BILL Kidd MSP’s opinion piece “Why there should be no backtracking on Trident” (September 9) is centred on Mr Kidd’s take on an interview I gave to the UK Defence Journal. Mr Kidd seems to present an narrative that I want to see Trident kept on the Clyde long-term, as well as not really understanding the subject matter.

As someone who sacrificed a career in the defence sector due to my principled position that nuclear weapons on the Clyde should not be renewed, as well as my philosophical belief that Scotland should be an independent country (I spent three years of my life establishing that it was unlawful for someone who believes in Scottish independence to be discriminated against), I find Mr Kidd’s misrepresentation of my views both hurtful and offensive.

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Therefore I include below the full response regarding Trident that I gave in the interview on which Mr Kidd based his opinion piece and I will leave it to readers to determine whether they believe I was expressing the view as claimed.

One final point, Mr Kidd states that SNP policy is for “the speediest, safe removal of the nuclear weapons stored at HMNB Clyde”. I’m aware of that, because it was I who read a form of those words out from the SNP conference stage in 2012 when speaking in support of approving the party’s current defence and security policy.

“The policy would be that Trident nuclear submarines should be removed as speedily and safely as possible. It is almost certain that Nato would make a membership stipulation that Scotland continues to allow the UK to house the Trident fleet and the successor Dreadnought programme at Faslane and Coulport. This would not be an acceptable criteria for membership and if this was an absolute then Scotland would withdraw support for Nato.

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

“However, I believe the strategic importance of HMNB Clyde to the alliance would allow for a softening of Nato position. However, many players would be ‘in play’ ... France is both EU member and Nato member. If the SSBN fleet had to leave Clyde and the UK Government came under extreme risk in that a suitable and affordable position could not be sourced, then potential options could be to house the programme in France, the USA, or to scrap the programme completely.

“Political pressure on the French Government would be immense if the rUK scrapped its strategic nuclear deterrent – because France would be the only country in the alliance providing the political shield to US possession, or if British nuclear weapons were to come to French shores. The French relationship with nuclear power would support the second point, which means the French Government may play hardball on the issue.

“Therefore a pragmatic, and unpopular political approach may be to set the deadline for removal of the Trident fleet at the end of its lifespan. With this prospect the UK Government would likely suspend the successor programme and aim to increase the life of the Trident fleet to 2032. If Scotland were to vote for independence in 2022 then this would be a timeline that would potentially appease partner states.

“However, my position is for the quickest and safest way to remove the fleet from the Clyde and it should not be underestimated the difficulty for an independent government to deviate from that position. If it did seek a compromise position to secure removal then this would naturally be a huge issue at a negotiating table.

“To stray onto a less formal point: If asked in the late 1960s ‘would you accept keeping nuclear weapons on the Clyde until the late 70s?’, the answer would’ve been no. At the end of the Polaris programme if asked would you accept nuclear weapons on the Clyde until the millennium, the answer would’ve been no. And it is likely that in 2014 the answer would also have been no to allow Trident to stay until into the 2020s.

“However all of these propositions would have now resulted in removal or the imminent removal. Therefore there is perhaps ground to be made on a timetable that will guarantee removal but will not do so the day after independence. It would then become a purely transactional issue at the end of the agreed withdrawal and decommissioning period that I do not envisage any independent government would be able to politically renege on.

“In summary, an independent Scotland would remove nuclear weapons from the Clyde but there would clearly be the need to agree a timetable that accepted the principle that Trident will be going and the detail just has to be agreed regarding the when.”

Chris McEleny
via email