Leading international business daily the Financial Times has revealed the British government's secret plans that show how it is already preparing for the eventuality of Scotland becoming independent after a new referendum. Specifically, the newspaper details plans to relocate the crucial Trident nuclear submarines, currently based at Coulport and Faslane on the west coast of Scotland.
According to the newspaper, the British defence ministry is studying several options, such as moving submarines to bases in the United States or France. Or, taking out a long-term lease on both current Royal Navy bases. In such a case, a new British Overseas Territory without borders with independent Scotland would be created. The hypothetical territory has been described as a "Nuclear Gibraltar".
In any case, Whitehall's preferred option would be to relocate its nuclear submarines to the Royal Navy base at Devonport, in the English city of Plymouth. Another possibility would be to deploy the Tridents to an allied country like the United States, perhaps to the US Navy's Kings Bay submarine naval base in south-east Georgia. Consideration is also given to moving the submarine fleet to France: specifically to the Île Longue, in Brittany, where the French ballistic missile submarines are based.
The FT cites "several high-ranking officials" as the source of its investigation.
All this came to light when, in late August, the UK minister for Scotland, Alister Jack, hinted that the British government would authorize the referendum proposed by the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, if the proposal for a vote was supported by at least 60% of Scots "over a sustained period of time". In early August, Michael Gove, UK minister for the cabinet, had already opened the door to allowing a consultation if there was a “consolidated will” for a vote among the Scottish people.
Following the return of the Scottish National Party's government in the elections last May, Nicola Sturgeon's party has sealed a governance agreement with the Scottish Greens that includes a new Indyref during this legislature, preferably before the end of 2023.
The two pro-independence parties together have 72 seats, a working majority of seven in the Holyrood Parliament. With the pact, Sturgeon considered that it was now "becoming more difficult, in fact impossible, for a British government to resist the right of Scots to decide their future in accordance with democracy."