A LEADING academic has said that pressing ahead with the renewal of Trident could make the break-up of the UK even more likely.

William Walker, emeritus professor of international relations at St Andrews University, argued that renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent could contribute to pressure for Scottish independence.

Writing in Survival, the journal of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) Walker said that if independence happened, the nuclear-armed submarines would likely be expelled from Scotland, forcing a difficult relocation elsewhere.

This was complicated by the fact that since the decision to replace Trident was taken in 2007, “the UK’s internal politics and economic circumstances have changed utterly”.

Walker said: “The replacement policy chosen in 2007 is ill adapted to new political and economic circumstances, and may be unsustainable as a result.

“What should now happen is that the cases for the deterrent’s renewal, for the Trident system’s retention or abandonment, and for the continued use of Faslane and Coulport are reopened to public debate in Scotland as well as in London.

“The United Kingdom’s fate will be determined by much more than next year’s decision on Trident.”

He added: “But the nuclear force’s basing in the Clyde has long been a toxic issue in Scotland, breathing life into the idea of independence. A decision to press forward with the current replacement project, overriding Scottish opinion, would do further damage to the Union.”

Walker went on to say that opposition in Scotland to nuclear deterrence and the UK’s main nuclear force being based in the Clyde had a long history in civil society. It was rooted in perceptions of imperial imposition and played a significant part in the SNP’s rise.

Defence and foreign policy was reserved to London, he said, and the Scottish Parliament played no part in the decision to replace Trident.

“Upon winning the largest number of seats in the May 2007 Scottish election, the SNP-led minority government exercised its constitutional right to hold a debate on Trident in the Scottish Parliament, resulting in a decisive vote against the replacement policy,” he said. “The vote was treated as irrelevant in London.”

Walker contrasted that position with next year’s decision on Trident.

He wrote: “The UK Government’s stance would be agreed by a cabinet that had no Scottish members other than David Mundell, the single Conservative MP elected to a Scottish seat in the 2015 General Election, whom Prime Minister Cameron appointed Secretary of State for Scotland in the absence of a credible alternative.

“Put to a vote in the House of Commons, the Government could now muster only two Scottish votes, at most, in favour of Trident’s replacement – one Conservative and one Liberal Democrat (possibly), the single Scottish Labour MP having already stated that he would vote against it.

“All other 56 Scottish seats in Westminster are now held by SNP MPs that will vote en bloc against the decision.”

He said the Tory Government would probably remain united on the issue and, joined in the lobby by a number of Labour MPs, would carry the vote to renew Trident.

That, “as night follows day”, would trigger another Holyrood debate “resulting in an even more emphatic vote against the policy than in 2007”.

This would be especially true if the vote were taken after next year’s Scottish election when the SNP was expected to strengthen its hold over the Scottish Parliament.

As the decision approaches, Walker said the UK Government would have to reckon with the “real possibility that Scotland would gain independence within the new Trident system’s lifetime” should it decide to go ahead.

He said this could happen “perhaps before manufacture is completed”, and added: “Tens of billions of pounds might be spent on a weapon system rendered inoperable by politics.”

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