AN independent Scotland could raise £1.1 billion a year for the new state’s coffers by renting out the Faslane nuclear base to Nato, according to a leading defence analyst.

Trevor Royle, a military historian and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, has argued Scotland could follow Iceland which leased its air force base to America from 1949 to 2006 to generate revenue in the first decades of becoming independent from Denmark.

Scotland’s two pro independence parties, the SNP and the Scottish Greens, are both opposed to nuclear weapons. With defence reserved to Westminster, they make the case that one of the benefits of independence is that it would give Scotland the power to remove nuclear weapons.

At its 2012 annual conference the SNP reversed its long held opposition to an independent Scotland joining Nato - so long as nuclear weapons were not hosted in the country. But the policy change prompted a number of figures to defect to the Greens - which opposes Nato membership - fearing the move was a sign of weakening opposition to Trident. Debate in the SNP over the Nato membership still continues.

Royle set out the dilemmas that may face an independent Scotland.

“Faslane is an extraordinary asset, but it will be the elephant in the room should Scotland gain independence in the immediate future,” he stated in an article in the Sunday Times at the weekend.

“This represents a challenge and an opportunity. Given the strategic importance of Faslane and the undoubted importance of submarines in modern naval operations, not least in intelligence gathering, why doesn’t Scotland follow Iceland’s example and lease the base to Nato, just as our northern neighbour did with the air force base at Keflavik — a crucial asset from 1949 until 2006?

“Under a bilateral agreement with America, Iceland provided the alliance with land and facilities as its main contribution. Operating under the title of the Iceland Defense Force — the host country does not possess an army — Keflavik emerged as a key asset in the Cold War. There were winners all round. For a country with a modest financial sector, Iceland benefited from the boom created by the US connection.”

He added: “The nuclear issue could still prove a sticking point for all that the SNP did a U-turn over Nato membership in 2012 and for all that political parties have not been unknown to trim policy when it suits changed circumstances. I am opposed to nuclear weapons on grounds of cost, morality and lack of effectiveness, but an independent Scotland will not be so awash with cash that it can ignore an asset such as Faslane, which could attract a rental of £1.1bn a year.

“The SNP promises Faslane will be “a vibrant and sustainable conventional naval base” but it makes no sense to house conventional naval forces in a modern, purpose-built base designed to operate nuclear submarines — and which newly independent country needs such an elaborate facility? Iceland makes do with three patrol vessels and smaller boats operated by 200 sailors.”

Scottish Greens external affairs spokesman Ross Greer said: “Trevor Royle’s observations of Scotland’s Cold War experience are fascinating but three decades after the Iron Curtain’s fall, he seems confused about what independence is for.. Ridding our country of the moral stain and existential threat of these weapons of mass slaughter has always been at the core of the modern campaign for independence and at central to Green politics.

“The existence of nuclear weapons on the Clyde is a symptom of Westminster’s superpower delusion, but it carries a very real threat to Scots who live within the blast and immediate fallout radius, which would cover the majority of our population. The SNP may have flipped their support behind Nato’s first-strike nuclear alliance but the Scottish Greens never will. Independence will be a chance to establish Scotland’s role in the world as a peacebuilding nation, utterly disassociated from nuclear weapons and the US-led military alliance which clings to them.”