Nuclear weapons plan for Falmouth if Scotland breaks free?
By Western Morning News | Thursday, October 25, 2012, 06:30
A Cornish port could become home to Britain's nuclear missiles if Scottish independence is achieved, experts suggest.
Falmouth has been deemed the most suitable location for the storage of weapons from nuclear submarines based at Devonport.
The revelation came as a parliamentary inquiry found Plymouth's naval base "appeared to be the most popular" alternative location to Faslane for the four Vanguard-class vessels, which carry the Trident deterrent, in the event of the Scots voting to go it alone in 2014.
But a major sticking point has been finding a suitable storage site for the nuclear warheads, which are currently kept at a facility at Coulport. Devonport does not have room for the facility. Nearby Falmouth had been considered as a possible alternative to Coulport in the 1960s, but as the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee noted, this was ruled out at the time "…because it would impact upon an area with a strong tourist economy and involve the loss of two villages and moving a significant population".
However, Professor Malcolm Chalmers, research director of UK Defence Policy at respected think-tank the Royal United Services Institute, who gave evidence to the committee, told the Western Morning News, while difficult, Falmouth would probably be the favourite site if the submarine-based deterrent had to be moved.
In the event of independence, the Scottish National Party is committed to a policy of the "speediest safe transition" of Trident out of Scotland. The select committee heard evidence it could be disarmed within days and removed within months.
On finding an alternative to Faslane, the committee said: "Devonport appeared to be the most popular, it had been the former base to the Trafalgar-class submarines and the Vanguard-class submarines regularly visit Devonport (unarmed) for maintenance – but as with the other possibilities, the main issues with Devonport did not relate to recreating the facilities of Faslane, but of Coulport, and without Coulport, there is no deterrent."
Professor Chalmers, who wrote a book on the original options for Polaris, has pointed out Falmouth was among the shortlisted sites considered back in early 1963.
He told the WMN: "My view is that, while difficult, Falmouth would probably be the favourite location for Coulport relocation if it had to depart from Scotland."
The select committee report is to be published today.