The UK Government is looking into options for rehousing the nuclear submarines currently based at Faslane and Coulport once Scotland becomes independent. There are a number of options being investigated including moving them to Devonport, to the USA or to France. The most controversial option is leaving them at Faslane and Coulport and having those bases designated as British Overseas Territories,
The eight nuclear submarines in the British fleet are currently based at Faslane, which is only 42 miles from Glasgow, Scotland’s largest and most populous city and would put over 600,000 people in the immediate kill zone if there were to be a catastrophic accident leading to detonation. There has always been a marked unwillingness from UK Governments of all political persuasions to move the nuclear fleet to England. The safety aspect is thought by many in Scotland to play a major part in this attitude.
The option to move the nuclear arsenal to Her Majesty’s Naval Base Devonport is thought to be a non-starter for the reason above and also the proximity of major shipping lanes. Another excuse deployed to attempt to invalidate this option has been that the way the continental shelf is constructed will not allow the submarines to dive quickly enough and they may be more susceptible to being tracked. The cost of such a move to Devonport is thought to be between £3-4 Billion.
The other options are to move them to France, alongside their nuclear deterrent or to the USA to be housed alongside theirs. Both options would cause a loss of face to Britain on the world stage, one that the UK Government may calculate that they can ill afford after the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan and the reckless self-harm of Brexit.
The other option is the most controversial, to have British Overseas Territories in Scotland. This is something that would be politically very controversial. In Scotland, both the SNP and the Greens are extremely anti-nuclear and would be unlikely to approve such a deal. The UK had a similar deal to have bases in Ireland after independence, but Ireland very quickly withdrew their permission and forced the UK to leave.
The fact that the UK Government is actively looking at options suggests that Scottish independence has never been closer than it is right now. In 2014, the UK Government denied that there had been any contingency planning at all along these lines.