The Ferret investigative journalism bureau has revealed that UK Government has secretly boosted the number of Trident nuclear warheads stored on the Clyde over the last five years, according to an analysis of bomb convoys.
Nukewatch, which monitors the transport of nuclear weapons, estimated that 37 new warheads were delivered from England to bunkers in Coulport on the Rosneath Peninsula and Glen Douglas in the hills between Loch Long and Loch Lomond over five years from 2015 and 2020. Nine were added in 2019 and 13 in 2020, it said.
According to an investigation by Ferret editor Rob Edwards, in March the Ministry of Defence reversed a ten-year-old disarmament plan by announcing the “ceiling” on the UK’s nuclear weapons stockpile would increase from 225 to 260 because of “technological and doctrinal threats”.
But, he added, Nukewatch argued this increase has already happened without the public being told. It accused Westminster of failing to provide a “fully accurate picture” and of risking “catastrophic consequences”.
The Scottish National Party warned of a “moral and democratic outrage” and campaigners lambasted UK ministers for being “sleekit” and treating parliaments and public with “utter contempt”.
The MoD did not deny that more warheads had been sent to Scotland. It declined to comment on nuclear transports, and stressed that warhead numbers were “kept under review”.
The MoD’s “integrated review” of nuclear weapons policy on 17 March 2021 abandoned a pledge made in 2010 “to reduce our overall nuclear warhead stockpile ceiling from not more than 225 to not more than 180 by the mid-2020s.”
It said: “In recognition of the evolving security environment, including the developing range of technological and doctrinal threats, this is no longer possible, and the UK will move to an overall nuclear weapon stockpile of no more than 260 warheads.”
According to Nukewatch’s spokesperson, Jane Tallents, a one time peace camper at Shandon, “citizens’ monitoring” had uncovered the truth about the UK’s nuclear weapons stockpile. She pointed out that another three bomb convoys had come to Scotland in the first three months of 2021.
“The secrecy surrounding all things nuclear means that there are now more of these weapons with the capacity to cause unimaginable humanitarian suffering available to be used in our name without us knowing about it until it is a fait accompli,” she told The Ferret.
The CND peace camp at Shandon near the South Gate to Faslane Base.
“It also means more transport of these weapons on our roads with potentially catastrophic consequences if there is a serious accident — and no public discussion about whether that is a risk communities want to take.”
Tallents added: “Only our persistence in tracking these movements since the 1980’s — along with information from members of the public who are truly horrified when they realise what they have just seen right in front of them — shines any light on this dangerous and outdated business.”
The SNP’s defence spokesperson at Westminster, Stewart McDonald MP, argued that “allegations of corruption and shady back door deals” had characterised Boris Johnson’s premiership. “It is clear that the Tories see parliamentary oversight and scrutiny as an inconvenience rather than the bedrock of our democracy,” he said.
“If these reports are true, they represent perhaps the most egregious example yet of the UK Government bypassing democratic scrutiny to enact policies no-one voted for. To secretly increase the number of these unwanted weapons of mass destruction on Scotland would be a moral and democratic outrage.”
The Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament blamed a series of “sleekit” prime ministers for misrepresenting nuclear realities. “It is now clear that a succession of UK governments have treated parliaments and the public with utter contempt,” said campaign chair, Lynn Jamieson.
“They have deceived their own people by this covert escalation and they have attempted to hoodwink the world at large with a show of compliance with the requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.”
The Royal Navy’s Fleet Flagship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, leaves Glen Mallan in Loch Long as part of final preparations before her first operational deployment. She sailed after spending a week berthing at the new Northern Ammunition Jetty “for a routine on-load of operational stores,” according to the Royal Navy,