For some peace activists the prospect of a nuclear-free Scotland would be reason enough to vote for independence. But following a vote for independence a Salmond-led government would be involved in complex and difficult negotiations with the UK government over how to divide up the UK national debt, oil and gas revenues and other joint assets and liabilities.
It is unlikely that Scotland’s income will match its public spending commitments. Finding a new site for Trident will be nigh on impossible for the UK government. Even if a site were found, new bases would be prohibitively expensive and would take at least 10 years to build. Under these circumstances MoD spokesmen have said that ministers would be likely to offer the Scottish government ‘whatever it takes’ to continue to base Trident at Faslane and Coulport for the next few years. The Trident bases, instead of being a drain on the Scottish economy, would become a crucial asset which could be milked for cash to support Scotland’s struggling economy at a difficult time for the new government.
Scotland would also have to negotiate its own membership of the EU which is committed by treaty to military interoperability with NATO. The pressures from the US and UK governments to delay the removal of Trident would be immense. More to the point, ‘waiting for independence’ diverts the movement from the immediate campaign to change policy now in face of a weak and divided Tory/Lib Dem coalition. Thus, independence is no magic bullet for a nuclear-free Scotland and could be a dangerous diversion.