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'Bring N-subs back' call in Scots self-rule debate

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 13, 2012

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Ministers are under pressure to reinstate Devonport as a nuclear submarine base amid moves to break-up the United Kingdom.

Labour decided in 2009 that Faslane on the Clyde would be Britain's sole naval base for submarines, including the Trident nuclear deterrent, by 2017.

Three Trafalgar-class nuclear-powered submarines are being shifted there from Devonport in Plymouth. Within five years, the Westcountry base will only refit and refuel N-subs after being stripped of its status as home to operational submarines.

But the Scottish National Party (SNP) has an avowedly anti-nuclear stance, and pledges to remove Trident from Scotland if independence is secured.

One defence analyst said the question over the future of Trident is the "elephant in the room" for David Cameron as he this week began the fight to save the union. Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport, said the three submarines should be retained in Plymouth, the only viable alternative base to Faslane.

He added: "It would be short-sighted to move them up there in the knowledge they could be thrown out again under Scottish independence."

Mr Cameron this week agreed to an independence referendum within the next 18 months, although Scottish First Minister and SNP leader Alex Salmond has announced a preferred date of autumn 2014.

The increasing push for Scottish independence has also encouraged Cornish nationalists to call for powers to be devolved to the Duchy.

Westcountry business leaders also hope for a revision of the Barnett Formula, the funding mechanism that lavishes hundreds of millions of taxpayers pounds on Scotland.

Commentators say moving the entire nuclear submarine apparatus to Devonport, still a baseport for surface ships, would be extremely difficult. There is no English equivalent to the massive Coulport site that stores warheads and missiles, for instance.

Iain Ballantyne, editor of Westcountry-based Warships magazine, said: "If David Cameron is trying to get people to think what the implications will be of Scottish independence, the elephant in the room is what will Britain do with its nuclear deterrent.

"What Plymouth MPs could be suggesting is that the Ministry of Defence (MoD) should not be moving the Trafalgar-class submarines up to the Clyde, which would mean that the option of Plymouth remains."

An MoD spokesman said it was too early to comment. Alison Seabeck, Labour MP for Plymouth Moor View, said: "I will be writing to the minister to seek the Government's view on this. But I think any action would be premature."

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  • Apoxonem  |  January 17 2012, 4:57AM

    It would not make financial sense to move from Devonport until the issue is resolved.

  • TheCornishDem  |  January 16 2012, 8:17PM

    @ kclarkDD Devonport is not in Cornwall its in England.

  • scotscalimero  |  January 15 2012, 4:38PM

    "Westcountry business leaders also hope for a revision of the Barnett Formula, the funding mechanism that lavishes hundreds of millions of taxpayers pounds on Scotland." This of course is a myth that is repeated ad nauseum in the UK print and broadcast media and unsurprisingly has provided the greatest momentum for the SNP. The fact of the matter is perfectly clear, Scotland more than pays its way within the UK, a fact which even UK politicians could not deny when asked directly on the BBC Question Time program this week 11/01/12. While political opponents to the SNP have been content to allow this myth of "subsidy junky Scotland" to perpetuate for party political advantage in Scotland: creating fear that Scotland is too small and too poor to be independent, it is a myth that has been exploded with the release of the McCrone report, kept secret by the UK Treasury for 25 years which found that an independent Scotland would have consistly high surpluses that would be "an embarrassment [for the Westminster Government]" and would have one of the "hardest currencies in Europe". Scots represent 8.4 per cent of the UK's total population, but they generate 9.4 per cent of its annual revenues in tax -- equivalent to £1,000 extra per person. Including its per capita share of revenues from North Sea oil and gas production, Scotland's public expenditure probably does not exceed the OECD average. You might also wish to note that Scotland's 2009 - 2010 deficit was, at 6.8 per cent of GDP, a full 3 per cent lower than England's. In the debate about the future of Scotland, all sides should resist the temptation to indulge in fear-mongering and mistruths. The people of Scotland will decide their future in a coherent and thoughtful process, the relationships between the nations and regions of these islands must inevatibly improve irrespective of whatever the outcome of that process in Scotland.

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  • kclarkDD  |  January 14 2012, 9:54AM

    As a Scot, I am sick and tired of the perception that we are somehow "subsidised" by England. Scotland contributes more than it receives, a fact finally acknowledged by the exchequer. Perhaps you can inform the business leaders in your area who should know better. To claim that tax payers' money is being lavished on the Scots is absolute nonsense, and causes a lot of needless friction between the two countries. I can understand Westminster's motives for the continuation of this, as a way of dampening Scottish aspirations, but given Cornwall's own issues with that establishment I would have expected a more informed view.

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