MoD under fire over new nuclear facilities on the Clyde

Revelations that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is planning 14 major new developments at the Trident nuclear bases on the Clyde have sparked fierce criticism.

A list released under freedom of information law shows that the MoD is aiming to complete a “nuclear infrastructure continuous availability project” at Faslane in 2027 and a similarly named project at Coulport in 2030.

Faslane on the Gareloch is the home port for the UK’s four Trident nuclear submarines, and Coulport nearby on Loch Long is where the nuclear warheads are stored.

There are also plans for a “nuclear support hub”, a submarine “support hub” and a “security continuous availability programme” (see table below). The MoD has said it is investing £1.3 billion over the next ten years at the Clyde bases.

The SNP has attacked the nuclear projects as “massively wasteful and expensive”. It pointed out that over 120 countries had recently backed a new United Nations treaty banning nuclear weapons.

“Not only is Westminster intent on ignoring the recently passed UN treaty, it is continuing to ignore its own commitment under the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty to reduce and then eliminate its nuclear arsenal,” said leading SNP MSP and nuclear disarmament campaigner, Bill Kidd.

“Britain and the other four members of the original nuclear club on the UN security council, have no intention of ever giving up Trident. It’s this outrageous arrogance that has let the nuclear genie out of the bottle in North Korea.”

The Green MSP for the west of Scotland, Ross Greer, argued that the UK’s approach was now illegal under international law. “Public safety is being put at risk and public money is being wasted by a UK government hell-bent on maintaining an outdated approach to human security,” he said.

“While the growing calls against nuclear weapons fall on deaf ears at the MoD, the case for investment in new jobs for the region that don’t rely on weapons of mass destruction grows ever stronger.”

David Cullen, from the watchdog group Nuclear Information Service, said: “This is yet another hidden cost of the UK’s nuclear upgrade plans, over and above the eye-watering costs of the new submarines, which will lead to the UK becoming more internationally isolated.”

According to the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the new UN nuclear ban reflected a universally understood need to eliminate “inhumane and unpredictable” weapons. “The MoD and the UK government may consider that pouring money into the infrastructures on these sites will reinforce their military position in Scotland,” said the campaign’s vice-chair Janet Fenton.

“But it will not. It will put into place an expensive and inherently dangerous nuclear weapons programme just in time for it to be outlawed by the global community.”

The local campaign group, Navy Not Nuclear, were disappointed that the investment failed to include welfare services for serving personnel, veterans and their families. “It is time to put money into conventional forces, and services for current and retired personnel,” said the group’s spokesperson.

“This is also going against the wishes of the majority of people in Scotland and the elected government in Scotland.”

The MoD pointed out that it had reduced the number of warheads deployed on each submarine from 48 to 40 and reduced the number of “operationally available” warheads to no more than 120. “Our nuclear deterrent is fully compliant with our international treaty obligations and provides the ultimate guarantee of our national security,” said an MoD spokesman.

“We are investing £1.3 billion at HMNB Clyde, providing 6,800 jobs now and over 8,200 in the future.”

He insisted that the MoD shared “the long-term goal of a world without nuclear weapons” and it was working to prevent nuclear proliferation. “However we live in a world where nuclear weapons do exist, posing a danger to our way of life, so we are committed to our nuclear deterrent,” he added.

Ministry of Defence plans for the Clyde

Projectdue to finish
Faslane Nuclear Infrastructure Continuous Availability Project2027
Coulport Infrastructure Continuous Availability Project2030
Nuclear Support Hub2021
Clyde Programme Requirements2022
Submarine Escape Rescue Abandonment and Survival2019
Submarine Training Facility2021
Training Facility Extension2019
Security Continuous Availability Programme2021
Single Living Accommodation 12019
Single Living Accommodation 22018
Single Living Accommodation 3to be confirmed
Glen Douglas Transport Point2018
Coulport Water Refurbishmentto be confirmed
Submarine Support Hubto be confirmed
source: Ministry of Defence

Photo thanks to Thomas Nugent cc-by-sa/2.0. A version of this story was published in the Sunday Herald on 12 November 2017.

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