THE debate over the future of Trident shows how destabilising a yes vote could be in the Scottish independence referendum to the whole country.

A report published today says it might “only”

cost £3.5bn to relocate the four nuclear submarines from their dock at Faslane, on the Clyde, but that is an unnecessary £3.5bn for the English, the Welsh and the Northern Irish to fork out. In these austere times, that is money most people would rather have spent on public services, such as hospitals.

The cost, though, is almost academic. Alex Salmond says an independent Scotland would want Trident moved within five years, but the practicalities would be very different. Just the planning debate about where to site the base would take a decade or more – we can’t even get quick consent about something as simple as a high-speed railway so the discussions around the siting of a nuclear base are bound to be contentious and lengthy.

Therefore, Scottish independence would throw Britain’s nuclear capability into doubt for a long period of time, and it would mirror the wider confusion about the break-up of all of our armed forces. The squabbles over who got how many planes and ships would be legion – and watched by the whole of the world. Our international standing would be reduced. Our influence would diminish – would the rump of the UK really be allowed a privileged place on the UN Security Council, for example?

The Trident debate should also remind the Scots what they will really lose by voting yes.

It is fine to have anti-nuclear principles, but it is also good to have jobs. Faslane is Scotland’s biggest single employer. Soon 8,200 people will work there. Although in an ideal world the people of Teesside wouldn’t really want a nuclear power station near Hartlepool, now it is there employing 750 skilled people, very few people would vote against it on a point of principle.

Scotland must be a foreign country if it can afford to give up so many well paid jobs so easily.