March 13, 2014 / 3:31 PM / in 4 years

Britain says Scottish independence vote not forcing nuclear base rethink

BARROW-IN-FURNESS, England, March 13 (Reuters) - Britain is making no contingency plans for moving its nuclear forces out of Scotland because the government does not expect Scots to vote for independence on Sept. 18, Defence Minister Philip Hammond said on Thursday.

Britain’s submarines armed with Trident nuclear missiles are based at the Faslane naval base northwest of the Scottish city of Glasgow, so a vote to break the 307-year union could cost the government billions of dollars to move the naval base.

When asked if the government had made any contingency plans for its nuclear forces in the event of a split, Hammond said: “We don’t expect the Scots to vote for independence.”

“We are not making contingency plans,” he added while on a visit to the Barrow-in-Furness shipyard in northwest England, which makes nuclear submarines.

He said a vote for independence would usher in a complex set of negotiations about where to base Britain’s nuclear deterrent.

Scottish nationalists have said they would want to remove all Britain’s nuclear missiles from Scottish soil in the first term of a Scottish parliament after a vote for independence.

“People who have talked about rapid removal of nuclear forces from Scotland are not talking realistically,” Hammond said. “It would take many, many years and vast amounts of money to replicate the facilities at Faslane.”

Opinion polls have the separatists lagging with about one third support while about half of Scottish residents oppose ending their tie with England. But the polls have narrowed this year and up to 15 percent of voters remain undecided.

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