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LONDON (AFP) – Britain's leaders are examining proposals to claim sovereignty over the military base in Scotland which houses its Trident nuclear deterrent if the Scottish people vote for independence next year, the Guardian reported Thursday.
The Scottish National Party (SNP), which leads the Scottish Parliament, has promised to get rid of all nuclear weapons if it secures a 'yes' vote in the independence referendum which will take place in September 2014.
Britain's government is therefore considering designating as sovereign United Kingdom territory the Faslane base on Gare Loch in Argyll and Bute, giving it the same status as the British sovereign military bases in Cyprus, according to the report.
This would allow the Trident fleet to maintain access to the open seas via the Firth of Clyde.
The SNP criticised London's "bullying".
"This is an extraordinary attempt by Westminster to bully Scotland," said Angus Robertson, the SNP leader at Westminster.
"Neither the people nor parliament of Scotland want nuclear weapons dumped here, and we are clear that Trident would have to be removed as quickly as possible.
"Only a yes vote next September will empower Scotland to get rid of Trident, and the money saved help build a fairer society and stronger economy," he added.
Britain holds a long-standing belief in continuous at-sea deterrence, which requires the running of at least one Vanguard submarine armed with 16 Trident nuclear missiles at any given time.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond last week warned "it would cost a significant amount of money" for Scotland if it were to bear some of the costs of decommissioning the base as part of any independence severance payments.
"It would cost a huge amount of money, running into tens of billions of pounds, to decommission Faslane," a defence source told the paper.
"The sovereign base area is an option. It is an interesting idea because the costs of moving out of Faslane are eye-wateringly high."
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson insisted that "no contingency plans" were being made to relocate the Trident programme.