More than £74 million of public money is spent every year to guard Trident warheads and nuclear submarines on the Clyde and across the UK, the Sunday Herald can reveal.Nearly half the total budget for the Ministry of Defence Police (MDP) goes on armed police protecting the nuclear bases at Faslane and Coulport near Helensburgh, bomb factories in Berkshire and the nuclear convoys that shuttle between them.
The spending has been attacked by politicians and campaigners as a hidden cost of maintaining Trident weapons of mass destruction. If Trident were scrapped, the money could be better spent on public services, such as improved policing, they say.
Official figures from a “policing plan” just released online show that the MDP’s annual budget amounts to £159 million. Of that, £74 million is spent on safeguarding the nuclear defence programme.
This includes £54m on “nuclear armed policing”, £9m on “nuclear marine policing” and £6m on “nuclear tactical support”. Some £5m goes on guarding the 20-vehicle nuclear bomb convoys that drive between Berkshire and the Clyde up to six times a year.
Some of the rest of the budget will also cover nuclear policing, including quick response, counter terrorism, training and headquarters operations. One of the main aims of the UK’s 2,600 MoD police officers is “the secure and uninterrupted operation of the UK nuclear deterrent”, the plan says.
To help deter and prevent threats from terrorists, criminals and enemies, the MDP has a tactical support group providing “highend specialist police firearms capability”. A “special escort group” accompanies nuclear convoys on every road trip.
There’s an operational support group that can be deployed at short notice. Its capabilities include arms and explosive search teams, maintaining public order and “firearms response”.
The MDP also has “protester removal teams” to deal with people who have locked themselves to each other or to fences.
John Finnie MSP, the justice spokesperson for the Scottish Greens, described the MDP’s spending as “yet another cost to the public purse as a result of this immoral and unusable weapons system.”
He said: “At a time when the budget of Police Scotland is increasingly under strain many people will rightly question how this money could be better spent in their own communities. Whether that means more officers on the beat or retaining a call handling centre, this money could and should be better spent in communities, not guarding the MoD’s vanity project.”
The SNP’s defence spokesperson at Westminster, Brendan O’Hara MP, lambasted Trident as immoral, obscene and redundant. The costs of policing it were “another worrying sign” of the massive cost of nuclear weapons, he said.