£350m for Trident

The UK government has promised a further £350m for design work on a possible replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear-armed submarines.

MoD promises £350m for Trident replacement design work

The UK government has promised a further £350m for design work on a possible replacement for Britain’s Trident nuclear-armed submarines.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who is to visit the Faslane navy base on the Clyde, said the move would create 1,200 jobs.

He is also expected to ask the Scottish government how its opposition to nuclear weapons would affect jobs.

The Scottish National Party wants them banned if Scotland becomes independent.

Experts say replacing the current Trident system will cost up to £20bn, although a decision on whether to proceed with it has effectively been pushed back to 2016, until after the next election, scheduled for May 2015.

The referendum on Scottish independence is due to take place in autumn 2014.

‘Committed’

Mr Hammond said: “We are confident that the Scottish people will choose to remain part of the United Kingdom. The Faslane complex is the largest employment site in Scotland with over 6,500 jobs underpinning the local economy.

“We have no plans to move the nuclear deterrent from the Clyde. On the contrary, we intend to move the Astute and Trafalgar Class attack submarines to Faslane, creating a further 1,500 jobs.

“The Scottish government needs to explain how their policy would benefit Scotland’s economy and safeguard Scottish jobs.”

Mr Hammond added: “Our continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent is the ultimate safeguard of our national security and the government is committed to maintaining it, both now and in the future.”

He also said: “This latest expenditure for the next generation of nuclear-armed submarines is an investment in UK security and the British economy, sustaining high-quality jobs and vital skills.”

The UK government says all Royal Navy submarines will be based at Faslane by 2017.

This, it says, will increase the workforce at the site to over 8,000 by 2022.

But Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, told the BBC last week that his Scottish National Party would ban nuclear weapons if it were to win power in an independent Scotland.

He said: “If Scotland, by majority, doesn’t want nuclear weapons, the SNP proposition is to write that into the constitution of the state. So, that would make the possession of nuclear weapons illegal.”

On Mr Hammond’s announcement, SNP MSP Bill Kidd said: “For the UK government to boast about spending hundreds of millions of pounds on weapons of mass destruction – while at the same time implementing brutal welfare cuts and slashing investment in the economy – is obscene.

“More than that, Philip Hammond’s weak attack on the Scottish people’s choice in the Independence referendum continues to use fantasy figures relating to the number of jobs associated with Trident at Faslane.”

‘Crucial decision in 2016’

Earlier this week, the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee urged the UK and Scottish governments to reach a deal on nuclear weapons before the 2014 referendum.

The issue of nuclear deterrence also divides the UK government, with the Conservatives supporting a replacement and the Liberal Democrats opposing it.

The coalition agreement states that the “renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money” and allows that “Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives”.

A senior Liberal Democrat source said: “There has been no change in policy on Trident. This is just some detail around the announcement of funding that was made back in May 2011.

“The crucial decision on ‘main gate’ and whether there will be a like-for-like replacement for Trident will not be made until 2016.

“The Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives to a like-for-like replacement.”

It was announced last month that Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, a Scottish Lib Dem MP, would lead the government’s review of the alternatives.

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