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2 September 2021

Who benefits from the story that Trident may be moved out of Scotland?

The government’s preparations for Scottish independence risk making it appear inevitable.

By Stephen Bush

Farewell to arms? The Ministry of Defence is drawing up contingency plans to move Trident overseas in the event that Scotland votes for independence, the Financial Times has revealed. 

The Ministry of Defence has responded with a curt tweet: “Contrary to a recent press report, the nuclear deterrent and the thousands of jobs which support it are staying in Scotland.” Now, you don’t need to be Hercule Poirot to notice that this statement is many things, but what it isn’t is a denial of the contents of the story in any material way. 

Now, in many ways, the story is that rare thing – a revelation about the government doing its job properly and planning for future risks and shocks. It’s certainly possible that Scotland will vote to go its own way and, of course, at that point, the future location of the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s nuclear deterrent would be in some doubt. It would be highly irresponsible if government officials weren’t planning contingencies for that event.

But one issue is that, inevitably, details of those plans are going to emerge into public view. Seen one way, that might be a problem for the cause of Scottish independence, if the consequence is a series of big stories about disruptive change and the costs of a break-up. But it equally might help the cause of Scottish independence if the combined effect is to make separation seem like a matter of when, not if.

[See also: Labour has the same strategy on foreign policy and Brexit: avoid the subject at all costs]

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