THE UK spent more than £8300 a minute on nuclear weapons last year, a new report claims.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican) estimates £4.38 billion was splurged on the defence systems in 2020, making the UK the fourth biggest spender behind the US, China and Russia.

The UK has around 200 nuclear weapons and is committed to replacing the ageing Trident submarine system, which is housed at HM Naval Base Clyde, near Scotland’s biggest population centre. However, it does not publish detailed accounts of its spending on this area.

In a report released today, analysis by Ican suggests that is equivalent to $11,769 per minute. The estimate is based on reports from the National Audit Office, the Ministry of Defence and more.

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Janet Fenton, Ican’s Scottish liaison and the vice chair of Scottish CND, told The National: “Scotland has been forced to act as an involuntary host to the UK’s nuclear weapons, while the UK is one of the least transparent nuclear armed states about its expenditure and the technical difficulties it faces in upgrading and replacing its nuclear weapons system.

“All this is regardless of the complete democratic deficit in a Scotland that has just elected a parliament with a majority that supports independence and returned an even bigger number of parliamentarians who are committed to supporting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons than the number who support independence.”

The report says: “Nuclear-armed states spent an obscene amount of money on illegal weapons of mass destruction in 2020, while the majority of the world’s countries support a global nuclear weapons ban. But the story doesn’t stop there. Companies, lobbyists and think tanks are complicit and deserve to be held accountable for their role in building and shaping a world with more than 13,000 life-ending weapons. We need to call on them to cut it out.”

The report, titled Complicit: 2020 Global Nuclear Weapons Spending, says countries put a combined £1bn more into their nuclear arsenals during the period, taking overall spending to £51.2bn.

It also details spending given to defence think tanks and comes three weeks after Lord McDonald, the former Foreign Office permanent secretary, told the House of Lords that Boris Johnson’s plans to increase the UK’s nuclear arsenal may clash with its obligations under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

The Ministry of Defence said: “Maintaining the UK’s nuclear deterrent capability at a minimum credible level is fully consistent with our international legal obligations, including those under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. The UK’s independent nuclear deterrent exists to deter the most extreme threats to the UK and our Nato allies. Our stockpile ceiling is a maximum if required, not a target nor our current number, and is kept under review.”

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Referring to parts of HM Naval Base Clyde, Fenton commented: “The UK recently declared an increase on the cap of the number of nuclear warheads at Faslane Naval Base and the nuclear warhead store at Coulport.

“Nuclear weapons spending is obscene, especially in the context of preparedness for a pandemic.”

The Scottish Greens are vocal opponents of nuclear weapons. The party’s external affairs spokesperson Ross Greer MSP, who represents the West Scotland region, said: “Nuclear weapons are an abomination. The day the world is free of these weapons of mass slaughter can’t come soon enough. Not only do nuclear weapons present a real and immediate danger, this report shows that they put us at greater risk by diverting vast sums of public money which could otherwise be spent on what really keeps us safe, such as high quality health and care services during a pandemic.

“Spending such vast sums on these evil weapons can never be justified but for the UK Government to prioritise this expenditure at a time when it is slashing international aid budgets just sums up the mentality of this heartless Tory administration.”