I believe one of the biggest attractions of an independent Scotland is the opportunity for the people of Scotland to decide on a future free from nuclear weapons. Like many Yes supporters, I share the view that these weapons of mass destruction are immoral, illegal and impractical and at a time when public spending is under pressure, there are better ways to spend the colosal sums of money involved which would more closely reflect the prioritites of the people of Scotland.
This week campaigners for nuclear disarmament published a timetable explaining how an independent Scotland could disarm its nuclear missiles within days - and be completely free of them within two years. In stark contrast, the UK Government has announced it will spend a further £1 billion of taxpayers’ money on new nuclear weapons to be based on the Clyde.
The divergent paths provide a clear illustration of the different decisions the people and government of Scotland could make after a Yes vote. There is widespread support for nuclear disarmament in Scotland, including from the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Churches and Trade Unions. Yet the UK government continues to press ahead with a programme for new submarines. The announcement of £1 billion for nuclear reactors to power the new submarines follows upon the recent award of design contracts of £350 million. At the same time the UK government continues to make cuts to key public services.
The timetable published by the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament would see nuclear submarines recalled to the Faslane naval base and their warheads disarmed inside a week. All missiles would be disabled within eight days. Within a year, all 220 nuclear warheads could be disabled and within two years, the warheads removed from Scotland. Finally, within four years the process of dismantling the weapons could be completed. The timetable has been described as realistic by a range of experts including Bruce Blair, Richard Garwin, Frank von Hippel, and Professor Malcolm Chalmers.
The total cost of the UK government’s decision to replace the current fleet of nuclear submarines could reach £25 billion. Over the duration of their lifetime, the new submarines are estimated to cost up to £100 billion. An independent Scotland could spend its share of such huge sums on the priorities of the people of Scotland – including health, education and boosting economic growth. An independent Scotland could be free of nuclear weapons – and quickly.