It’s another of Project Fear’s carefully coordinated frightnights. It’s another drive-by Tory. This time it’s Tory Defence Minister Philip Hammond, again. Phil has come to Scotland to make a positive case for the Union, which consists of positively telling defence workers in Glasgow that they’re positively going to lose their jobs. Phil represents a Parliament which has already cost Scotland some 10,000 defence jobs. 40% of UK defence cuts have hit Scotland. But these were positive unionist cuts, so don’t really count and it’s just negative nationalist scaremongering to call attention to damage which has already happened.
Phil was supported in his headlong retreat from answering questions by covering fire from First Lord of the Admiralty Admiral Sir George Zambellas, who’s been needing something to do as he’s one of the 40 admirals in a navy which efficiently has half that number of warships and he keeps getting his socks wet when he sets sail on a desk. So George decided that it was a jolly roger of an idea to stick his oar into a political debate, and to tell the people who pay his wages and who therefore outrank him – that would be us – how to vote. Admiral George warned that Scottish independence would “weaken the effectiveness” of the Royal Navy, possibly by creating a situation where the navy’s 40 admirals have only 18 ships which would be ridiculously inefficient because then they don’t even get a half a boat each. And to make matters worse the cost overruns and delays on the MoD’s Amphibious Desk project are horrendous, but there are plans to use a couple of aircraft carriers they can’t afford planes for.
You can be certain that a military man didn’t invade a subject outside his job description without orders, or at the very least some strongly supportive suggestions nods and winks, from someone higher up the foodchain.
Many of us on the pro-independence side had already accused the No campaign of politicising the armed forces with their celebrations of D-Day and WW1 flag waving jamboree only to be told that we were being insane conspiracy theorists or deeply cynical miserabilists. And that last part would be true, because we’ve seen plenty in the way of cynical miserabilism from Westminster, so we’ve learned on the lap of the masters. But they can’t deny it now. With Admiral George’s intervention, there can be no argument that the British Goverment and Better Together will cheerfully politicise and subvert any institution in an effort to keep Westminster’s gravy boat afloat, up to and included the armed forces. And as such, it’s yet another reason why Scotland needs independence. I don’t want my public institutions perverted in this way.
Admiral George said Scottish independence wouldn’t be good for the rest of the UK although they’d get over it just as soon as the desk was watertight – but it would be dire for Scotland with the protection of no naval patrol vessels at all until the Scottish government could acquire some. Though how this would be worse than the situation we have under the Union where there are no naval patrol vessels based in Scotland and little prospect of getting any, George didn’t elucidate.
George thinks that Scotland’s independence would be a direct threat to the Royal Navy, which the First Lord of the Admiralty assures us has an unparalleled reputation and tradition. You won’t get that anywhere else apparently. Although Winston Churchill, who was also once First Lord of the Admiralty, reputedly once summed up these traditions as rum, sodomy, and the lash, which aren’t really that hard to find at all. As I recall, all are freely available on bondage nights in a number of the more niche market clubs and bars.
But in the case of Scotland, the equivalent would be taking our whisky revenues, shafting us, and threatening us with abuse if we try to leave. Now we know where Better Together got its navigation skills from, which explains why their campaign is now going full steam ahead like an Astute class submarine stuck on a rock off Skye.
Phil Hammond, who’s on drive-by duty this week, and who is looking more and more like the anonymous clype who shot his mouth off to a Guardian reporter and holed Better Together’s currency threat below the waterline, wanted to assure us that if there is a yes vote, absolutely nothing would be off the table in subsequent negotiations. Which was a not so coded way of saying “Please please please don’t do a bedroom tax on Trident, because we’ll pay more rent so it can stay. Look, here’s a shiny currency union.” Although he later swore blind that he didn’t mention a currency union as he was away in America at the time. And Alistair Darling had been on the phone again.
Naturally, being a Tory and a Unionist, Phil thinks any negotiations with Scotland would be immensely complex and difficult. We shouldn’t be surprised by that, Tories find everything to do with Scotland complex and difficult, as they are demonstrating with their ham fisted attempts to reach out to a Scottish electorate. Phil, who wasn’t scaremongering at all, said:
“Because if they insist that [Trident] has to go, there would have to be complex talks about the costs and timescales involved. Any notion that it would be quick and easy is just plain wrong.”
Saying it would not be quick or easy is a half truth, as Phil knows all too well because he may be many things, but he’s not that stupid. Spain negotiated the removal of the US Polaris nuclear missiles and subs from the American naval base at Rota in Andalusia. Agreement on removal was reached in 1976, not long after the death of Franco, and the nukes were adios by 1979. It took just 3 years from the opening of negotiations with the USA to the removal of weapons of mass destruction from Spain. So the process of removal is indeed relatively quick and easy, or at least it will be for Scotland.
Of course the USA had somewhere else to put their nuclear strap on dildoes, sorry, defence assets, the rUK doesn’t. So it’s not actually going to be quick and easy after all. It’s just that it’s the rUK that’s it’s not going to be quick and easy for, not Scotland. Scotland’s negotiating stance is easy to articulate. It’s: “That’s your problem pal”.
Talks about the costs are equally quick and easy for Scotland. They’re Westminster’s nukes, and if Westminster wants to keep them then Westminster can pay the removal costs. Otherwise we just make a wee call to the UN’s version of the cooncil binmen, and tell them we’ve got some nukes we’d like collected on Thursday. They were left behind by an antisocial lodger who we evicted.
The cost of a new base comes under “that’s your problem pal” too. Although no doubt a Unionist politician will pop up sooner or later to insist that Scotland has a moral duty to contribute financially to the most immoral weapon in the history of humanity. They don’t really do self awareness in Westminster.
However notionally some 8.4% of Trident belongs to Scotland, so theoretically Scotland could offset its share of any removal costs by giving Westminster the 8.4% share. But there will be the costs of cleaning up the mess the MoD will leave behind at Faslane and Coulport, so we’ll be expecting some compensation. Our 8.4% share of Trident may cover it, but it may not. The clean up afterwards may take years, but that depends on just how much radioactive contamination the MoD will leave behind. Currently they’re not for telling.
After independence we’ll find out just how much damage they’ve done. Since the MoD managed to contaminate a beach in Dalgety Bay for hundreds of years to come with just some glow in the dark paint, it’s sobering to consider just how much dangerous waste they may have spilled or lost track of when they’ve been dealing with yer actual nuclear warheads and nuclear powered submarines.
The current anger over Trident will be a wee tsk and an indulgent “och whit are you like” compared to the particle-storm of gamma rayed fury which will explode against the MoD when Scotland finds out just how much glow in the dark crap they’ve left in our land and our seas. The present bunch of Westminster incompetents are in no small part motivated by a desire to keep Trident in Scotland at least until they’ve safely retired to a seat in the Lords and some cushy directorships. Then they can escape the fall out.
So it’s not Scotland that’s been got over the barrel of a Trident missile Phil, that would be you. What dirty little career ending embarrassments is the MoD hiding under the cover of national security? Independence means they’ll be found out.
That said, there may be the glimmerings of a deal. But it’s not a question of how much Scotland is going to have to pay Westminster for the removal of Trident, it’s a question of how much Westminster is going to have to pay Scotland. For starters, Westminster can stop pissing us around with currency union threats, EU threats and Eurovision threats, see sense on debts and assets, and Scotland might just give Westminster a short, limited, and tightly supervised period of grace in which to move its WMDs. But only if they start acting like grown ups and not like petulant pettit lipped weans who’ve been too used to getting their own way. Or we can get rid of the nukes the day after independence. It’s your call Phil.
But there are very many in Scotland who would not be at all happy with even the shortest period of grace – like me for starters – so Phil and Admiral George can rest assured a Scottish Government will be expected to extract a very high price for it. Because it will be the people of Scotland who are holding the lash. Won’t that be a novelty.