Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Lords committee criticises Trident stance

Michael Moore
Image caption The Scottish Secretary appeared before a House of Lords committee

The UK government's refusal to detail its plans for the Clyde-based nuclear deterrent Trident, if Scotland becomes independent, has been criticised by members of a House of Lords committee.

The defence minister said in October that no plans were being made because ministers were confident the Scotland would remain part of the UK.

The economic committee quizzed Scottish Secretary Michael Moore on the issue.

Baroness Kingsmill said the government's stance was irresponsible.

The Labour peer said she was astonished at the UK government's failure to plan for such a scenario.

First Minister Alex Salmond has previously pledged that in an independent Scotland nuclear weapons would be made illegal. He suggested the UK government could either relocate Trident to another part of the rest of the UK or alternatively use nuclear facilities in America or France.

In October, the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee urged the UK and Scottish governments to reach a deal on nuclear weapons before the Scottish referendum in the autumn of 2014.

During his evidence, Mr Moore said the UK government would make detailed arguments over the next year, but would not "pre-negotiate" the outcome of the referendum.

Bank of England

He said the government was not going to "unpick the fabric of the UK" when no such vote had yet taken place. Although he insisted that detailed arguments on the economy, defence and other areas which would be affected, would be set out in detail over the next year.

The Scottish secretary was also accused of "letting down the people of Scotland" by former Tory Chancellor Lord Lawson, who said the UK government's position was entirely "unsustainable."

He said: "You said in your opening remarks that Scotland is perfectly capable of being an independent nation. I agree with you entirely, it's a very fine country, perfectly capable of being independent.

"But you said that the important issue is what the net consequences of independence would be - would they be favourable, or unfavourable, to the people of Scotland.

"How are the people of Scotland to judge this, if you are not prepared to say what, in your considered judgement, the consequences would be?"

Mr Moore also told the committee he does not believe an independent Scotland would be able to use the Bank of England as a ''lender of last resort''.

The Scottish government has previously said if the referendum backs independence it would keep the pound and it would wish to maintain ties with the Bank of England.

But Mr Moore told the committee: "Our sounding point will of course be that the Bank of England is for the rest of the United Kingdom. It's governed by legislation of this parliament."

He said the UK government would in the new year start producing a series of analysis papers, setting out its views on areas like finance and currency, defence and debt.

'Fundamentally wrong'

Mr Moore also described as "fundamentally wrong" Scotland's Finance Secretary's claim that there was no foundation in treaty for Scotland to have to reapply for EU membership, if it becomes independent.

It follows European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso's letter to the committee last week, which suggested any newly independent state would have to reapply - an assertion which SNP ministers have consistently rejected.

The committee, which is investigating the implications of independence on the rest of the UK, heard last week from Mr Swinney.

He told its members that the Scottish government had been in "dialogue" with the Bank of England about plans for a monetary union, post independence.

Mr Swinney said the "points raised by the bank" in response would be taken into account as experts draw up a model for monetary union.

The committee will study the evidence it has gathered on the implications of independence on the rest of the UK and report its findings early next year.

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