By Abbie Kean
Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, commonly known as Faslane, is one of the Royal Navy’s three main operating bases, alongside HMNB Devonport and HMNB Portsmouth.
Faslane is best known as the main base for the Royal Navy’s Submarine Service, including the UK’s four Vanguard-class nuclear-armed submarines which carry Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, and the latest generation of Astute-class attack submarines.
It is situated on Gare Loch in Scotland and is the country’s navy headquarters.
Faslane was first constructed and used as a base in the Second World War.
During the 1960s, the British Government began negotiating the Polaris Sales Agreement with the United States regarding the purchase of a Polaris missile system to fire British-built nuclear weapons from five specially constructed submarines.
In the end, only four were constructed and these were HMS Resolution, HMS Repulse, HMS Renown and HMS Revenge. These four submarines were permanently based at Faslane.
Faslane itself was chosen to host these vessels at the height of the Cold War because of its geographic position on the west coast of Scotland.
This position provides for rapid and stealthy access through the North Channel to the submarine patrolling areas in the North Atlantic.
Given the presence of these nuclear capable missiles, Faslane has attracted demonstrations by Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and other Scottish pressure groups, including Trident Ploughshares.
Since 1982, a permanent peace camp has been outside the base gates, where there are frequent demonstrations.
There are various divisive positions on the existence of nuclear missiles at Faslane.
Some say that due to the fact that around 30,000 jobs could be created and/or retained through the continued use of Trident, that it should stay.
However, others argue that it is immoral and that Britain should set an example by introducing unilateral nuclear disarmament.
The Scottish Government, which supports independence and opposes nuclear weapons, have pledged to banish nuclear missiles from Faslane and instead turn the facility into a conventional naval base which would continue to employ the same number of people that are currently employed there.
The government’s position is unlikely to change, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reiterating her party’s position that nuclear weapons are “immoral, ineffective and a waste of money.”
As a result of the possibility of Scottish independence, following on from the recent Scottish Parliamentary election results, the UK Government has given considerable thought to where it could move the Trident missiles and Vanguard submarines to another location in England or Wales.
Some analysts have speculated that given the incompatibility of several of the UK’s potential host sites and the overall cost of relocation (expected to reach £20 billion), this could lead the British government to completely abandon its nuclear weapons program.
The future of Faslane and the Trident missiles is currently unknown, however as calls continue for an independent Scotland, the removal of these nuclear weapons could become a strong possibility.