White Paper plans for Faslane ‘fantasy politics’ says Baillie

Faslane would be retained as a conventional naval base and joint headquarters on a Scottish defence force after independence, according to the White Paper revealed today.

Nuclear weapons and submarines based on the Clyde would be removed “as quickly as is safely possible within the first term of the Scottish Parliament after independence”, said Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

But the White Paper, which proposes a defence force with 15,000 full-time personnel and 5,000 reservists, has already been attacked by Labour Jackie Ballie.

Ms Baillie, whose Dumbarton constituency includes the Faslane and Coulport bases, said: “Despite all the bluff and bluster the SNP have dodged all the big questions and have come up with nothing new today. They still don’t seem to get how important Faslane is for jobs in Helensburgh and Lomond and indeed the whole of West Dunbartonshire.

“The last time the SNP promised that Faslane would be the main naval base they were saying exactly the same thing to people in Rosyth.

“Now they are trying to claim that both could stay open despite admitting that Scotland would have as few as 15 vessels on separation day – all depending on negotiations, of course. It’s the same old fantasy politics from a party which will do anything and say anything to break up the UK.”

She said 11,000 people were already dependent on the bases for work but up to 3,000 more jobs would be created when it became the base for all of the UK’s submarines.

“Whatever your views on nuclear weapons, we have a responsibility to think about jobs and our local economy,” she added.

“Under Alex Salmond’s plans these extra jobs would be lost and many more would be thrown into doubt. Only a ‘No’ vote at next year’s referendum can safeguard jobs and our local economy.”

The White Paper does not mention Coulport at all, but identifies five defence priorities for an independent Scotland:

  • maintaining the commitment to a budget for defence and security in an independent Scotland of £2.5bn
  • securing the speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons from Scotland
  • building a focus on maritime capabilities, such as air and sea-based patrol, and specialist forces able to operate around our coasts, protecting Scotland’s maritime assets and contributing to collective security in the North Atlantic
  • progressively building to a total of 15,000 regular and 5,000 reserve personnel following independence
  • reconfiguring the defence estate inherited at the point of independence to meet Scotland’s needs, including the transition of Faslane to a conventional naval base and joint headquarters of Scottish defence forces

It adds: “We are prepared to negotiate arrangements for the continued use of defence infrastructure in Scotland by UK forces and vice versa, at least for a transitional period.

“Such arrangements could be carried forward into the longer term, where both the countries consider them the most effective means of delivering defence capabilities.”