Strange days indeed… November 2, 2012Posted by WorldbyStorm in Britain, British Politics.
Do you ever get the feeling you’ve slipped into a parallel universe? Perhaps that’s a function of age, that stuff just changes as the years go by. But then again, perhaps it’s not.
Take as an example an issue that recently exercised at least some of the headlines in the British media, the ‘threat’ from Scottish independence to the British nuclear weapons capability. Namely that an Independent Scotland would – understandably – require that the British nuclear infrastructure on the Clyde be moved… well, somewhere outside the borders of Scotland.
Straightforward enough one might think. But no. The problem being that the Scottish affairs select committee:
…claimed that the Royal Navy could be forced to disarm its Trident missiles “within days” of a vote for independence and withdraw Trident from its base on the Clyde within months – without any alternative base in the UK to take them.
Since the Scottish National party (SNP) had made removing Trident a “non-negotiable” issue following independence, the committee stated: “Scottish separation creates the prospect of unilateral nuclear disarmament being imposed upon the Royal Navy and UK government for an indeterminate period.”
Ah come on now. It’s not as if it’s beyond the wit and wisdom of the British military-industrial complex to establish an alternative base in the UK (whatever it might be by then). Hard not to see this as a bit of shadow-boxing. The UK for obvious reasons doesn’t want to construct an alternative for fear that it would be seen to add impetus to the pro-independence side. At the same time they can’t do nothing – at least nothing they would admit to.
But… what of this… another couple of alternatives…
The Labour-dominated committee said that made it imperative that the Scottish and UK governments reach an agreement before the referendum was held in late 2014 on how to ensure the Trident system remained operational.
That would either involve a deal between Edinburgh and London to allow Trident to operate from Scotland until a permanent alternative was found; the technically and politically challenging route of basing Trident in France or the US temporarily or an agreement to lease the Clyde base permanently to the rest of the UK.
What? France? Seriously?
This is too brilliant.
It reminds me of the following exchange from Yes Minister:
Sir Humphrey: [talking about nuclear fallout shelters] Well, you have the weapons; you must have the shelters.
Hacker: I sometimes wonder why we need the weapons.
Sir Humphrey: Minister! You’re not a unilateralist?
Hacker: I sometimes wonder, you know.
Sir Humphrey: Well, then, you must resign from the government!
Hacker: Ah, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I’m not that unilateralist! Anyway, the Americans will always protect us from the Russians, won’t they?
Sir Humphrey: Russians? Who’s talking about the Russians?
Hacker: Well, the independent deterrent.
Sir Humphrey: It’s to protect us against the French!
Hacker: The French?! But that’s astounding!
Sir Humphrey: Why?
Hacker: Well they’re our allies, our partners.
Sir Humphrey: Well, they are now, but they’ve been our enemies for the most of the past 900 years. If they’ve got the bomb, we must have the bomb!
Hacker: If it’s for the French, of course, that’s different. Makes a lot of sense.
Though more realistically isn’t it interesting how these things have a life of their own? Once the notion of independence for all the weighty and pretty good tomes written by Tom Nairn and others was fairly fantastical. Now the nuts and bolts aspects of it are having to be engaged with and it ain’t pretty.
Meanwhile what of that other constituent element of the mostly United Kingdom?
Although the latest opinion polls show support for independence has fallen to about 30% in Scotland, the Welsh Labour leader, Carwyn Jones, has said Wales would welcome Trident being based there in future.
Lucky old Wales – eh?