FURY has erupted over the revelation that an extra £500m is to be invested in Faslane by the UK Government, with critics claiming it is pre-empting a vote on the renewal of Trident.

Chancellor George Osborne – who is to announce the investment during a surprise visit to the naval base today – has been told he should instead be defending the disabled from benefits cuts and spending money on Scotland’s conventional defence forces.

“With the UK Government facing a United Nations probe over its cuts to support for disabled people, George Osborne has his priorities all wrong,” said SNP Westminster defence spokesperson Brendan O’Hara MP.

“He should be defending the disabled, not his government’s indefensible decision to spend £100bn on a new generation of nuclear weapons – and this so-called investment in Faslane will directly support the deployment of Trident submarines.

“George Osborne is essentially pre-empting a vote and actual decision on renewal of Trident.”

He added: “There is something fundamentally wrong with Westminster’s values and priorities if the Chancellor thinks wasting billions on nuclear weapons is something to boast about when people are dying within our benefits system.”

The money, which Osborne claims will secure 67,000 jobs and create thousands more, is to be spent on ship lifts, sea walls, jetties and other major projects and is expected to last 10 years starting in 2017.

However, the Treasury has admitted that not all the new jobs will be at the base with a large number created in the UK-wide supply chain.

Currently the base hosts around 6,700 military and civilian staff and contractors and the Government says this is expected to increase to around 8,200 by 2022.

“Today’s announcement of more than £500m demonstrates the UK Government’s commitment to investing in the infrastructure and capability to ensure that Faslane remains the centre of UK submarine operations for the next generation,” said the Chancellor.

However, O’Hara said the irony was that the UK Government wanted to invest billions in “an unwanted and obscene arsenal of nuclear weapons” when spending on conventional defence in Scotland had been cut “to the bone”.

“At a time when Scotland’s conventional defence footprint has never been smaller, with major capability gaps, base closures and personnel numbers at an all-time low, it seems the Treasury apparently has a limitless pot to keep an unwanted and obscene arsenal of nuclear weapons afloat. Investment in Faslane is welcome – but it must be as a conventional base – and not more money spent on weapons of mass destruction.

“The reality is that Scotland has been hit by continued, disproportionate cuts to our defence footprint – with less than 10,000 defence personnel. Axing of air bases such as Leuchars, for example, have seen Fife badly hit with a reduction from 1,770 personnel to just 570 since April 2012.

“We are left in the absurd situation in Scotland as a maritime nation without a single maritime patrol aircraft to defend our waters and without the proper conventional naval vessels based in Scotland, while Westminster is hell-bent on renewing Scotland’s nuclear arsenal.”

“With plans by the UK Government to initiate a new Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) this autumn, the Ministry of Defence must rule out further damaging cuts to Scotland’s defence communities who have been hit by job losses, base closures and cuts to key conventional capabilities.”

Osborne’s visit was also criticised by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament who said it was “disrespectful” following the revelations of whistle-blower William McNeilly, who broke his silence on fears over the safety of Trident in the Sunday Herald earlier this year.

“George Osborne’s presence at Faslane will do nothing to reassure the Scottish public that everything is safe at Britain’s nuclear base,” said John Ainslie, Scottish CND co-ordinator.

“We know from the revelations of William McNeilly that Trident is a ‘disaster waiting to happen’. The Chancellor is about to commit billions of pounds to renewing Trident, although he knows that Holyrood and 57 of our 59 MPs are against this.

“If he had any respect for Scotland he would be coming here to announce that Trident would be scrapped.”

William McNeilly was discharged from the Navy earlier this year after revealing to our sister paper The Sunday Herald a catalogue of safety and security issues at the Faslane base.

Osborne will also visit Aberdeen today to discuss the problems facing the UK oil industry.