed a number of clicks on my phone, but it has not so far spoken in quite that way. I thank the hon. Lady for drawing my attention to that point—I must monitor my phone more closely. I am sure that NATO will be listening to this debate and, no doubt, waiting—as are the work force in Faslane and Coulport—to hear what the SNP has to say about all this. [Interruption.] There was a mumble from a sedentary position by one of the SNP Members. Would they like to clarify that? No—I thought not.
The alternative provision for Faslane and Coulport has not been made clear. In the resolution that was passed at the SNP conference recently, there was the proposal—indeed, the commitment—that the SNP in a Scottish Government would seek to have submarines. However, the SNP has also said that it would not wish to have any nuclear submarines, so the question comes up of what sort of submarines it would have. Ireland, New Zealand and Iceland all have no submarines. Denmark has just decided to decommission its submarines. The Norwegians have six diesel-electric submarines. If the Scottish navy were to have diesel-electric submarines, two main issues come up: first, where would they be built, and secondly, within what time scale?
Some of us went along to see the BAE Systems shipyard staff and management, and when we suggested to them that they could turn their hand to building submarines, they laughed, because they thought that the idea was so ludicrous. Other experts said to us that any submarines built in the Clyde yards would be the most expensive submarines in the world, ever, on the basis that they were a one-off—whether there were four or six. They said that the yards were not equipped to build submarines, and it would require starting completely from scratch. The style of building submarines is, apparently, from the inside out, and for ships, it is the from the outside in. The technologies are different. Of course, it could be done—with the appropriate amount of money and political will, Hall’s of Broxburn could build submarines—but that is not to say that it would be financially or economically viable. Anything could be done with enough will, commitment and finance.
We have to assume that the diesel-electric submarines would be bought from the main supplier, which is Germany. Therefore, we would have the Scottish navy being equipped with U-boats at a cost that is undetermined and to a timetable that is equally unclear. We have no idea when U-boats from Germany would be able to arrive in Scotland to provide jobs in maintenance at Faslane or Coulport. Of course, we would then have circumstances in which there was a huge gap between the departure of the submarines from the Royal Navy and the arrival of the submarines from Germany, unless the SNP completely abandoned its commitment to remove the submarines from the Clyde as speedily as possible. It is possible to see a compromise being reached, which would require the SNP to undertake a U-turn on its commitment to remove the submarines as quickly as possible. That is the only way in which we could see any possibility of submarine jobs being retained.
The SNP has also said that it wants to have ships at Faslane, which is not unreasonable. It is unclear as yet what ships it desires to have, how the Scottish navy would be broken up, and, at the moment, whether any Scottish naval vessels would be put anywhere other than Faslane. As those familiar with Scottish geography will be aware, Faslane is almost in ideally the wrong place for a navy that would face any threat from the north and east, because it is in the south-west. If people know Argyll, anything coming out of the Clyde would have to sail round the bottom of Argyll—for those who are technically minded, that is the south of Argyll.
That almost brings on a song, but I will resist the temptation, Mr Bone—perhaps later.
The vessels are, therefore, in entirely the wrong position, with the longest possible sailing time to get to the areas where they would be required. All the military experts to whom we have spoken indicated that it would make sense to have the vessels on the east coast—in Rosyth, or perhaps up near Aberdeen, particularly if, like the Norwegian navy, there were 70 vessels. To be fair, some of those vessels in the Norwegian navy are very small, but it would make sense to have them close to areas that have, say, the oil rigs and so on. However, that cannot be done if the main driver of a policy is the need to guarantee as many jobs as possible in Faslane. It is not militarily rational to say that the entire Scottish navy, such as it would be, would be based in Faslane. That could mean the loss of any jobs concerned with naval matters in Rosyth, which is much easier for those in Faslane to accept than those in Rosyth. The statement that we had from the SNP shop steward and councillor about being willing to accept job losses possibly refers to Rosyth—that is how it has been interpreted in Rosyth.
We also need clarity from the Scottish Government and the SNP about the extent to which headquarters staff could be accommodated sensibly at Faslane. We have had meetings with people in the military who say that it does not make sense to have all the headquarters staff based far away from the seat of Government. We assume, in a separate Scotland, that Helensburgh would not be the seat of Government. It would be Edinburgh, and in those circumstances, it would be appropriate to have a substantial number of headquarters staff situated in Edinburgh, in the same way as the Ministry of Defence is very close to the seat of power here in Westminster. That would further reduce the number of jobs that might be available.
When we get to breaking up the armed forces of the United Kingdom, my understanding is that everyone presently would be given the opportunity to serve with either the Scottish navy, the Scottish air force or the Scottish army. The Scots Guards, for example, if it is to be brought back as a Scottish regiment, might have to be based somewhere. Some of those might be able to go into Faslane, but at present we do not have those answers, and we must seek them.
Surely serving members of the Royal Navy, the Royal Air Force or the Army are committed to the Crown and would remain members of the UK armed forces. A Scottish army, navy or air force might be offering them a job, but it should not be assumed that the British Army, Navy or Air Force would automatically be ready to let them all go.
We have not yet got to the detail of that. It is another issue that we have to explore. Our understanding is that the policy of the SNP is to resurrect all the Scottish regiments. We are not entirely clear as yet how far back that goes. The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders is, I think, presently destined to become a platoon for Japanese tourists at Edinburgh castle, because it will solely be a display regiment. It is unclear whether the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders will be resurrected as a regiment—as well as all the separate regiments going back, presumably, to the date of their foundation—as is whether the plans apply only to 1945 onwards, or any other date chosen at random.
Our understanding is that no one who wishes to serve with the Scottish armed forces will be refused—that is the policy of the Scottish Government as we understand it; if that is wrong, I wait to hear my SNP colleagues correct me—and that would of course include large numbers of Fijians, who have provided the Royal Scots with one of the best seven-a-side rugby teams in the country. I have watched them on a number of occasions. Fijians play a valuable part in the Scottish regiments. Presumably, as members of Scottish regiments, they will be entitled to remain part of the Scottish armed forces. Scots in the Navy could be scattered all around the world. The position will be similar for Scots in the Air Force. As I understand it, they will be entitled to join the Scottish armed forces. Then there is the question of matching up needs and so on, which will be an intricate exercise. Again, I presume that will be settled in the spirit of co-operation that we are being promised.
However, what we must have spelt out by the Scottish Government as early as possible is a statement of their intentions—their negotiating position. I, for one, agree with the shop stewards who met us this morning—I cannot mention their present location. They indicated that they regard it as unacceptable that they have to wait potentially until November to be told what their future is. That is simply not acceptable. Even if there are 6,700 jobs being created on the Clyde—I very much doubt that; all the figures that we have had suggest that the figure will be much less—the job of an infantryman who has been relocated from the Scots Guards to Faslane is not the same job as is held at the moment by a fully trained engineer working on nuclear submarines. One job might balance the other in simply numerical terms, but they are not necessarily the same people, unless the intention is to conscript the engineering work force into the Scots Guards, in which case they would match up. The Scottish Government need to be clear about how these things will operate in practice.
This is the first of a series of debates that the Scottish Affairs Committee intends to hold on separation, the consequences of separation and the need for the Scottish people as a whole to have as much information as possible available to them before they cast their vote.
It is a pleasure to speak under your chairmanship, Mr Bone. I congratulate the Chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee, the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson), on opening the debate and outlining clearly the choices that will face the Scottish people in next year’s referendum. I agree with almost everything that he said—I think, though, that Helensburgh does have a good claim to be the capital of an independent Scotland. Apart from that, I fully agree with what he said about the future of Scotland and the choice that the Scottish people face in the referendum in October 2014.
In the referendum, the people of Scotland will have two choices. One is to maintain the Union; the other is to separate from the United Kingdom and form an independent Scottish state. For one path—keeping the Union—we have a very clear idea of what will be based at Faslane and Coulport. We know that the Royal Navy will stay there. We know that all the Astute class submarines will move to Faslane, which will become the base for all Britain’s submarines. We know that the number of jobs there will increase to more than 8,000.
For the alternative path—separation—we have very little idea of what will happen. I hope that the SNP Members present, the hon. Members for Angus (Mr Weir) and for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), will give a clear explanation of what would happen should the SNP win the referendum and what the Scottish armed forces would be made up of.
The debate is entitled on the Order Paper “Terminating Trident—Days or Decades?” First, I want to touch on what I think would happen to Trident should the SNP win the referendum. The Scottish Government have been adamant that they would not lease to the UK or any other Government a base for submarines that were nuclear-powered or that carried nuclear missiles. I believe them. I think that that is something in which they are sincere, and that we have to take it as a starting point that Trident would go in days rather than decades.
However, as the Chairman of the Select Committee outlined, there are great practical difficulties. What would the United Kingdom do when faced with an eviction notice from an independent Scottish Government? The Committee, in our evidence-gathering sessions, took evidence from a wide variety of experts about whether it was possible to relocate Trident and the submarines elsewhere in England or Wales, and that just does not seem to be within the realms of practical possibility. My hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey), when he was the Minister for the Armed Forces, gave evidence to the Committee and described the cost as “gargantuan”. Other experts gave very large numbers. Therefore, there would be a cost problem.
The other problem would be location. Whereas it may be possible to replicate the facilities at Faslane elsewhere, replicating the facilities at Coulport elsewhere would be extremely difficult. The hill is very large. There are many such hills in Argyll, but finding such a large hill in the rest of the United Kingdom that was next to the sea and relatively close to where there was an industrial work force would be very difficult. I believe that only one place has been mentioned. The Welsh Government at one point put forward Milford Haven as an alternative, but I think that that met with objections from other people in Wales and I certainly have not heard that idea being floated recently. There would also be the problem of what to do with the petrochemical complex there.
The conclusion, I think, is clear. I simply do not believe that if the Scottish Government won the referendum and evicted the Royal Navy from Faslane, the United Kingdom Government would relocate elsewhere, because as well as the problems of location and the political problems, there would be the problem of cost. “Gargantuan” was how my hon. Friend the Member for North Devon described it, and the United Kingdom would lose 10% of its tax revenue when Scotland became a separate state.
I therefore think that the only choice open to the United Kingdom Government would be decommissioning. I think that the decommissioning would probably start fairly quickly after the referendum if the SNP won it. The timetable that the SNP has laid out is as follows: 18 months of negotiations, followed by Scotland becoming a separate state on 1 April 2016. During that time, of course, the devolved Government at Holyrood would have a mandate from the referendum to commence negotiations. I believe that they are sincere in their opposition to nuclear weapons and that there would be no point in the United Kingdom Government hanging about; I think that the decommissioning would probably start straight away. [Interruption.] From a sedentary position, the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire says that they would have no choice.
I am now confused by the hon. Gentleman. Rather than chuntering away from a sedentary position, perhaps he could get up and explain just what the position of the Scottish Government would be if they won the referendum. No, he has chosen not to do so. I look forward to his speech.
The Select Committee report said that, should the SNP win the referendum, it would probably take about two years for Trident to be gone from Faslane. There would be two years’ worth of work there—probably not as much work as there is at the moment—in the decommissioning process, but what would happen next? That is a big question on which we still await details from the SNP, but let us consider what other countries that are in a similar position to that of an independent Scottish state do with their defence.
Let us take one of the countries in what used to be termed by the SNP the arc of prosperity—Ireland. The Irish navy consists of eight patrol boats. However, eight patrol boats are not going to keep anything like the current Faslane work force in a job. It is also extremely unlikely that those eight patrol boats would all be based at Faslane, because what assets would an independent Scottish navy seek to defend? The key assets would clearly be the oil rigs and fishing grounds in the North sea, but as the Chairman of the Select Committee pointed out, that is entirely the opposite side of the country to Faslane.
I can imagine an incident on an oil rig, for which a patrol boat based at Faslane would have to sail down the Clyde, round the Mull of Kintyre, up the west coast of Scotland, through the Minch, round Cape Wrath, through the Pentland firth and eventually arrive at the incident. Clearly an independent Scotland would base at least half of its patrol boats at an east coast port—Rosyth, Aberdeen or Lerwick, for example. Even if Scotland’s navy were slightly bigger than Ireland’s and we had 10 or 15 patrol boats, probably only about six of them would be based at Faslane. That would keep only a handful of people in jobs.
We often hear references to the Norwegian and Danish navies from the SNP. They are certainly bigger than the Irish navy, but I have to point out that Scandinavian taxation is a lot higher than taxation in Britain or Ireland. People in Scandinavian countries pay about 10p to 15p in the pound more in taxation than people in Britain or Ireland do. I have never heard the SNP say that we would all be paying 10p or 15p more in the pound in taxes in an independent Scotland, which we would have to do to have a navy the size of a Scandinavian navy, but even if we matched the size of the biggest of the Scandinavian navies, there would still be far fewer jobs at Faslane and Coulport than there are at the moment.
I can only speculate, but my speculation is that the SNP simply does not have a clue what to do. It simply knows that there would be nothing like the same number of jobs in defence in an independent Scotland. We would see mass unemployment at Faslane and Coulport, and the SNP is not willing to own up to it. It must own up to the fact that, if it wants a Scandinavian-sized navy, it has to levy Scandinavian levels of tax on Scotland. People would have to pay 10p to 15p in the pound more in tax, and the SNP is simply not willing to face up to that fact.
I represent the prosperous town of Helensburgh. Part of the reason for its prosperity is the well-paid, specialist jobs at Faslane and Coulport. The people of Scotland will have a simple choice in 2014: they can keep the Union, the Royal Navy and the thousands of jobs, and Helensburgh and the surrounding area will prosper, or they can vote for separation, and they will get a few patrol boats, a small navy and a P45. I know what choice my constituents will make.
Order. I intend the winding-up speeches to start at 4 o’clock. Hon. Members can see how many Members stood to contribute. I do not intend to impose a time limit at the moment; although the Speaker has given permission, perhaps self-regulation is better.
I am pleased to be able to contribute to the debate on how after independence we will finally get rid of weapons of mass destruction from Scotland.
The location of nuclear weapons has long been a contentious issue in Scotland, going back at least to the establishment of the Polaris system on the Clyde. Indeed, it spawned a mini industry of protest songs, pointing out the absolute absurdity of the argument that we build prosperity by threatening nuclear annihilation. Hon. Members will be pleased to hear that I will not attempt to sing any of them, but the older among us might remember the anthem of the time:
“Singin’ Ding Dong Dollar, everybody holler, Ye canny spend a dollar when ye’re deid”.
The argument has been a constant thread through the politics of Scotland ever since. The position of the Scottish National party has been consistent and clear. We do not want those weapons, and they should be gone at the first possible opportunity. Next year in the referendum, the people of Scotland will have the opportunity to make that happen by voting for independence.
I have to confess that I was somewhat cynical when I heard that the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs was undertaking a report on Trident; after all, its membership is unlikely to be sympathetic to the aims of the SNP. I was, however, absolutely delighted when the report very clearly stated:
“Nuclear weapons in Scotland could be disarmed within days and removed within months.”
That fantastic news will be warmly welcomed by people throughout Scotland. As the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, put it in her letter to the Committee:
“As a nation Scotland has consistently shown itself to be opposed to the possession, threat and use of nuclear weapons—a position taken by a majority of Parliamentarians, churches, trade unions and many voluntary organisations, as well as articulated by the Scottish people in opinion polls.”
I will come to that very point in a moment.
Many of those who give Trident as a reason not to vote for independence were not so long ago of the view that the UK should get rid of it. It appears that it is not a problem for the UK to get rid of the system, but it would somehow be a huge problem for an independent Scotland. Labour’s shadow Secretary of State for Defence, the right hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy), only yesterday confirmed that Labour is now in favour of a like-for-like replacement for Trident, and that would cost at least £25 billion, probably much more. That is an obscene waste of money when all our services are under strain and threat due to budget cuts.
That is absolutely not what the shadow Secretary of State for Defence said. He reiterated that the Labour party is committed to the retention of a credible, minimum, independent deterrent. He did not say that we were committed to a like-for-like replacement.
That is not my understanding of what was heard on the radio. The position of the Scottish National party is clear and unequivocal: when we achieve our independence, we will get rid of nuclear weapons from Scotland as quickly as we can.
In her letter, Nicola Sturgeon states clearly:
“Following a Yes vote in the referendum, it would be the responsibility of the Scottish and UK governments to continue to work together, in good faith and on the basis of mutual respect, to agree the arrangements for the safe and timely withdrawal of the Trident nuclear weapons system from an Independent Scotland.”
The Scottish Government are happy to discuss the issue, but it appears from the UK Government’s response to the report that they are not prepared to do so and would rather bury their head in the sand and pretend that withdrawal will not happen.
Not at the moment.
It is my firm hope that we can see these dreadful weapons put beyond use as soon as possible after we achieve our independence. The report goes into some detail on possible scenarios, and it is very heartening to hear that the weapons could be disabled within days. The report’s title asks whether we can terminate Trident within days or decades, and, in direct answer to the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Pamela Nash), I do not know whether we can realistically do it within days, but I am certain it will not take decades.
After Scotland votes yes, there will be 18 months in which we negotiate those matters that need to be agreed between the two Governments. Trident will be high on that list. I hope that, by the end of that period, we will be well on the way to seeing those weapons gone from our shores for ever.
Twenty-five of the 28 member states in NATO do not have nuclear weapons. The hon. Member for Epping Forest (Mrs Laing) asked whether NATO would let Scotland in if we wanted rid of nuclear weapons; I remind her that Canada, a member of NATO, got rid of its nuclear weapons in 1984 and Greece, another member of NATO, got rid of them in 2001. It is not unprecedented. Norway does not have nuclear weapons, for example.
Much of the rest of the report goes into detail about the options open to the UK Government in finding an alternative to Faslane. Frankly, that does not appear to me to be the concern of the Scottish people or Government. It is a matter for the UK Government, should they wish to continue with the possession of nuclear weapons. Scottish independence gives the remainder of the UK the perfect opportunity to accept that it can no longer justify the possession of such weapons and to decide that it will no longer have them, but that is a decision for it to make. It is worth noting that even some military figures have begun to question the wisdom of retaining Trident in the UK, given the huge cuts to conventional forces.
The hon. Gentleman said earlier that he wished to see our shores rid of such weapons. As someone who has been a supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament since the days of Polaris, and who remains a member of the parliamentary CND, I am concerned about the safety of all the nations in the United Kingdom. Is he saying that neither he nor the Scottish Government care if there is a similar danger elsewhere in the UK to the lives of the people in the UK?
I have just said that, in my opinion, the UK should get rid of Trident. However, once we have our independence and the missiles are removed from Scotland, if the UK wants to retain them, that is a matter for the remainder of the UK. Scotland will not have them. We will have nothing to do with them.
Interestingly, as the report suggests, there seem to be alternatives. Francis Tusa of Defence Analysis has been quoted as saying that the problems have been exaggerated. It appears that the UK Government do not want to site the missiles on the south coast of England for fear that the missiles would be too near centres of population, but it does not seem to worry them that Faslane is close to the main centres of the population of Scotland.
It seems curious that there is objection to the use of Kings Bay in Georgia, because it might give the impression that Trident is not a totally independent system. I think most people think that already. Given that the report says that a stockpile of weapons is stored there and that the UK already contributes £12 million per annum towards the site, it seems that there is already considerable involvement there. Francis Tusa also makes the point that previously there were shared storage facilities with the Americans at Iserlohn in Germany, but such considerations are for the remaining parts of the UK, not the Scottish Government, who wish to see the missiles removed from Scotland.
Much of the debate has been about the impact on jobs if the Trident system left Faslane, but nowhere in the report is there a mention of the jobs implication; the report is about what the UK might do with Trident when Scotland is independent and ensures that we do not have weapons of mass destruction on our soil. However, the Scottish National party understands the concerns of those who work at the base.
Scottish Ministers have made it clear that they are fully committed to the future of Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde in an independent Scotland, operating as a conventional naval base without nuclear weapons. We are the only party in Scotland to have made that commitment.
I have in my hand what I think was intended to be a secret submission from Mr John Swinney, the Finance Minister of Scotland. It is about the SNP’s commitment, should separatism work. He said:
“I have made clear to the Defence Workstream”—
they are the people studying this—
“that a much lower budget must be assumed.”
How is he going to afford to keep open the naval base if he is going to have a much lower budget?
I find that incredible, from the Minister who is presiding over the slashing of the UK defence budget. He has just, under the basing review, betrayed the previous promises made to Scotland.
We have said that the defence budget of an independent Scotland will be £2.5 billion. We have made that commitment; that is what we will do. That is an appropriate defence budget for a country the size of Scotland and for the facilities that we will need in an independent Scotland.
We have made our position on that absolutely clear. I am sorry that the hon. Lady does not appreciate it. I can say no further than what I have said. We will join NATO if we do not have nuclear weapons on our shores. If NATO insists on nuclear weapons, we will not join NATO. It is as simple and pure as that. We have made that point absolutely certain.
If the hon. Gentleman has calculated a figure of £2.5 billion, it must mean that he has understood what he will be left with. I have never seen a single thing that tells us what the size of the navy, air force or army would be. What is it now? Will he confirm the size of our armed forces in Scotland? He has £2.5 billion. What would that represent?
We have already said that our armed forces will be in the region of 15,000. That is on the record.
I have given way enough, and I would like to make some progress.
Scotland’s share of UK defence forces and our share of Trident costs could be used for the diversification of HMNB Clyde and to create jobs that met the defence, economic and public service priorities of an independent Scotland. Scotland’s population share of Trident running costs is estimated at around £163 million per year, while its population share of the Ministry of Defence’s estimated costs for the replacement of the Trident submarine fleet and infrastructure equates to around £1.25 billion to £1.7 billion. That is at least £84 million for each and every year of the 15 years it would take to construct.
A recent freedom of information request to the MOD revealed that 520 civilian jobs at Faslane and Coulport are directly dependent on Trident. That is only a small proportion of the more-than-6,500 military and civilian personnel who support operations at the bases. Channel 4’s “FactCheck” reported in 2007 that the lion’s share of Trident jobs—around 12,340—are based elsewhere in the United Kingdom, not in Scotland.
No, I will not.
There is no reason why the vast majority of Trident-based jobs cannot be redeployed in the redevelopment of the bases for non-nuclear defence use. In addition, the money being spent on Trident could be much better used to provide high-quality jobs in the area and beyond.
The argument put to the Select Committee by a Defence Minister, which was quoted in the report, that Scotland would somehow have to pay for a replacement base is laughable. If the remainder of the UK wants to keep those dreadful weapons, it is up to it to find a solution on where to base them, and to pay for them.
Whatever the discussions or arguments regarding the removal of Trident from Scotland after independence, no one should be in any doubt that it is our clear intention that the weapons will go as quickly as is safe.
Recently there has been much argument about the costs of Trident. It is completely unaffordable. Malcolm Chalmers of the Royal United Services Institute noted that about 35% of the MOD’s total core procurement budget would be going on Trident by 2021.
Such weapons are immoral. If they were ever used, they would indiscriminately destroy hundreds of thousands of lives and do untold damage to humanity and our planet, if not destroy it completely. The UK is a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty. We spend a lot of time telling others that they should not have nuclear weapons—indeed those who are developing civil nuclear programmes—for fear of what they might do with them. It is high time that we took a lead and accepted that we can no longer sustain a nuclear capability.
Bishop Desmond Tutu has put the argument much better than I could:
“We cannot intimidate others into behaving well when we ourselves are misbehaving. Yet that is precisely what nations armed with nuclear weapons hope to do by censuring North Korea for its nuclear tests and sounding alarm bells over Iran’s pursuit of enriched uranium. According to their logic, a select few nations can ensure the security of all by having the capacity to destroy all.
Until we overcome this double standard—until we accept that nuclear weapons are abhorrent and a grave danger no matter who possesses them, that threatening a city with radioactive incineration is intolerable no matter the nationality or religion of its inhabitants—we are unlikely to make meaningful progress in halting the spread of these monstrous devices, let alone banishing them from national arsenals.
Why, for instance, would a proliferating state pay heed to the exhortations of the US and Russia, which retain thousands of their nuclear warheads on high alert? How can Britain, France and China expect a hearing on non-proliferation while they squander billions modernising their nuclear forces?”
Someone once said that a unilateralist is a multilateralist who means it. I give no apology for believing that we need to get rid of nuclear weapons. Scotland, at least, wants rid of them and means it.
Thank you, Mr Bone. I am pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate. I will try to be brief, because I appreciate that a considerable number of Members wish to speak.
I speak as someone who is opposed to nuclear weapons in any part of the United Kingdom. Indeed, along with the majority of Scottish MPs, I voted against the replacement of Trident when we had the opportunity to vote on that in the last Parliament. I speak from that perspective, but I find it astonishing that the Scottish National party takes the view that if Scotland vote for independence next year, what would be left of the British Government, and presumably the right hon. Member for Witney (Mr Cameron) if he were still Prime Minister—having gone down in history as the Prime Minister who lost Scotland—would bend over backwards to facilitate a new Scotland in every area of policy, whether on the economy, our currency, Europe or Trident, which we are debating today.
We have heard powerful contributions about the cost of relocating Trident within the United Kingdom. The Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson), articulately outlined the huge cost that would be involved. It is absolutely clear that there would be no easy solution if that were the outcome. Some people believe that we would need storage relatively adjacent to the submarine base—for safety reasons, apart from anything else—and the reality is that there are very few, if any, locations in England or Wales that would be suitable. The Government of the rest of the UK would have a huge financial headache if they wished to continue to be a country in possession of nuclear weapons. It is unlikely that a Government in that position would be co-operative.
The evidence received by the Select Committee from the Ministry of Defence clearly shows that, should Scotland decide that it no longer wants Trident to be based there, it would not be willing to continue with any other facilities currently based there. That is an indication of the likely response that a newly independent Scotland would get in many areas of policy, not only in defence.
That is a good point. One issue that would be negotiated in the 18-month period is whether the new Scottish Government would use the pound and whether the Bank of England would be the lender of last resort to them. Does the hon. Lady think that that discussion or negotiation might be more difficult if the Scottish Government had just kicked out Trident?
I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for his intervention, but I will not stray too far down that avenue. I suspect that that would move us away from the subject of today’s debate, about which you might have something to say, Mr Bone. However, he makes the powerful point that the Scottish Government must be aware that if they succeed in persuading the Scottish people to vote for independence next year, there will be implications in a range of areas.
Does my hon. Friend agree that if there were unresolved bitterness about Trident between a newly separate Scotland and the rest of the UK, that would affect all the negotiations and influence our international partners—for example, in relation to any application to join the EU?
My hon. Friend is absolutely correct. The Scottish National party often forgets that not only will England, Wales and Northern Ireland have views on this issue, but many other European countries will be interested in the internal implications for themselves. For example, Spain may not want to create the precedent of allowing one part of a current member country of the European Union an easy process for continuing to be a member of the EU, given that it has to deal with situations such as the one in Catalonia.
The general point is that we cannot presume that negotiations would be easy on all matters if Scotland voted for independence. The hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir), who spoke on behalf of the Scottish National party, therefore needs to think about his comment that it would be laughable for an independent Scotland to have to take at least a share of the cost of relocating Trident. Whatever the Scottish National party’s views about what is a reasonable negotiating position, it should be aware that it might have to negotiate with people with very different views.
That is one reason why there has been a great deal of speculation in Scotland about whether the Scottish National party would honour its position of not having nuclear weapons in Scotland if we became independent. I very much hope that it would: we should not have nuclear weapons in any part of the United Kingdom. I would therefore be sympathetic to much of what the hon. Gentleman said about the implication for jobs, if we were talking only about Trident. Of course, a whole range of work has been done on which people employed at Faslane and Coulport are related strictly to Trident and its replacement, and which are related to other military activities that currently take place in Scotland but may not continue to do so.
As I said in my intervention on the Chair of the Select Committee, there is now an incoming fleet of seven Astute class submarines, eight Sandown class minehunters and the administrative headquarters of the Royal Navy in Scotland, northern England and Northern Ireland. As the Chair said, further work will come to that area as a result of our union with the other constituent parts of the United Kingdom.
The hon. Member for Angus said that the defence budget for an independent Scotland would be about £2.5 billion. It would be interesting to hear at some point—perhaps from his colleague, the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart), or from the Scottish Government—exactly what that would look like and mean, particularly for the areas affected should Scotland decide to become independent and to withdraw Trident, given what the Ministry of Defence has said about the implications of that on other parts of military policy.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to speak in this debate. It is an important debate for Scotland, because the reality is that the Scottish National party’s policy on Trident has been successful for it over many years. In Scotland, there is a very different tradition on such issues than there is in other parts of the United Kingdom. In opinion polls, the replacement of Trident has consistently been unpopular. Indeed, over many decades, many people in Scotland have opposed nuclear weapons. Whether we go back to the 1950s and 1960s, with the demonstrations against Polaris, or the 1980s, with those against both Cruise and of course Trident, which was brought in afterwards, the anti-nuclear movement has been very strong in Scotland.
For the purposes of this debate, whether people are for or against nuclear weapons should not be a reason for taking one side or the other on independence. If Scotland decide to become independent, we would still be grappling with the same issues and having to deal with other parts of this country. I therefore say to the Scottish National party that as much honesty and information as possible in this debate would be in everybody’s interest and ensure that the people of Scotland can make an educated choice when the time comes.
It is a great pleasure, Mr Bone, to speak under your chairmanship, which I have done a number of times in other venues in meetings of the all-party parliamentary group on human trafficking.
I said earlier that I have been against nuclear weapons in the UK since Polaris was brought to the Clyde. It was the great contamination of our nation—I mean the United Kingdom rather than just Scotland. I was deeply distressed by the comments of the hon. Member for Angus (Mr Weir), who indicated that as long as the SNP could get it out of Scotland, Trident would then be someone else’s decision. I would still be campaigning against it wherever it was to be relocated, and I would argue strongly against it being relocated anywhere within the UK.
Quite simply, I support the “Terminating Trident”—or banning the bomb, as we used to call it—part of the subject matter of this debate. Most of the wonderful songs written about that came from the Labour movement, not the Scottish National party, which was a minuscule organisation in Scotland at the time, because it was focused, as always, on breaking up the United Kingdom and separating Scotland from the UK. It was never part of the movement that was clearly committed to organising against the bomb. I went on the marches and I visited the peace camps. I did not see any Scottish National party members there; I saw members of the Labour movement in Scotland arguing for a better future with no nuclear weapons anywhere in the UK.
We are debating not just what happens to those pieces of metal, and the international motions and structures we sign up to that enable us to use such weapons, whether under someone else’s banner or not, but what happens to the people. “Ban the bomb but don’t dump the people”—that was always the statement made at demonstrations outside the gates of Faslane and Coulport. It was never about getting rid of the people who were inside doing the job that the nation had asked them to do, using the skills that they had been trained in and were proud to serve their country with. Unfortunately, that is the unanswered question, which was asked by the Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee.
If we are to have such a monumental change in the structure of the defence budget, after what would be the much greater, more cataclysmic decision to separate Scotland from the rest of the United Kingdom—Scotland would be leaving 92% of the UK behind and becoming some wee country that would not be a significant player in the world—we must think about how we can deal with that. That is the problem for the SNP Government, who, by the way, as I keep having to repeat, were elected by 24% of the people of Scotland. The structure of the electoral system set up by those under Donald Dewar, who thought that by helping their Liberal comrades they would enable Labour to form an alliance with the Liberals in Scotland, actually advantaged the Scottish National party and gave it a majority. The Labour party, because it had done such an abysmal job in Scotland and lost the faith of the Scottish people, got about half the SNP’s percentage at the election. None the less, a party cannot have a landslide victory when only 24% of the people vote for it. It is a fix that happens because of electoral arithmetic, and it has nothing to do with popular support. If there were some sea change among the people in Scotland, we would have to consider what to do with the bomb.
The Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee said that he has been assured that the fuses could be removed from missiles within eight days. I have recently read a great deal about the nuclear weapons stores of the world, particularly in the US, and learned about the process by which chemicals in the fuse heat up and then trigger the missiles. The people in the States who researched and created those chemical fuses are now all dead. The fuses deteriorate and do not necessarily react 30 or 40 years after they were made. Believe it or not, the US has not yet found a way of synthesising the products that would allow the replacement of those fuses, so we could have a redundant nuclear network throughout the world, including in the UK, within the next decade. Therefore, defusing the missiles might not take eight days; it could be very much quicker than that.
I advise my hon. Friend not to put the chemicals that are contained in the nuclear fuses in the back of his Vectra. In fact, I would not put them in the back of anything that was not a nuclear bomb store. The fuses might not set off a nuclear weapon, but they might blow his Vectra back to the future.
Eight months for removing the warheads is correct. They are kept separate and can be detached and taken somewhere else. As for it taking up to 25 years to relocate the facilities, all the analyses now available publicly in the “Nowhere to Go” document by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament show that there is nowhere for the weapons to be relocated. There was nowhere all those years ago that was thought to be isolated and secure enough to install the nuclear weapons. Now, given the population changes in the conurbations around those areas, it is unlikely that anywhere would allow those weapons to be installed. The question of relocating them, therefore, could not be resolved unless there was some sort of dictatorship of Government on the people in the UK. Certainly, the idea of putting them in Wales or Northern Ireland would cause a massive uprising.
Should we even be thinking about moving the weapons somewhere else? It is a fantasy to think that in the event of a nuclear conflagration, Scotland would be safer having them somewhere else that was not Faslane or Coulport. Do we really think that an enemy of the UK would not want to bomb the establishments based in my constituency in Grangemouth, where the North sea oil and gas comes in, just because we put the weapons somewhere else? What are we going to do? Are we going to paint CND signs on the tops of all the buildings in Scotland? Let me own up to something. When I was leader of a council, we actually did put CND signs on our vans. Somebody pointed out that we should have put them on the roof because they could not be seen on the side of the vans, but we were young and foolish then. I have learned now that it is a nonsense to say that we are not part of the UK because we do not have the bomb any more and that if there were a conflagration we would be safe. I thought that the SNP Government and Alex Salmond, who is just about my age, had also grown up.
Of course it is right to say that if there were a nuclear strike, it is unlikely that Scotland would be spared the consequences, but should one not reflect the values of one’s community or one’s nation and say, “We refuse to hold these weapons. We refuse to threaten other peoples with these weapons.” Should we not be doing what we can to reflect the views of the Scottish people in this matter?
The hon. Gentleman is actually a little bit late. Having campaigned with the Labour movement over many years, my understanding is that more than 70% of the people of Scotland are already against these weapons. Therefore, changing the mood of the people in Scotland by removing the weapons is not the point. I want to see the mood changed throughout the United Kingdom so that we can persuade a Government in the future—a Labour Government, I hope—that we should be moving in the direction of taking the weapons out of the whole land mass of the UK; that is my aim. If my SNP colleagues, who support the idea of ridding the world of these nuclear weapons, want to go off and hide in a corner then they can do so, but they should not pretend that it is sensible Government policy. I am working up to my next point, “Don’t dump the people.”
Although I do not agree with the hon. Gentleman, I fully appreciate that the position that he takes and has always taken is a position of principle. However, is it not rather hypocritical on the part of the Scottish National party to say, “We don’t want nuclear weapons here, but we will depend on the rest of this island of Great Britain to have nuclear weapons and to have a credible defence policy that will continue to protect Scotland”? However much the SNP pretends that Scotland can be separate, we are all on this small island together.
[Mr Andrew Rosindell in the Chair]
I would not necessarily drift into unparliamentary language, such as “hypocrisy”; I think that is ill-judged and unfortunately a negative force in politics. I worry about the principles of the SNP. The issue is not independence, but the tenets on which the SNP bases its independence argument, of being separate and somehow thinking that it can be detached from other people’s concerns.
I am a socialist; I still want to see a world socialist organisation that tears down capitalism. If we have not learned the lesson from what the gamblers in the banks did—it was not gamblers in the Government, but gamblers in the banks—to our nations, not just here but throughout the world, then we have learned nothing. Of course, this Government have learned nothing from all that, as we can see from the policies that they are involved in at the moment.
The figure given by my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson), the Chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee, was that 6,700 jobs—possibly up to 8,200 jobs—rely on Trident at the moment. There is also the question about all the other jobs that are attached to it, such as shipbuilding and the industries and supply sources that feed into it. I do not want to see those people made redundant; I want to see these people being reskilled, redeployed and creating useful things for our nation.
That is the one thing missing from the SNP’s arguments—the SNP has not done that work. It has not worked out how to deal with this question. The idea is that we just empty the warheads out of Trident and put all the soldiers in who are going to come back and volunteer, before they are quickly made redundant because £2.5 billion of budget will not keep many soldiers in a job and Scotland certainly will not have a navy, or many helicopters or planes to fly. It is a joke, it is unfair and it is an insult to the Scottish people to say, by assertion, “We can do this and it will all work.”
Instead we can look at the people who have been arguing closely alongside me—or me alongside them, I should say, because I respect them and their contribution is much greater than mine. For example, there are the people from the Bradford Disarmament Research Centre, including Dr Nick Ritchie, who has been doing tremendous work. The centre produced a report on Trident in 2008, “Trident: What is it For?”, which argues and shows that Trident is not for anything in the modern world, quite frankly; Trident is a nonsense. The centre talks sensibly, as the SNP should be doing to challenge the assertions that are made and the questions that are asked by the Scottish Affairs Committee. The centre produced another report in 2009, “Stepping down the Nuclear Ladder: Options for Trident on a Path to Zero”, which worked out how we can go—step by step—away from these weapons and what we can do with them. In 2010, the centre produced the report, “Continuity/Change: Rethinking Options for Trident Replacement”. These reports are fundamental sources of information about how we can move away from a world, and a UK, that has nuclear weapons in its armoury, and use the money for something much more useful.
However, what do we have from the Government? What we have from the Government is the fact that they are going to step up the main-gate costs in 2016. Those costs are going to be enormous and we will be landed with another generation of weapons, like for like, that is not justifiable, that was never justifiable according to the 2008 report I referred to, that is not sustainable and that should not be moved along with.
As we know, a commission is sitting and considering the question of the future of Trident. I had the pleasure of going along to one of the discussions around the review, “Trident Alternatives Review and the Future of Barrow”. Why do I mention Barrow? It is because that review is the kind of work that the SNP Government should have been doing if they really meant to remove Trident and if they were not just about government by assertion or politics by gesture. That is the kind of work that should have been done, but I see none of that work being done by the SNP. That review argued very strongly that if we want to have a situation where Barrow, which builds these submarines, will be without that work, we must invest £100 million per year in that community to reskill people and look to the future. If that process continued, there would then be a new set of people with a new set of skills, who would build an economy in that area.
The SNP has done none of that work. What are we going to have? Heathers and bagpipes up the Kyle of Lochalsh? Is that what the future is going to be about? Is it going to be about emptying out the area and letting the people drift away, and hoping that the people who remain there will somehow attract tourists who will give them handouts? The work has not been done.
I will tell you an interesting fact, Mr Rosindell, as you have taken the Chair. When I looked into my wife’s ancestors, I discovered that her third great-grandfather was the ferry manager from Ardentinny to Faslane. In his day, there was an agricultural community on both sides of the water, and that route became a route for people to go down into the central belt of Scotland; sadly, that emptied out most of that area. The idea that we could not have people living there with high skills, in a very attractive area, who could work in the conurbations of Scotland and commute, or in fact who could create whole new industries in that area, is a nonsense.
Let us consider a parallel. When I first came into the House, I went down to visit Baglan Bay. Baglan Bay was a BP refinery and chemical site, because we thought that the oil would come from the other side of the world and to the west coast of the nation. BP realised that would not make sense, because of North sea oil, so it shut down Baglan Bay, slowly but surely. However, there are more jobs in that area today than there were when BP had its refinery and when there was a chemical industry there, because the Wales Office, which was then responsible, planned for the change, trained people for it and put the infrastructure in for it. None of that type of work has been done by the SNP Government, because they live by assertion; they do not live by standard logic and proof.
I have listened very carefully to the hon. Gentleman’s remarks. Like me, he is passionately against nuclear weapons; he believes that we need to rid the world of this scourge—this immoral curse that we have on our land. We say that we will get rid of them after we secure independence. He wants rid of them too, so what is his plan for jobs once he secures his ambition to ensure that Trident is cleared from Faslane? What would he do for jobs?
I am very happy to answer that question, because I have just given the example of the work that has been done on Barrow. People who are looking at the future of the UK without nuclear weapons are looking at what it takes. It is not a matter of location; it is a matter of industrial, manufacturing and education policy. Whether or not we had stopped making gas lanterns in Faslane and we were going to make some new things for the nation, we would have to plan and train, put people in the skill set, and give them the infrastructure. Whether something is made redundant by technology or by the movement of history, such as the movement of agricultural workers to the conurbations, it is a cycle. A nation must plan ahead for the people and for its needs in the future.
That is what is missing. A very legitimate question was asked by the Scottish Affairs Committee, “What do you do in this situation?” The Committee is asking the SNP Government to answer that question, and it is getting nothing; it is getting silence. I do not think that this argument about Trident adds to the arguments for independence, but it would be nice to think that the Government of Scotland at this moment were planning to do something and would put forward a plan that the people could look at, but they are not doing that. Instead, they are saying, “Jump off the cliff. It’s all right, you’ll find the water’s warm when you land.”
My hon. Friend has already made reference to his time as a leader of a Scottish local authority. Of course, at that time he was exceptionally well known for his radical credentials. And at that time, the Labour party’s position was that we wanted to get rid of nuclear weapons in this country, and a huge amount of work was done by Labour and the trade unions on defence diversification. Is he aware whether the Scottish Government have devoted any office or time to defence diversification, and does he think that that is exactly the kind of information that should be coming to the fore at this time?
I am very grateful to you, Mr Rosindell, for saying that, after all this time that I have been campaigning, I am not allowed much more than 18 minutes. If anything I have said is redundant, I strike it from the record, but what I would say is that the questions asked in the context of the Scottish Affairs Committee remain unanswered. The questions that I asked, which are slightly different from those of the Scottish Affairs Committee, remain unanswered in most of the context of the UK, but we have some indication that the nuclear industry commission, which has Lord Browne of Ladyton and others on it, is beginning to look very seriously at that issue. The point that the commission makes, and I make, is whether or not we have a scenario with a final conclusion, which might come from independence or the removal of Trident because of some other reason, we must plan, argue and invest for the future. None of that is in the SNP documents that I have found; in fact, the question of weapons diversification is not on the agenda at all. It is all about government by suggestion. In that context, I have to conclude that if the argument is that we would feel morally better if we got rid of Trident, we should do so on a UK basis. None of the arguments I have heard show that the SNP has any idea what it would do if it had independence and was facing the removal of Trident from Faslane and Scotland.
Welcome to the Chair, Mr Rosindell. I hope you enjoy your little session in what is always the friendly, convivial atmosphere of Scottish debates.
I welcome this debate, because everybody knows that Trident will be a huge, iconic issue in the 2014 independence referendum. It will probably shape a number of people’s impressions about independence, and it could have a major influence on how people choose to vote. We can be absolutely and abundantly clear—every Member in the Chamber understands this—that if there is a yes vote in the independence referendum, Scotland will be clear of the scourge of the immoral weapon of mass destruction that is the Trident system. The Scottish people and the Scottish nation will no longer host the UK’s arsenal of these appalling weapons; our nation, our society and our community will no longer host Trident weapons.
Trident will be removed as quickly and safely as possible—that is what we have said. If colleagues here want to agonise over what “quickly and safely” means, we will leave that up to them. We will co-operate, sit down, discuss, negotiate and be as helpful as possible, but our intention is to get rid of Trident weapons as quickly and safely as possible.
We would sit down with the Government today to start discussing how that will be achieved, but they have famously refused pre-negotiation. We have no intention of having pre-negotiations with the Government; we understand why they, quite rightly, would not want to pre-negotiate any aspect of independence, which would seem like they were conceding the result, but they should, for goodness’ sake, sit round a table and at least discuss the issue. Surely, we should try to work together in the spirit of the Edinburgh agreement and to find the best outcome, whether there is a yes vote or a no. It is surely in the Government’s interests to sit down with the Scottish Government to work out what would happen to their weapons system if the Scottish people decided to vote yes and wanted rid of the whole thing.
The hon. Gentleman wants the UK Government to sit down with him, but the work force at Faslane and Coulport want the SNP to sit down with them and to tell them what jobs there will be after independence. When the debate finishes, will he sit down with representatives of the work force at Faslane and tell them the SNP’s plans for it?
They will be negotiating not with me but with someone further up the pay scale. Today, I have heard some of the evidence presented in the Scottish Affairs Committee, and it would be an absolute pleasure and joy to sit down with the trade union representatives for Faslane to describe and explain our ambitions for Faslane. We have clear and ambitious projects for a conventional base at Faslane. We will try to reassure the work force and to make sure they understand what we are trying to achieve, instead of being told some of the myths we have heard today.
I am disappointed the SNP defence spokesperson is not here. I think this is the second debate on Trident he has been absent from. When I challenged him on this issue, he said we could not have negotiations until after Scotland had taken its decision. What exactly is the SNP’s policy?
We want to do what was set out in the Edinburgh agreement, with both Governments planning for the outcome so that we achieve the best possible result for a yes or no vote. We will enter the negotiations with the best possible intent, and we will hope for the best possible outcome. All we are trying to do now is encourage the UK Government to approach the discussions on the same basis. So far, they have refused to do so.
It is nice to have the hon. Lady here, but where, for goodness’ sake, is the shadow Defence Secretary? He gave a rambling interview the other morning. When he was challenged about Labour policy on nuclear weapons, he said:
“We’re not a unilateralist party. I mean, that happened in the ’80s, that was a flirtation with surrealism. We’re not a unilateralist party and we’re not going to become a unilateralist party.”
“We’re in favour of the UK retaining a nuclear capability”.
The Labour party is totally committed to remaining a nuclear party; it will renew Trident, and it will probably replace it like for like—that is what we have with the Labour party.
I have no idea what the report is intended to achieve. The rather silly Scottish Affairs Committee set out to blow a hole in the yes campaign’s ambitions for Trident, but all it has done is to suggest how easy those ambitions are to achieve—thank you, Scottish Affairs Committee. To be clear, the Committee is one of those strange, dysfunctional Committees; it is a really bizarre concoction just now. It is composed exclusively of Unionists, and it produces reports for Unionist consumption.
The hon. Gentleman is being very generous with his time. I am a proud member of the Scottish Affairs Committee. There is an SNP member, but, unfortunately, she has not taken her seat for quite some time. Why is she still missing in action? If he is concerned that the Committee is made up only of members of Unionist parties, he might like to take her seat.
I think the hon. Lady knows exactly why we are not taking our place on the Committee. We will not take up that place as long as the hon. Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson) remains in the Chair. Given the way our female member of the Committee was treated, we will not take up that place. The place is available, and we will come back to it, but not as long as the hon. Gentleman is in the Chair.
No, I am not discussing this any further with the hon. Gentleman, if he does not mind.
The Scottish Affairs Committee is the most bitterly partisan parliamentary Committee anywhere in the UK. Outside Unionist circles, it has lost any credibility it had. I was a member of the Committee, as was my hon. Friend the Member for Angus (Mr Weir). We served under distinguished Chairs—in my case, Mohammad Sarwar. The Committee produced reasonable reports, which were accepted across the political spectrum—but no more. A Committee that cannot even bring itself to say the word that will go on the independence ballot does not deserve the time, effort or credibility it thinks it should have.
What did the report actually say? This is really good. The Committee found out how easy it would be to get rid of nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland. The Chairman even went as far as to suggest that Scotland could be disarmed in a matter of days. The missiles and submarines could be discharged in a matter of two years. That is music to the ears of all of us who have campaigned so long and so hard for our nation to be free of nuclear weapons. The Scottish Affairs Committee did a fantastic job by telling us how easy it would be, although given its partisan approach, I have no idea why it decided to do so. I do not know whether any of its members are still to speak, but if they do, they must tell us why they produced a report suggesting that it would be so easy to get rid of Trident from Scotland.
The Committee also tried to suggest what the rest of the United Kingdom might want to do, and presented a few options—perhaps even a few sensible ones. Were the UK Government grateful or happy at that? Not a bit of it. The response totally ignored all the suggestions and proposals. The Government refused to look at anything. They were not even prepared to consider the suggestions of the Scottish Affairs Committee. What a waste of time. The UK Government must get over their self-defeating, almost petulant and childish, behaviour. They should sit at the table with the Scottish Government for talks about what they would do to get rid of Trident when we vote yes in next year’s independence referendum.
We now know that only a yes vote in the referendum will get rid of Trident. The Tories, of course, are committed to Trident. They want to spend £100 billion renewing it. The Liberals—I am, as usual, not so sure about them. They are conducting some sort of review. The hon. Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey) did some fantastic work on it, and it is now in the hands of the Chief Secretary to the Treasury. We have no idea, as usual, what the Liberals intend to do. I think theirs is a unilateralist party.
The hon. Gentleman has been speaking for 11 minutes. Will he stop the comedy routine and get back to the substance of the debate? Many people in Scotland are waiting to hear what plans the SNP has for when Trident is moved out—in a matter of days after independence, as now seems to be the intention. When will he get to that detail?
As usual, it is only from the Scottish National party that opposition to what is proposed will be heard. The hon. Gentleman suggests that I should stick to my script, although no one else who has taken part in the debate has been anywhere close to doing that, which is slightly ridiculous.
The Labour party would replace Trident, like for like.
I have been speaking for 11 minutes, as the hon. Member for Edinburgh West (Mike Crockart) said, and want to allow others to speak.
We now know that the Labour party will continue to be committed to Trident, so the only way to get rid of nuclear weapons from Scotland, and clear us of that scourge—that immoral weapon of mass destruction—is to vote yes in the independence referendum.
I have given way to the hon. Gentleman twice already.
A yes vote would get rid of a weapon of mass destruction, and we are not allowed to keep it anyway. If we were to become a new nation after independence, as the no campaigners claim we would, we would not be able to keep nuclear weapons under the non-proliferation treaty. New nations are not allowed to host nuclear weapons, so it would be illegal under international law for us to have them. We would have to get rid of them and it would be up to the UK how to deal with that.
Scotland wants rid of nuclear weapons. As my hon. Friend the Member for Angus put it, even Scotland’s Westminster MPs want rid of Trident. Not long ago, in 2007, 33 voted against Trident and 22 voted for it. They are in good company, because the majority of people in Scotland want rid of it, as do the Churches and the trade unions. Every part of civic society supports the notion that we must get rid of that weapon of mass destruction. That is why I say that Trident will be an iconic issue in the referendum—because so many people in Scotland oppose it.
I cannot give way, because more hon. Members want to speak.
Trident is a system for the Brezhnevs of the world, not the bin Ladens. It is for another age, and people understand that. Yet the Government will spend up to £100 billion on renewing it. Can we believe that? In a triple-dip recession—a time of austerity, the bedroom tax and hard living for most of our constituents—they are prepared to spend £100 billion on the renewal of Trident. That is an appalling decision for any Government. Scotland’s share of the upkeep alone is £163 million, and there is so much more that we could do with that, as my hon. Friend the Member for Angus said. Faslane will have a fantastic future as a conventional naval base. As an independent country we will be able to respond to our own defence needs.
I cannot give way. I am just finishing. We have our own defence needs and strategic requirements and the Scottish people have a fantastic opportunity to rid themselves of an evil weapon. If they want Trident out, they should vote yes to Scottish independence. The case is already overwhelming and compelling. The ability to rid Scotland of such an evil weapon of mass destruction helps that case.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Glasgow South West (Mr Davidson), the Chairman of the Scottish Affairs Committee, of which I am a member, on securing the debate.
Scotland plays an essential and pivotal role in the defence of the United Kingdom, and I welcome the opportunity to speak on one of the most important impacts of the referendum debate: the future of the Trident nuclear deterrent in a separate Scotland. It is no secret that I am an advocate of the decommissioning of all nuclear weapons, lock, stock and barrel, regardless of where they are sited—in Scotland, the UK or anywhere else. Indeed, I believe that nuclear disarmament should not just stop at Carlisle and Berwick-upon-Tweed, as the Scottish nationalists would have it. However, the removal of Trident from the Clyde, if that is the proposition, needs to be considered extremely carefully, with a full examination of all the implications and exploration of the alternatives. I therefore welcome the report as a significant contribution to that debate. Rather than putting up barriers and creating false divisions, as the nationalists constantly do, we all need to work together and play an active and constructive role in an international effort to achieve a world free from nuclear weapons.
The UK is a proud and prominent signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Its three pillars must continue to be the prism for our nuclear policy: non-proliferation, disarmament and the facilitation of the peaceful use of nuclear technology. I also believe that the formal response from the Scottish Government is not a meaningful contribution to the debate, and that many people throughout Scotland and the rest of the UK do not welcome it. If the SNP were to insist on the removal of Trident from Scottish territory by the “speediest safest transition”, as it says, any armed submarine on patrol would be recalled and, in effect, the UK would at that point no longer be able to maintain its nuclear defence capacity. The continuous at-sea deterrent would stop and it is not clear how quickly the UK could restore it, if that was the choice.
The SNP has claimed that the panacea for the vacuum that would be created through the removal of Trident from Faslane and Coulport would be the basing of conventional naval forces there. However, moving nuclear weapons from the Clyde after Scottish separation would be an enormous exercise costing billions of pounds and thousands of jobs. The Faslane site employs 6,700 military and civilian workers, with that figure due to rise to 8,200 by 2022. Of course, there is also a multiplier effect, across the west of Scotland and beyond. It is therefore for the Scottish Government to explain how the quality and quantity of such jobs would be matched if Trident were relocated. I do not think that the speeches of the hon. Members for Angus (Mr Weir) and for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) put any meat on the bones in that respect.
If a newly separate Scotland insisted on the removal of Trident from Faslane and the UK were forced into developing a new base at great expense, one would assume that the associated costs would be included in the separation negotiations. In that event, one would imagine the difficulty, both practically and politically, for a UK Government trying to establish facilities suitable for storing nuclear weapons and home-porting the Trident fleet in England or Wales.
I am concerned that this particular aspect of the debate is being sidelined. It is hard to find any clarity on an important issue for the people of Scotland and the rest of the UK. The Scottish Government need to be more open with the Scottish people on this matter and, in particular, the affected work force.
It has been mentioned that in a sitting of the Select Committee on Scottish Affairs this morning, we took evidence from the unions representing the work force on the Clyde. From their responses to our questions, it was abundantly clear that there is a distinct lack of information being provided to them by the SNP on what would happen to Faslane and Coulport in the event of a yes vote in the pending referendum. Despite what was said earlier by members of the Scottish National party, it was reported to us today that November will be the earliest opportunity for the work force to get some answers, perhaps, to their legitimate questions and concerns. The work force and, indeed, the people of Scotland must be able to make the best possible informed choice and be fully aware of the implications of that choice, so the SNP cannot continue to duck this issue.
Perhaps the Minister can confirm what discussions the devolved Administration in Scotland have had with the UK Government and the Ministry of Defence on the implications and additional costs of a separate Scottish state removing Trident and establishing a new naval base, post-separation. In particular, I should like a response about whether he accepts the view that Trident warheads could be deactivated in a matter of days and that the nuclear warheads, missiles and submarines could be removed from Scotland within 24 months, and whether this timetable would constitute the “speediest safe transition” of nuclear weapons from Scotland.
It is clear from the evidence that Scotland could not carry out this process by itself—the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire admitted that earlier—as all handling and transport of the warheads would have to be carried out by specialist staff from the UK. That would require the fullest possible co-operation between the Scottish and UK Governments.
The SNP has said that once an independent Government signed up to non-proliferation treaty rules, Britain’s submarine-based nuclear deterrent at Faslane and Coulport would have to leave Scotland “as quickly as possible”. Immediate removal could mean leaving the rest of the UK without use of its submarines for up to 20 years while a new base was found. Clearly, this is an absurd and unsustainable position.
I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to offer during this debate, and, perhaps more important, what the SNP has to say by way of facts and figures, not the usual assertions and myths that we have heard once again this afternoon. The people of Scotland deserve to know what they will be voting for in 2014. The issue of Trident is too important to ignore.
I congratulate the Committee, both on its inquiry and its report and on the manner in which its Chairman introduced its report, in which the prospects of relocating the nuclear deterrent to another base somewhere else in the UK are referred to as
“highly problematic, very expensive, and fraught with political difficulties.”
If memory serves me correctly, that phrase was part of my brief when I gave evidence to the Committee. The civil service was on fine form that day in preparing that brief, giving such a masterly understatement of what this would entail.
Anyone who has visited Faslane—I guess that most hon. Members in this Chamber will have done so at some point—will see that if we were establishing facilities of the sort that we have there, nature could scarcely have provided a more perfect setting in which to do so. Indeed, anyone who goes there will be struck by the tranquillity of it all, which is, of course, the legacy of the nuclear deterrent’s having been there for 50 years and little other development having taken place. When we say cheerfully that there are alternatives to which we could now turn—
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
I was making the point before the Division that Faslane is ideally suited to its purpose. Back in the 1950s, alternative sites were investigated, including Falmouth, which has one of the largest harbours in the world, and Milford Haven, but we cannot turn back the clock and consider how Falmouth and Milford Haven were 50 years ago. The fact is that a great deal of development has happened in both since, and some of it is completely incompatible with a nuclear facility.
If another site were chosen, the cost would not be simply the massive cost of making a nuclear installation. My colleague the hon. Member for Mid Worcestershire (Peter Luff) also gave evidence to the Committee, pointing out that making a site meet the standards for nuclear safety and hardening it in defence terms would multiply costs far above the requirements of normal construction. On top of all that would be compensation, restoration and all sorts of other attendant costs from nearby facilities and developments.
That was what led me to tell the Committee that the costs would be gargantuan. I think that they are basically unquantifiable—in all honesty, I have no idea what they would be—but if we are going to spend about £25 billion on the capital costs of renewing Trident, I would not be in the least surprised to see the same sum spent all over again if anybody were seriously to undertake the fraught project of relocation to another site. In a practical sense, it is all quite unnecessary, and it would take an enormous length of time. I do not see anything incredible about the estimates of 20 years.
If it does come about, and if the United Kingdom elects a Government in 2015 who wish to go ahead with the nuclear deterrent for a further generation, it would be one of the biggest items—if not the single biggest—on the table in the negotiation that would have to take place between London and Edinburgh in the aftermath of a referendum vote for independence. The Scottish Government would likely take the view, “This will all have to be paid for by the United Kingdom Government.” I would not expect them to write cheques for it. However, if the residual UK Government found themselves facing a massive bill of many billions of pounds for relocating the nuclear deterrent, they would have that many billions fewer in their back pocket for discussing the rest of the things on the table.
That brings us to the critical point that we have not heard from the proposers of Scottish independence what the defence policy of an independent Scotland would be. The United Kingdom, even denuded of 8.5% of its population and taxpayers, would continue to have global interests, which its armed forces are there to defend. It would continue to have a broad spectrum of capability with which to defend those interests, and it would continue to have the critical mass necessary to sustain a variety of equipment fleets, but the defence force of an independent Scotland would have neither those global interests nor that global reach.
Most critically, Scotland would not have the sheer mass with which it could possibly hope to sustain fleets of warships or fighter jets. We have heard that Faslane would continue to host submarines. What on earth would an independent Scottish force want with submarines? The purpose of submarines is to protect the nuclear deterrent, the aircraft carriers and warships. If Scotland is not going to have any of those things, why the dickens would it need any submarines at all?
The truth of the matter is that an independent Scotland would need defence forces. It would be about homeland security. If Scotland was forward-leaning in its global interests, it would perhaps be willing, like the Republic of Ireland, to volunteer troops to international peacekeeping operations. However, that is very different from taking the existing United Kingdom armed forces and slicing 8.5% from them.
Does my hon. Friend therefore agree with John Swinney’s assumption in this not very secret document that the defence budget of an independent Scotland would have to be a great deal reduced in proportion to what it is now as a percentage of the UK defence budget?
I am certain that the defence budget would be much smaller, given the other aspirations articulated for an independent Scotland, but I am absolutely clear that a force proportionate to the size of the population and the economy would not have fast jets; what on earth would it do with them? That will leave questions in a lot of mouths. It would not have warships. It would not have submarines. It would need offshore patrol vessels, some sort of aerial offshore patrol and helicopters, but it would not need the spectrum of things that the United Kingdom armed forces have. It would be a different beast altogether.
The fact of the matter is that Faslane, in its entirety, taking the nuclear deterrent, the non-nuclear submarines and the entire supply and support chain, is Scotland’s largest single employment site. As far as I can see, there would be virtually nothing there if we took the site away from Faslane. There would be a small requirement for a navy, but that would be a strange place to put it, as we heard earlier. The constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) would therefore be looking at ruination. Work such as that on the future of Barrow and elsewhere would need to be done.
No one should be in any doubt that this issue is a massive part of the independence debate. The consequences for Scotland need to be assessed and analysed carefully, and the headache presented to a UK Government who wished to continue the nuclear deterrent would be immense. Finally, we should not assume that Scottish independence is to be equated with the SNP ruling for ever in Edinburgh. It might well be that an election would return a Scottish Government of a completely different political hue, and some of the issues would then start looking very different.
The hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) hoped that another member of the Scottish Affairs Committee would speak, because he had asked why our report made it clear that it would be possible to remove nuclear weapons from Scotland in only days. To be clear, the report stated that removing them was possible, but that it would be at the expense of the entire UK not having a nuclear deterrent and of damaging the NATO deterrent.
A lot of the issues in the report have been covered in the debate today, so I will restrict my comments in the little time we have left to the effect on our international relationships and in particular our membership of NATO. I am disappointed at the lack of clarity from the SNP Members present today about how Trident would be removed and the effect that that would have.
It almost goes without saying that the first responsibility of any Government is the defence of their nation. That, however, does not seem to be a priority for the SNP Government in Edinburgh, nor does the entire A4 page on defence policy published last year inspire any confidence that defence is a top priority among their aspirations for a separate Scotland. Their only priority seems to be to win a referendum in 2014. That is why they ditched a long-held opposition to NATO. The SNP held a view for 60 years, but dropped it at one meeting in a desperate attempt to fool public opinion, which has consistently shown popular support for Scotland’s membership of NATO.
The organisation was born at the end of the second world war and the start of the cold war, and many countries around the world are still queuing up for membership. The reason for the length of that queue is obvious: we are proud of being part of NATO, and membership is not only a hoop to be jumped through. NATO membership has allowed us, as a small country, to contribute to preventing the slaughter of Muslims in Kosovo and Bosnia, to protecting women and children in Afghanistan from the Taliban and to securing our safety in the UK. NATO has played a vital role in humanitarian relief, helping after the Pakistan earthquake and Hurricane Katrina.
It is vital for us to be part of NATO and to contribute adequately to the alliance. It is important to show that not only Scotland but Britain and Europe are part of NATO. It exists for a reason. Simply put, we might not be having this debate today were we not a member of NATO. The SNP wants to send Scotland’s nuclear deterrent a few hundred miles down the road so that it can say that it opposes nuclear weapons, because it believes that to be popular. The policy might help the SNP to win the vote in 2014. Clearly, the goal is never what is the best policy for Scotland but what will help win the referendum.
NATO is clear about its position on nuclear weapons. Its strategic concept states:
“As long as nuclear weapons exist, NATO will remain a nuclear alliance.”
The SNP has been arguing the point. It wants to join the club but it has been arguing against the rules before even being granted membership. The SNP likes to have a grand, international, catch-all comparison in its desperate attempts to justify its assertions. None of us has yet forgotten the arc of prosperity, which has already been mentioned today. The SNP has quoted Norway as a country with an anti-nuclear stance that is still a member of NATO, but forgets that the country was a founding member of NATO. It also chooses to ignore the fact that Norway has mandatory military service. Denmark, too, is often quoted, but again the SNP ignores its historical relationship with NATO as a founding member and the fact that the country supports the holding of nuclear weapons through membership. I have not yet heard exactly how the SNP has come to the position of wanting the protection of nuclear weapons while not being willing to have them in its own backyard. There is no precedent for a country that has kicked out a nuclear deterrent to join NATO. Canada and Greece were mentioned, but they were opposed to US weapons on their soil, and the two positions are simply not comparable.
An SNP alternative for a separate Scotland might be to follow Belarus and Kazakhstan into the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, which includes countries that formerly had nuclear weapons on their soil. Frankly, a separate Scotland is more likely to be granted membership of the CSTO than of NATO. NATO would not let in a country that had removed nuclear weapons quickly, causing not only Scotland but the entire UK not to have a nuclear deterrent and reducing the nuclear deterrent capability of NATO as a whole. No countries in NATO have got rid of their nuclear weapons.
More importantly, on joining NATO a separate Scotland might be obliged to sign up to everything that NATO requires of its members, including allowing nuclear weapons in their waters, and article 5 of the treaty, which states that an attack on one member of the alliance is an attack on all members and will be acted on, and not only with UN sanctions as the SNP put forward in its defence document. It is not possible only to pursue a pick-and-mix approach, as the SNP regularly asserts. Regardless of that, I have seen no evidence that the SNP has discussed the options with NATO. Has the Minister had any discussions with NATO about the possibilities of a separate Scotland joining? What effect on Scotland and the UK’s membership would there be if an SNP Government in a separate Scotland disarmed the UK of its nuclear capability? Does the Minister have any evidence for the Scottish Government having asked NATO about the possibility of a separate Scotland joining?
When countries should be pulling together to face the new challenges of a fast-changing world, the SNP logic is to break up Britain and to gamble with Scotland and the UK’s security and their membership of NATO. We need the SNP to be open and honest about the defence of Scotland if it breaks away from the rest of the UK. The SNP needs to acknowledge the facts and choose evidence over ideology, as the Scottish people have the right to make an informed decision in 2014. They need to know that, while other countries are queuing up to join NATO, the only mainstream party in the UK that wants to risk losing membership of the alliance is the SNP. That would not be in the interests of the people of Scotland or of the United Kingdom.
May I just add, Mr Rosindell, that I hope you will forgive me for making a sharp exit, as I have the Adjournment debate in the main Chamber this evening? Missing one Adjournment debate in a year might be seen as an unfortunate error, but missing two would be seen as careless.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship today, Mr Rosindell. I am grateful to have the opportunity to contribute to this important debate and to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Pamela Nash), who made an important contribution, bringing the perspective of the vital international context to our discussions. As she said, the defence and security of any nation or state is the key responsibility of a Government.
Debates on the future of the nuclear deterrent have been and will continue to be an important aspect of the referendum discussions that are already well under way throughout Scotland, and indeed the rest of the UK. The significance of the issue has been demonstrated by the decision of the Scottish Affairs Committee to focus one of its inquiries fully on the subject. Furthermore, we have Members from throughout the rest of the UK attending the debate today, which shows how important it is. The report, which I read with interest, raises a number of key points about the deterrent and points out possible outcomes and situations that might arise. The facts about the available options for the future of the deterrent, were Scotland to leave the UK, leave no one feeling particularly satisfied with any of the potential outcomes.
The UK’s nuclear deterrent has been the cornerstone of our national security for more than half a century, and although the cold war divisions have gone, they have been replaced by new threats. We support retention of the minimum, credible, independent nuclear deterrent. The last Parliament voted to proceed with the initial stages of renewal, and we support that decision, although I am aware that some hon. Members here today voted in a different way in Parliament.
We eagerly await the outcome of the Lib Dem alternatives review. I confirm that the comments attributed to my right hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr Murphy), the shadow Secretary of State, and to me in this debate are not the case. I stated clearly that we had not committed to like-for-like renewal of Trident, which is why we are awaiting the outcome of the alternatives review. Our position has been clear throughout. If the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire (Pete Wishart) does not believe me, CND and Labour CND have tweeted that I said that here today. If he will not take my word, perhaps he will take their word. I do not often rely on them for comments.
I am happy to repeat that as often as the hon. Gentleman wants, but I suspect that colleagues would like me to move on. I have said again and again that we are awaiting the outcome of the alternatives review and, as I have just said, we are committed to retaining a minimum, independent, credible, alternative deterrent. Before deciding how that will be provided, we await the review, as do all other parties in Parliament, and we will then see what it says. I have told the hon. Gentleman this about four times, and I hope that he now understands the position.
I am a little concerned about progress on the review. I understand that the Royal Navy has not been asked for its opinion, and it should be. I believe that the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who represents Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey and who is leading the review, does not even have a pass for the Ministry of Defence building, so I am not sure what work is ongoing, but everyone is eagerly awaiting it.
We absolutely support a policy of multilateral disarmament, and like everyone who has spoken here today, I want a world free of nuclear weapons. The last Labour Government made progress in reducing the number of warheads from 300 to 160 just before the 2010 election.
The Committee outlined a number of alternative possibilities for the deterrent’s future, and it is clear that if the people of Scotland vote to break off from the rest of the UK, a separate Scotland will have to decide, in negotiation with the UK Government, the future of the nuclear deterrent, whoever the Government of a newly separate Scotland are. I do not presume, as the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire did, that that will be an SNP Government. The nationalists have, as with all other issues, made a series of assertions without any basis, so it falls to us to consider the reality.
The Committee considered that if the Government of a newly separate Scotland decided that they no longer wanted to house the nuclear deterrent or, conversely, if the Government of the remaining UK decided they did not want to base the capability in a foreign country, one option might be for the deterrent to be decommissioned and taken out of service. However, that does not seem likely because the UK Government are committed to retaining a nuclear deterrent.
The Committee also looked at the options for the short-term relocation of Trident, and specifically how the UK’s allies might be involved in providing a temporary base. One option would be to work with the USA at its submarine base in Georgia, but, as the Committee noted, questions would probably arise about the perceived independence of the capability. For most people, independence is a key desire behind having a nuclear deterrent, and the same argument might be applied to the Committee’s consideration of stationing the deterrent in France. Although it is closer and the geography would make things easier, there might be problem with finding sufficient space to house it.
A more likely outcome is that the UK Government would seek to relocate the capability elsewhere in the UK. Hon. Members will be aware from the Committee’s report that relocation of the deterrent is not a simple process. Apart from identification of an alternative site and the issues of physical relocation, the exercise would be extremely expensive. Some sources have suggested that it could cost £20 billion to £25 billion. The previous Minister for the Armed Forces made it clear that the cost would dwarf the £3.5 billion cost of recent upgrade work at Faslane.
I have visited the naval base on the Clyde. Any other hon. Members who have done so will know that it is akin to a small town with a range of facilities and accommodation, as well as the necessary equipment and infrastructure to provide a centre for our submarines.
Estimates that the deterrent will remain in Scotland for anything up to 20 years while a new base is developed raise serious questions, which need to be addressed and which cast significant doubt on the nationalists’ view that voting for separation equals unilateral disarmament. I am far from convinced that even unilateralists would see that as a victory, and comments during the debate today back that up. I believe in multilateral disarmament, and there would not be a victory for anyone in simply moving the nuclear capability deterrent 165 miles south. Surely our interests are best served by working internationally with our allies, partners and other countries towards multilateral disarmament.
The UK is committed to retaining a deterrent, so the most likely outcome is relocation to elsewhere in the UK. That would mean removal of Faslane and with it thousands of jobs on the base and in our wider industry, the future of which is far from certain under these plans. The report states:
“Several witnesses in our inquiry commented on the vacuum of discussion on how separation would affect defence in Scotland”.
More than one major defence employer in Scotland has recently expressed similar concerns to me that there is so little detail about the nationalists’ plans for separation and defence in a separate Scotland that it is extremely difficult seriously to engage in any way with the question of what separation would mean for defence and the defence industry in Scotland. That is a fair comment.
Most sensible people would say that if the case has not been made and information is not there, the answer must be no. The nationalists are certainly failing to put any meat on the bones of their randomised top-line numbers. I can give them some numbers: 6,500 jobs at the naval base, about half and half military and civilian, and a conservative estimate of 4,500 jobs supported throughout the wider economy with £270 million pumped into the Scottish economy every year. That is what the nationalists want to scrap. The shop stewards are right to demand answers. They deserve to have the information to give to their members so that we can have a proper discussion.
The nationalists want to assure us that when they have told the Royal Navy to take all its submarines, nuclear-armed and nuclear-powered, out of Scottish waters, nothing will change at Faslane and Coulport. I have even heard a west of Scotland MSP claim that more people will be employed at Faslane after separation. I hope that they are beginning to realise how ridiculous their claims are, because they are insulting my constituents. The nationalists should make no mistake. Without the Vanguard subs, there will be no Faslane and no jobs, but a seriously wounded local economy.
When the Navy has gone, the civilian jobs will go, because they support the Navy. An employer to whom I spoke recently acknowledged that removal of Faslane would mean starting with a blank sheet of paper. It would not mean, as the SNP want to say, that jobs will be protected.
The SNP says that it would have a joint service headquarters as well as basing the Scottish navy at Faslane, but they will not give us any detail. I watched the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire nodding vigorously as Members challenged him, asking him very politely to provide information in his speech, but he gave not one jot of detail. There was nothing at all. Even the retired Lieutenant-Colonel Stuart Crawford, whom I would describe—I hope I am not misrepresenting him—as an independent military expert who is sympathetic to the idea of independence, stated that the maximum number of jobs that he could see Faslane supporting would be around 1,000 to 1,500. That is his opinion, not mine.
Other commentators have asked, as did my constituency neighbour,the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid), that if the primary job of the Scottish navy was to protect the oil platforms, what sense would it make to base the naval capability on the west coast of Scotland? Do not get me wrong—I will always argue for that, no matter what situation we are in, but we have to look at the facts here. It is worth noting that the job of protecting the oil platforms is currently done by non-militarised agencies, so I am not sure how those people would feel about their jobs being shunted, so that Salmond’s navy could come in to take over.
Today is a very significant day in the referendum campaign because public scrutiny is being given to a leaked Scottish Government Cabinet document, which the Minister has referred to. It reveals the truth about the nationalists’ spending plans in a separate Scotland. It is worth looking at exactly what it says. On defence, the Scottish Finance Secretary, John Swinney, wrote:
“Historically defence spending in Scotland has been lower than Scotland’s population share of the UK defence budget.”
In saying that, he demonstrates that he, like his colleagues, does not understand that spending on overseas operations cannot be attributed to various parts of the regions and nations of the UK. He continues:
“I have made clear to the Defence Workstream that a much lower budget must be assumed.”
I hope that the bluster will now stop. There will be less money, not more, spent in a separate Scotland on defence.
I am just checking how long I have been speaking for—I could go on, but I will draw my comments to a close, so that the Minister has enough time to sum up. All I would say in conclusion is that I do not see how anybody can be particularly happy or satisfied with the outcome of the possibilities for the deterrent—[Interruption.] I have already told the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire what our position is, so he can pipe down, quite honestly. I do not see how anyone can be satisfied with the outcomes for what would happen to the deterrent in a separate Scotland. It is highly unlikely that the situation would lead to unilateral disarmament, and it is highly likely that thousands of jobs on the west coast of Scotland would be lost. That is what the nationalists are arguing for today.
It is a joy to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Rosindell, especially since we had such happy days together in the Whips Office in opposition.
We have had a good debate. I find myself in an unusual situation. Normally, I face serried ranks of Labour MPs who throw metaphorical bricks at me. Often, I have serried ranks behind me throwing similar metaphorical bricks, but today, we have been remarkably consensual, pace the two hon. Gentlemen from the SNP. I have found it an interesting, if rather one-sided, debate.
I will make my personal views known. I am an Englishman. My father was born in Wales, and therefore, I have Welsh ancestry. I am a Conservative MP, self-evidently, and some commentators, from time to time, suggest that the Conservatives should wish to see Scotland leave the United Kingdom, because that would be to the Conservatives’ benefit electorally. May I say that I and the Government disagree entirely with that? I think that all the peoples—including the Scots—in the United Kingdom would be very much poorer to see the end of the United Kingdom. I, and the Government, would very much regret a victory for the siren voices of small-minded separatism in the referendum next year.
The first duty of Government is defence of the realm, to ensure the security of the nation, its people and its interests. The Government are unwaveringly committed to that duty. Consequently, like all post-war Governments—Labour, Conservative and now the coalition—we regard a nuclear deterrent as an essential contribution to our security. The strategic defence and security review of 2010 makes it clear that the nuclear deterrent provides the ultimate guarantee of our national security against the most extreme risks from nuclear-armed adversaries.
The recent test by North Korea of a nuclear device, in defiance of the international community and the good examples that many in the international community show, as well as the continuing uncertainties over Iran’s nuclear programme, underline the fact that we continue to live in a dangerous world, in which we have little ability to predict what threats we may face in future. As long as the threat of nuclear proliferation continues, the Government simply will not gamble with the security of future generations of British people.
This Government, in line with our predecessors, are firmly committed to multilateral disarmament. Personally, I wish to see total nuclear disarmament, but it has to be multilateral, not unilateral. When I was in the Army—as I was for many years—I considered the prospect of a nuclear conflict so horrific that it would have meant that there was no point in fighting on any more.
The hon. Gentleman, if I might say so, reveals a certain ignorance, as the point is that weaponry has to be kept up to date. It is rather like saying, “Could we not use a one-rupee jezail when fighting in Afghanistan?” I am afraid that those were the days of Kipling, and while the Afghans may have been very accurate, we prefer to use modern weaponry.
The UK has an excellent record in fulfilling its disarmament obligations—as the hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle) said, in relation to the previous Government—under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, as demonstrated by the latest round of stockpile reductions that we announced in the strategic defence and security review. We probably have the smallest nuclear force of the recognised nuclear weapon states and, uniquely, the UK relies on a single platform, a single weapon system and single warhead design for the delivery of its nuclear deterrent.
However, we continue to work to create a safer and more stable world in which the UK and others can relinquish their nuclear weapons, but we are not there yet. Therefore, nuclear arsenals remain, as does the danger of further proliferation, especially in regions of instability and tension, so we believe that a nuclear deterrent is likely to remain an important element of our national security. Given the uncertainties of the international environment, it would be folly to pursue a policy of unilateral nuclear disarmament. As President Obama said in Prague in 2009, the threat of nuclear war has gone down, but the threat of nuclear attack has gone up.
The UK’s nuclear weapon capability is designed to deter and thereby prevent blackmail and acts of aggression against our vital interests that cannot be countered by other means. It also supports collective security, through NATO, for the Euro-Atlantic area. The UK Government have thus committed to maintain the strategic nuclear deterrent and to continue with the programme to renew it as debated and approved by a significant majority in Parliament in March 2007.
The Government’s policy is that the Vanguard class submarines will be replaced at the end of their lives, in the late 2020s and early 2030s, by a successor submarine, again carrying the Trident missile, subject to main gate investment approval due in 2016. The Government are committed to continuous at-sea deterrence. In times of tensions or crisis, such a posture neither escalates nor de-escalates matters and maximises political freedom of manoeuvre. A submarine-launched ballistic missile system offers invulnerability, range and endurance. All promote the credibility of that deterrent and provide the ultimate safeguard for our national security. I pay tribute to the crews of our submarines and their families, and all the men and women, both military and civilian—including at Faslane—engaged in Operation Relentless, our country’s most enduring current operation, which has been in place for nearly 45 years. I thank them—Scots, English, Irish and Welsh—for their unwavering dedication.
The UK Government’s position on the referendum on Scottish separation is clear: Scotland benefits from being part of the UK and the UK benefits from having Scotland within it. Scotland has played an indispensable role in the development and history of the multi-nation UK. As a result, the UK has developed and flourished, and its constitution, laws and institutions underpin one of the most successful partnerships of nations in history.
If the result of the referendum on Scottish separation were to lead to the current situation being challenged, other options would have to be considered. It would be an enormous challenge to reproduce the facilities that we have at Faslane elsewhere, as we have heard, and any alternative solution would come at huge cost. It is impossible to estimate how much that would be, as it would depend on many factors, including time scales and the precise scope of the facilities that might be required, but it would cost billions of pounds and take many years.
Let me now make this point about Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde. The hon. Member for West Dunbartonshire (Gemma Doyle) represents—[Interruption]. A constituency not far away; the hon. Member for Argyll and Bute (Mr Reid) does indeed represent Clyde itself, and Helensburgh, where I went last year. Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde underwent a significant investment programme to prepare it for the introduction of the Vanguard-class submarines and the Trident missile system. That programme cost in the region of £3.5 billion at today’s prices, and that built on decades of investment in the base infrastructure and associated housing.
In April 1963, the Civil Lord of the Admiralty, Ian Orr-Ewing, whom I remember and who died only about 15 years ago, informed the House that the operating base for the planned fleet of Resolution-class Polaris ballistic missile submarines needed to be near deep water, to offer easy navigational access and to be a short distance by sea from the associated armament depot. He informed the House that it had been decided that Faslane was the area that was operationally most suitable for the basing of the submarine fleet. My hon. Friend the Member for North Devon (Sir Nick Harvey) pointed out that it is a perfect site. In this varied United Kingdom, we do not have a better site.
That decision was reviewed in the early 1980s, alongside the decision to introduce the Vanguard-class submarines. It was concluded that the Clyde continued to offer the best location. Nothing has happened since to alter that conclusion. Indeed, the Clyde has been chosen as the submarine centre of specialisation, and all our submarines will be based there by the end of this decade, which brings the additional benefits to the region that have been mentioned.
We have mentioned employment at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, but I now return to that, because it is the largest employment site in Scotland. The base is a major source of employment for highly skilled workers and a significant contributor to the local economy. The rise in the number of jobs during the next decade accompanies the move to base all royal naval submarines on the Clyde to achieve economies of scale and the greater effectiveness of collocation. That symbiosis of a submarine centre of specialisation and associated contractor and base support is a matter of pride, I would have thought, for the UK, for Faslane and for Scotland.
As the collocation benefits would be required in any alternative location, there would be no question but that the entirety of the submarine enterprise on the Clyde would be relocated if the nuclear deterrent force had to move. It is for those who demand the withdrawal of the Vanguard-class submarines from Faslane to explain how the quality and quantity of employment in the region would be matched if the enterprise had to be relocated.
As the UK Government have no plans to disarm unilaterally, there would inevitably be significant time and cost implications if an independent Scottish Government demanded the withdrawal of the UK deterrent. For reasons that I have already described, the UK Government will not pre-negotiate the departure of Scotland from the UK. Therefore, scenarios mentioned in the Scottish Affairs Committee report under which the UK may negotiate a basing agreement for the deterrent with an independent Scottish Government will not be discussed before to the outcome of the referendum and, God willing, will never need to be discussed.
As was said by the hon. Member for Airdrie and Shotts (Pamela Nash), who has just left the Chamber, NATO is a nuclear alliance, and it will remain a nuclear alliance while nuclear weapons remain in existence. NATO’s “Strategic Concept” of 2010 and the “Deterrence and Defence Posture Review” adopted at the NATO summit in Chicago only in May last year make that unambiguously clear. Those documents also make this clear:
“The supreme guarantee of the security of the Allies is provided by the strategic nuclear forces of the Alliance, particularly those of the United States; the independent strategic nuclear forces of the United Kingdom and France, which have a deterrent role of their own, contribute to the overall deterrence and security of the Allies.”
The contribution made by the UK’s nuclear forces is much valued by our NATO allies, and membership of NATO comes with responsibilities. One cannot join NATO and pretend that it is not a nuclear alliance, for it is, and one cannot join NATO and reject the concept of nuclear burden sharing within the alliance.
It is clear to me that a separate Scotland would face difficult choices about its defence arrangements. That would include decisions on the role of its armed forces, what threats it intended to counter and what foreign policy it intended to support—quite a bit of work required there, then—its international relationships, including membership of NATO; the resources allocated to defence, which we have just heard about from Mr Swinney; and the future of the defence industry in Scotland.
It is indeed the case that people in Scotland need to know how the Scottish Government propose to provide for the protection and security of Scotland if it separates, God forbid, from the UK. It is the UK Government’s view that whatever choice is made, a separate Scotland would lose significant benefits in this area that are currently delivered by Scotland being part of the United Kingdom. One of those benefits is the security provided by the armed forces of the United Kingdom, including the strategic nuclear deterrent.
Our nuclear deterrent has contributed to both our security and that of our NATO allies since the 1950s, and the continuous at-sea deterrence posture has been the central feature of our deterrence since the late 1960s. As the Trident system has been our sole nuclear weapons system since 1998, our nuclear deterrence posture is now based exclusively on CASD. Although I personally am committed and we as a Government are committed to multilateral disarmament, the circumstances that would justify the relinquishing of our submarine-based deterrent do not prevail and are unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future. For that reason, I reiterate that we have no plans to move the deterrent from Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, which has a bright future not only as the base for all our submarines, but as the UK’s submarine centre of specialisation.
With the leave of this House, this has been a very good debate. There has been a very good turnout. I am particularly happy that the Select Committee report seems to have been universally welcomed. That will certainly gladden the members of the Committee and, indeed, the staff who worked with us in its preparation. I particularly enjoyed the fierce attack on the Scottish Affairs Committee that was made by one of the separatists at the same time as they were welcoming the report—no problem there, then.
It is only fair at this stage to make it absolutely clear that the proposal that “The Referendum on Separation for Scotland” would be the wording of the heading for our series of reports was unanimously agreed by the Committee in a meeting at which the SNP was present. The SNP member of the Committee did agree that wording. She subsequently got a row from her colleagues and then produced a press statement, which led to her being rebuked for misbehaviour by the other members of the Committee, but she did agree that wording. It was alleged that we were too hard in rebuking her. Let me make it clear that there were 14 witnesses in that Committee, not one of whom corroborates the version of events given by the SNP. It is worth while just making that point clear.
I will move on, and I hope that the SNP will also move on from the politics of smear and character assassination and stop trying to play the man and not the ball. I am glad that for at least some of the SNP’s contribution, Members engaged in the debate and were prepared to argue on the issues, because I think that the discussions that we have had today have moved the debate forward quite considerably. I think that there is recognition on all sides that the parameters that we have spelt out in our report are universally accepted—that that is the area that the debate will focus on in terms of timing. We have had a clear indication from the SNP about its position in relation to those. It has not been absolutely explicit, but nor, to be fair, have the UK Government yet.
It seems to me that we are now in a position in which, having established, as a result of this report and subsequent discussions, what the alternatives are on timing, we are also pretty clear on where one of the parameters is in terms of jobs. The shop stewards told us earlier today about the 50 years of job security with the United Kingdom. There are 6,700 jobs, rising to 8,200 jobs, with the UK. But with separation, the position is unknown. In those circumstances, we as a Committee will be, on both this occasion and others, drawing attention to what appears to be a complete vacuum of policy from the SNP on the question of defence. That cannot continue. We owe it not only to the people of Scotland, who are going to vote in about October 2014, but to the work force, who require warning of what might happen to their jobs and the ability to plan. We cannot surprise them with a decision one day that something is going to happen the next. If they wish to leave their employment, as a result of cuts coming down the road, to seek a job elsewhere, they need time to prepare. Their children are at school. They need to start deciding whether it is desirable or necessary to find a job somewhere else. Family ties will be disrupted by job losses.
I want to close by saying to the Government that I hope they will also do as much as they can to clarify the position. I saw one of the other Defence Ministers here earlier. I hope that both Ministers will take account of the report we produced on separation shutting shipyards and be clear about their intentions for placing orders for the Type 26 between now and the referendum. If they cannot be clear, or if they wish to say that no orders will be placed before the referendum, they need to indicate what will be done to ensure that yards remain open between now and then. The yards engaged in building aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy are fast running out of work and might not be there to build the Type 26, even if Scotland remains within the United Kingdom, unless they are given fill-in work.
The question is what will happen not only to Faslane and Coulport, which we have heard about today, but to Scotland’s shipyards and, as we intend to show in other reports that the Committee will produce shortly, every other industrial site in Scotland that is connected to defence. All those questions require answering. I hope that I and other members of the Committee and its staff can bring out reports in the future that will be greeted with universal acclaim similar to that which greeted this report, and that we will have similarly fruitful debates.
We are moving towards one of the major decisions to be taken in the life of every Scot here and elsewhere. Full debate is essential. If the separatists wish to have an open debate, they must provide answers. The Committee has identified the areas that require clarification; it is now up to them to fill the gaps. Thank you, Mr Rosindell.
Question put and agreed to.