TRIDENT should be scrapped altogether before “disaster strikes”, Alba have warned after images of a nuclear submarine returning to its Scottish base sparked fresh concerns about the state of the infrastructure.

A Vanguard-class submarine – one of four which is supposed to patrol the oceans at all times carrying the UK’s nuclear weapons – was photographed returning to Faslane by members of the Helensburgh Advertiser camera club last weekend.

The patrol was the second in a row to last over six months, and visible signs of wear and tear could be seen on the vessel’s exterior. When a Vanguard-class returned to Faslane in 2023, images showed it caked in algae from the extended patrol.

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Patrols have grown longer and longer in recent years as maintenance on two of the Vanguard-class submarines means the others are having to bear a heavier load, putting further stress on aging hardware.

Of the four UK Vanguard-class submarines, three have passed their initial lifespan and the fourth expires this year.

Alba Party general secretary Chris McEleny, a former Ministry of Defence worker, said “serious questions need to be asked as to how unsafe the stretched-to-breaking-point submarines are”.

He stressed that, in the last three years, the average time at sea for a Vanguard-class submarine is 163 days – a huge increase in the 3-month standard of the past.

McEleny went on: “Vanguard was laid down the week after I was born and now-obsolete DVD players hadn’t even yet been invented when Vengeance [another submarine in the same class] was launched.

“These submarines are long past their safe lifespan and quite clearly something is seriously wrong if they are being stretched to breaking point by being left out on patrol for seven months.

“Not only is this unacceptable for the well-being of the submariners, it is simply not safe to have such lengthy patrols.”

McEleny (below) added: “Ridding Scotland of weapons of mass destruction is a priority that may only be realised with independence – but if the UK Government had any fiscal sense or moral compass they would scrap Trident.”

The National: Chris McEleny Image: Archive

The SNP have also raised concerns about the safety of the nuclear fleet.

Martin Docherty-Hughes, the party’s defence spokesperson at Westminster, said: “The well known failures in the nuclear deterrent infrastructure should concern not only those of us opposed to nuclear weapons but anyone who supports them. It’s time for the MoD to come clean on these failures.”

Docherty-Hughes has also been raising concerns at Westminster after concerns were raised about the state of the UK’s nuclear infrastructure by Dominic Cummings, the former chief adviser to former prime minister Boris Johnson.

Cummings said that in 2022 Prime Minister Rishi Sunak had approached him for help with the next General Election campaign, and he had asked for several conditions in return.

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One of these, he said, was addressing the “fundamentally critical” issue of “the scandal of nuclear weapons infrastructure which is a dangerous disaster and a budget nightmare of hard-to-believe and highly classified proportions”.

A Royal Navy spokesperson said: “Our continuous at sea deterrent protects us and our NATO allies every moment of every day.

“We are immensely grateful to the submariners onboard, and their loved ones, for their commitment and dedication.

“While we do not comment on patrol lengths, we take safety very seriously and all submarines go through rigorous safety checks before any patrol.”