Since the momentous vote on 23 June 2016 which triggered the long process of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, the spectre of the secession of Scotland from the United Kingdom has been resurrected time and again. The COVID pandemic response has weakened, not strengthened, the ties which bind the Union, and the manner and detail of the final EU exit agreement has further exacerbated the differences between Scotland and England.
The ballistic-missile submarine base and the bulk of the operational support facilities for the UK’s independent nuclear deterrent are based on Scottish soil or in Scottish inland waters and territorial seas. A Scottish secession would therefore generate fundamental operational and fiscal issues for the UK’s nuclear deterrent. The changes in UK nuclear policy announced in the 2021 Integrated Review have further distanced UK policy from the principles of the Scottish National Party, thereby increasing the risk of secession. This would significantly impact the UK’s ability to field a submarine-based deterrent.
This paper by Rear Admiral John Gower CB OBE examines the deterrent issues arising from a future secession of Scotland and its likely desire for subsequent independent accession to the EU and NATO. It analyses the options which would then face both the UK and her close allies in NATO.
The paper suggests that a full and frank debate about the impact of Scottish secession on the UK’s nuclear deterrent is necessary to avoid significant downstream negative effect on Euro-Atlantic security.
Bringing these themes together, the paper suggests that a full and frank debate about the impact of Scottish secession on the UK’s nuclear deterrent is necessary to avoid significant downstream negative effect on Euro-Atlantic security. The paper further charges NATO nations to reaffirm the necessity of the UK nuclear deterrent to Alliance security, as emphasised repeatedly in summit communiques over the last decade and beyond. NATO must also clarify that, should an independent Scotland adopt policies that seriously jeopardise or remove a nuclear deterrent which provides a vital element of Alliance security, this would at the very least present a major obstacle to, and could very well render impossible, NATO membership for a future independent Scotland.
The opinions articulated above represent the views of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of the European Leadership Network or any of its members. The ELN’s aim is to encourage debates that will help develop Europe’s capacity to address the pressing foreign, defence, and security policy challenges of our time.
Image: Flickr, bob the lomond