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Nuclear weapons

Putin’s war could sink the SNP

The nuclear submarine HMS Vengeance in action

The Ukraine war has drastically altered the stakes of Scottish independence, says Andrew Marr in The New Statesman. With Russia now “openly threatening” the West with nuclear weapons, Britain’s own Trident nuclear deterrent ­is suddenly centre stage. The submarines which carry the missiles are based in Scotland – and if the country goes independent, the fiercely anti-nuclear SNP certainly wouldn’t allow the subs to remain. Nicola Sturgeon, for one, “joined the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament even before she joined the SNP”. But there are no good alternative bases elsewhere in Britain. South Wales is too near oil and gas installations; the southern English coast is too close to busy sea lanes and heavily populated areas. And basing Trident on US or French territory would be a “national humiliation”.

All of which means that a Scottish independence referendum – which the SNP is itching to hold next year – would effectively be a vote on stripping Britain of its nuclear deterrent. That might turn wavering Scots afraid of Vladimir Putin, or afraid that a vindictive London would then punish them in independence negotiations, towards a “no” vote. It also gives Boris Johnson a “high-ground argument” to refuse a referendum outright. “Putin didn’t start a war to damage the SNP, but that’s what he’s doing.”