What would Scottish independence mean for Trident?

The UK would struggle to find a new home for its nuclear weapons system.

Among other things, an independent Scotland would require the UK government to find a new home for its Trident nuclear weapons system. It's an issue that has received surprisingly little attention this week, with most commentators focusing on the economic implications of independence, but it is one of the thorniest. Almost all of the UK's nuclear submarines are stationed at the Faslane naval base on the Clyde, while the warheads and missiles are stored at Coulpor on Loch Long, but the unilateralist SNP has long pledged to remove them from Scottish waters if it wins control over defence policy (currently a reserved matter for Westminster).

Initial work has already begun on the replacement of Trident (although the final decision won't be taken until 2017) but finding a new site for the submarines and warheads would dramatically complicate the process. As Professor William Walker wrote in the Scotland on Sunday:

Although a harbour might be adapted to function like Faslane, establishing another Coulport - at a location that would meet stringent safety and logistic requirements - would be extremely difficult. Furthermore, transfer south would require huge investments to replace infrastructure built in Scotland over decades.

The only viable alternative base to Faslane is Devonport in Plymouth, where three Trafalgar-class nuclear submarines are currently stationed (they are in the process of being moved to Faslane). But this still leaves the government without a new site for its missiles and warheads.

In practice, the UK government would likely attempt to persuade Scotland to retain Trident in exchange for concessions on other issues such as the national debt, sterling and North Sea Oil. But with a significant body of political and military opinion now convinced that the costs of Trident outweigh the benefits, the case for UK nuclear disarmament would be all the stronger were Scotland to go it alone.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Here's something the political class has completely missed about Brexit

As Hillary Clinton could tell them, arguments about trade have a long, long afterlife. 

I frequently hear the same thing at Westminster, regardless of whether or not the person in question voted to leave the European Union or not: that, after March 2019, Brexit will be “over”.

It’s true that on 30 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the EU whether the government has reached a deal with the EU27 on its future relationship or not. But as a political issue, Brexit will never be over, regardless of whether it is seen as a success or a failure.

You don’t need to have a crystal ball to know this, you just need to have read a history book, or, failing that, paid any attention to current affairs. The Democratic primaries and presidential election of 2016 hinged, at least in part, on the consequences of the North American Free Trade Association (Nafta). Hillary Clinton defeated a primary opponent, Bernie Sanders, who opposed the deal, and lost to Donald Trump, who also opposed the measure.

Negotiations on Nafta began in 1990 and the agreement was fully ratified by 1993. Economists generally agree that it has, overall, benefited the nations that participate in it. Yet it was still contentious enough to move at least some votes in a presidential election 26 years later.

Even if Brexit turns out to be a tremendous success, which feels like a bold call at this point, not everyone will experience it as one. (A good example of this is the collapse in the value of the pound after Britain’s Leave vote. It has been great news for manufacturers, domestic tourist destinations and businesses who sell to the European Union. It has been bad news for domestic households and businesses who buy from the European Union.)

Bluntly, even a successful Brexit is going to create some losers and an unsuccessful one will create many more. The arguments over it, and the political fissure it creates, will not end on 30 March 2019 or anything like it. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.