Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Ministers at odds over Trident removal costs

Keith Brown
Image caption Keith Brown was the first to give evidence to the Defence Select Committee

UK and Scottish ministers have disagreed over who would pay for the removal of Trident nuclear weapons from the Clyde in the event of independence.

Holyrood's Keith Brown told the House of Commons Defence Select Committee that a post-Yes Scotland "would not bear the costs" of its relocation.

But UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, giving evidence to the same committee, contradicted that position.

Scots will vote in an independence referendum on 18 September, 2014.

They will be asked the simple yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

Mr Brown was the first to give evidence to MPs at Westminster.

He said that if the SNP was to win the election in a newly-independent Scotland it would move "quickly, but safely" to remove Trident from Faslane.

The politician conceded that it was the Ministry of Defence, and not a Scottish defence force, which would have the expertise to relocate the weapons.

Image caption Philip Hammond gave evidence after Keith Brown

He added that an SNP government would negotiate with the MoD to help with the removal of Trident, but it would not bear the costs.

When Mr Hammond appeared before the committee after Mr Brown he said the decommissioning process at Faslane would be a matter of negotiation between a newly-independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.

But he added that the costs would be a "factor in the overall calculation in the settlement between the parties in that negotiation".

The UK defence secretary also told the committee that he believed because of the complexities surrounding Trident, it would take up to a decade for it to be removed.

The remark contradicted that of Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who said she hoped the nuclear weapons could be taken from the Clyde within two years.

She spoke of the timetable during a BBC news webcast hosted by Scottish political editor Brian Taylor.

Mr Hammond said he did not want to speculate on where Trident would be relocated, but he told MPs: "We would find a place, it would be technically possible - if you throw enough money you can solve problems. It would take a lot of money for this."

Earlier in the committee's evidence session, Mr Brown said the budget for defence in the event of a yes to independence would be £2.5bn per year.

The veterans' minister urged UK ministers to enter into discussions now on defence matters. However, he said that would not be the equivalent of pre-independence negotiations.

He also said that a newly-independent Scotland would want a proportionate slice of the £92bn in defence assets which the UK has.

Mr Brown mentioned that some commentators had identified that Trident itself was an asset.

The Holyrood minister told the MPs that a new Scottish defence force would total about 15,000 personnel.

Mr Brown was asked how close to the border a Scottish army would patrol.

In response, he said: "We will not be amassing an army on the border - that won't be necessary."

Mr Brown was grilled about the detail by Labour MP for Dunfermline and West Fife, Thomas Docherty.

When asked about specific figures, Mr Brown said the information he could give was currently limited ahead of a white paper on independence which would come before the Scottish Parliament "in the autumn".

He believed it was right that the people of Scotland should hear the details first.

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