Chancellor George Osborne onboard the nuclear submarine HMS Vigilant at Faslane

£500m Faslane refurbishment branded 'premature'

A £500m refurbishment of the Faslane nuclear submarine base in Scotland pre-empts a vote on the renewal of Trident, critics say.

The money, announced by Chancellor George Osborne on a visit to the naval base on the River Clyde, east of Glasgow, will fund a 10-year programme of work due to begin in 2017 to construct sea walls, jetties and other projects as the base gets ready to host the country's entire submarine fleet.

The base is currently home to the fleet of four Vanguard-class submarines, one of which is on patrol at all times to form Britain's 'Trident' nuclear deterrent, and currently employs 6,700 military and civilian staff and contractors, but the new programme will see this number rise to about 8,200 by 2022.

However, with a decision on a multi-billion pound renewal of the ageing Vanguard fleet due next year, those opposed to the UK maintaining its nuclear deterrent have criticised the timing of the move.

Scotland's Deputy First Minister John Swinney, a member of the Scottish National Party (SNP), which favours abolishing Trident, said yesterday's announcement was "premature" before parliament had decided on the issue of the submarine fleet.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie accused Mr Osborne of being "provocative and premature".

"He's come up here in a big flash to try and provoke the anti-Trident sentiment amongst quite a large population in Scotland," he added. "We've not even had the debate on Trident. I would rather have seen that debate coming in a very reasonable and sensible way."

The SNP's Swinney also accused Osborne of using the issue to stir up tensions in the Labour Party, which is in the process of choosing a new leader, as front-running leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn is against renewal while the other three candidates are in favour.

There is no obligation on the Government to give parliament a vote on taking the programme forward, but if a vote does take place, the Tories' majority means they could force the issue through parliament.

But with Labour wavering on their support for the programme Osborne used an editorial in the Sun newspaper to argue that the cross-party agreement on the need for a nuclear deterrent was at risk.

"That consensus, which is so important for our security and reliability as an ally, risks being shattered again by an unholy alliance of Labour's left-wing insurgents and the Scottish nationalists," he said. "In a world getting more dangerous it would be disastrous to throw away the insurance policy that keeps us free and safe."

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