AN internal report for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has blamed the prospect of Scottish independence for difficulties in staffing its nuclear submarines.

The Ferret has reported that the research found independence "a critical aspect" of personnel not wanting to move their families to Faslane, where the Trident nuclear missiles are based.

A lack of pay and recognition for their work, and the Royal Navy's "embarrassing" public image, were also cited as factors.

Official data has revealed that the MoD has a deficit of 250 submarine personnel, with only 2100 of 2280 engineer posts and 560 out of 630 "warfare" submariner posts filled.

Between 2013-14 and 2016-17, there was an "outflow" of 1080 submariners.

The report, which can be read in full on The Ferret's article, reads: "The issue of Scottish independence is a critical aspect of personnel not wanting to relocate their families and lives to the area near Faslane.

"The Service appears to be burying its head in the sand and hoping for the best. If personnel are to commit to MSCoS, a firm declaration of intent or course of action by both the Naval Service and the UK Government should be promulgated."

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The report was released under freedom of information laws and was "not intended for public distribution", with much redacted on security grounds.

Another factor contributing to the difficulties in convincing crew to move north was senior officers not living locally.

The report found: "The setting of active examples by senior personnel ... is a point that should be actioned to promote faith in the planned changes.

"A considerable number of the ship's company fly via [redacted] Airport to travel home for the weekend when the submarine is alongside and many have noticed that senior officers involved in the planning of [redacted] do not live locally to the base and choose to travel home.

"Service personnel have remarked that they can hardly be expected to move their lives."

An SNP spokesperson said blaming independence was a case of the MoD "inventing straw men".

They told The Ferret: “The delayed and over-budget Astute-class programme left the UK reliant on a single Cold War-era attack submarine for much of the last couple of years.

“The SNP has long argued for the introduction of an armed forces representative body which would allow submariners, and all armed forces personnel, to speak with one strong voice to negotiate with the MoD for better pay and conditions.”

Responding to the story, a Royal Navy spokesperson said: “This is part of an unofficial and unauthorised study conducted into life in the submarine service, and it would be inappropriate to comment further."

On the issue of pay, the report said crew compared their conditions unfavourably to that of politicians.

It said: "Generally participants felt that they were not paid enough for the sacrifices they make in being at sea. Another key point that was remarked upon by a number of participants was the lack of a real term pay rise to meet inflation.

"Placed alongside the higher pay rises of politicians, the negative impact on morale is clear."

The MoD refused to answer questions on submarine staffing levels.