Faslane Trident base could be in UK after Scottish independence

HMS Astute sailing up Gareloch on the Firth of Cylde
Image caption The UK's nuclear submarines have been based at Faslane since the mid 1990s

Ministry of Defence officials are exploring the idea of retaining a Scottish naval base as sovereign UK territory if there is a yes vote in next year's independence referendum.

Faslane, in Argyll and Bute, is home to the Trident nuclear missile submarines.

A government source told the BBC the idea was "interesting" because of the huge costs of relocating the base.

The SNP reacted angrily to the suggestion, accusing Westminster of trying to bully Scotland.

Voters in Scotland will decide whether or not to remain part of the United Kingdom in September 2014.

Nuclear weapons are a key point of division for the two sides of the independence debate - with the SNP promising to abandon Trident.

Reports in the Guardian newspaper on Thursday suggested the UK government could give Faslane - where 6,000 people are employed - a status similar to that of British military bases in Cyprus, designated as sovereign territory.

The move would be designed to maintain access for the Trident fleet to the open seas via the Firth of Clyde, the newspaper said.

'No contingency plans'

An MoD spokesman said it was confident Scotland would remain part of the UK and that the scale and cost of relocating the base in the event of a yes vote would be "enormous".

"No contingency plans are being made to move Trident out of Scotland," the spokesman said.

A government source added: "It would cost a huge amount of money, running into tens of billions of pounds, to decommission Faslane.

"Those costs would be factored into any negotiations on an independence settlement. The sovereign base area is an option - it is an interesting idea because the costs of moving out of Faslane are eye-wateringly high."

But the SNP said the idea was "an extraordinary attempt" to bully Scotland.

Angus Robertson, the party's leader at Westminster, said: "Neither the people nor parliament of Scotland want nuclear weapons dumped here, and we are clear that Trident would have to be removed as quickly as possible."

He said only a vote for independence would empower Scotland to remove the submarines.

One former armed forces minister, Liberal Democrat Sir Nick Harvey, told the Guardian re-designating Faslane on a "Cyprus-type arrangement" was the most practical and likely outcome should Scotland leave the UK.

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