THE SNP have slammed the UK Government after it was revealed that the renewal of the Trident was already moving ahead - despite MPs being unaware any decision had been made.

Information about the multibillion-pound replacement was leaked by US officials after a US commander told a committee in the States of the UK's plans before ministers made an official announcement or even informed MPs.

Responding to the news, SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald raised question about how the decision could impact the UK's committment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

He said: "This is a quite astonishing story. Not only are we learning about a new UK nuclear missiles programme from the US Senate, but the programme itself clearly sets the UK on course to breach the Non-Proliferation Treaty, to which it is a signatory.

"The treaty makes it clear that nuclear armed states are required to 'pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.' This programme clearly rips up that commitment and that is of utmost concern.

The National: SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonaldSNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald

"Matters of defence and security are the first job of government, it therefore stands that they are the first job of parliament as a scrutinising and legislating body. Why are we learning that the UK Government is gearing up to renege on its own international commitments, to the tune of billions of pounds, from the US Senate and not the UK parliament? The Defence Secretary must come before parliament tomorrow.

"In 2018 Theresa May gave a speech at the UN in which she described the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 'the flagship of the international community’s determination against nuclear proliferation.' In that description she was right. Her successor now seems to want to walk away from that.

"At a time when the international rules based system is under serious strain, the UK Government must commit to the treaties it is a signatory to, reverse this decision, and refocus its security priorities so as to fix the hollowed out nature of UK defence capability."

The cost to replace Trident has been estimated at £31 billion.

An MoD spokeswoman said: "As previously stated in the 2015 defence review, we can confirm that we are working towards replacing the warhead.

"We have a strong defence relationship with the US and will continue to remain compatible with the US Trident missile.

"An announcement about the UK's replacement warhead programme will be made in due course."