IT’S not news that some in the independence movement would rather we lease out Faslane to the Royal Navy for varying times and for varying amounts, up to and including the end of the service life of the Vanguard subs that carry the Trident nuclear missiles. This was revealed in the comments on your website in response to the SNP CND Trident timescale motion (Call for road map to remove Trident from indy Scotland, Jul 22).

As I hope to explain here, all of these positions, in their slightly different iterations, are flawed and would all result in Faslane become a nuclear Guantanamo on the Clyde.

The construction programme for the replacements to the Vanguard Class SSBNs (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines) is already under way. Two of the four Dreadnought class boats are already under construction – one started in 2016 the other in 2018.

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The key point is that all four Vanguard class boats will not leave service on one date and the four Dreadnought class replacements enter service on another. Rather, one of the four Vanguards will be decommissioned and one of the four Dreadnought will enter service alongside the remaining Vanguard class boats.

This process of effectively having a mixed fleet of two classes of SSBNs will stretch many years into the future.

This mixed nuclear armed fleet will be a fact of life for at least a decade and almost certainly much longer.

We hear much of Plan A’s and Plan B’s in relation to indyref 2. Much less so about the nukes on the Clyde. Plan A for the UK Government is to see off a second referendum, of course. However, they also have a Plan B, which – as was revealed in the comments section of The National yesterday – a position shared unfortunately by a minority in the independence movement. That is to rent out Faslane to the Royal Navy. But as I have explained above, a lease is a nuclear Trojan horse. It would run for more than a decade and then probably into perpetuity.

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However, the Royal Navy also have a Plan C: to transfer the nuclear armed fleet to other basing arrangements. Those who argue that a well-equipped, trained professional institution like the Royal Navy do not do alternative basing contingency planning are simply putting on public display their lack of basic military literacy.

I recently attended an online members-only seminar of the Royal United Services Institute, the worlds oldest military think tank. It was conducted under the Chatham House rule and nothing I say below breaches it.

I predicated my question with a reminder to all there that contingency planning is the bread and butter function of military staffs the world over.

I then went on to suggest that some aspects of the contingency planning around alternative basing arrangements for Britain’s SSBNs be in the public domain.

After confirmation that contingency planning does indeed takes place all of the time, the response to my specific question was an understandable no, that it would be inappropriate that any element of the alternative basing contingency planning be in the public domain.

Again, anyone with a modicum of military, indeed political, literacy will understand why I got that answer. It for us in the independence movement to flip this reality into an asset as we plan for the next independence referendum.

After all, the Ministry of Defence planning for indyref2 is well under way and some of it is even in the public domain.

Bill Ramsay
Convener, SNP CND