MAY I put my tuppence worth in?

First can we be clear the missile part of “Trident” is actually leased from Lockheed Martin and the US Navy – the UK does not own the missile bit. The missiles are maintained and fuelled at Coulport by Lockheed Martin personnel, usually seconded from the US Navy nuclear missile branch in Maryland, Virginia. The “British” owned bit is the multiple re-entry vehicle weapon delivery system on top of the missile.

The Trident missile system the UK Government is leasing for the Dreadnaught series of “bombers” will cease to be updated after 2025, under current US Navy plans, and expected to be out of service with the US Navy by 2050.

Why is this important? Because clearly the US Government have a hat in this ring.

READ MORE: Removing nuclear warheads and missiles from Faslane would not take long

The Pentagon tried to veto the original political decision to let the UK have the latest mark of Trident missile for the new Dreadnaught class of boat. Their reasoning was simple; the UK military could either afford to modernise its conventional forces or have Trident, the UK could not afford to do both on current UK defence spending.

The US military preferred the UK to meet its conventional Nato commitments and ditch its nuclear ambitions once and for all. The reality is seen with the continual cutbacks by a series of Tory governments in procurement of conventional weapons, leaving the UK services operating with out-of-date and increasingly ineffective equipment or not having the manpower to man the equipment it has.

We know from UK Defence Committee reports that the Dreadnaught submarine build is already behind in terms of the expected first of its class’s scheduled commissioning date, being nearer to 2040 than 2030. We also know there is nowhere in England or Wales currently able to act as an operational base for the current Vanguard fleet, in the event of Scottish independence.

READ MORE: Scottish independence: Why there should be no backtracking on Trident

The US military has a longstanding policy of not basing nuclear capable missiles in European countries that do not wish them to be there, so for a number of reasons they would be more than happy to repatriate the US Navy-owned (but leased to the UK) Trident missiles at Coulport back to the USA in the event of Scottish independence, the least being that they did not want the UK to have the missile system in the first place.

The idea that there has to be any delay in the removal of the missiles is a red herring. If the US Navy decides to repatriate the missiles back to the USA from Coulport, it would take less than six months from the start date. On doing so the English Royal Navy would have to operate the Vanguard and the new Dreadnaught class from the USA until a suitable facility was built in England or Wales.

Military sites in Scotland play a key role in protecting and supporting Nato’s Northern flank. The political issue for the Pentagon and Nato becomes whether they wish to lose access to these key facilities and see an independent Scotland opting out of Nato, as many Scots wish.

If an independent Scotland told the English Royal Navy to get out of Faslane I do not see why it would take more than a year for them to go. The current Astute class can operate out of Devonport, immediately, and the Vanguards from Maryport, Virginia, if the US Navy wishes the English Royal Navy to keep the Vanguard class operational.

The idea that the US will force an independent Scotland to allow the English Royal Navy Vanguard or Dreadnaught class to operate from Faslane is contrary to their military wishes (a strong Nato, less dependent on the US), current US military needs and increasing focus on China and the Pacific Theatre.

Peter Thomson