TRIDENT in Scotland provides a “constant counterbalance” against nuclear threat, the UK defence procurement minister has said in response to Nicola Sturgeon’s calls for disarmament.

Alec Shelbrooke, who visited Navy personnel at His Majesty’s Naval Base (HMNB) Clyde – commonly known as Faslane – on Wednesday, said the UK’s nuclear deterrence stance protects European security.

His comments are in contrast to Scotland’s First Minister who said the “whole world should move away from nuclear weapons” during a Channel 4 interview on Friday.

A nuclear threat has increased in recent months amid claims Russian president Vladimir Putin could use the weaponry to escalate the attack on Ukraine.

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Shelbrooke said he did not want to get “drawn in” on Sturgeon’s comments, but he said: “We have seen, in the last week, nuclear rhetoric from Moscow grow.

“I think it’s important that we take the air out of that rhetoric and try calm everything down. But as we have seen over decades now, getting on our 54th year, a constant nuclear deterrent is a counterbalance.

The National: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been clear her government opposes nuclear weapons in Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA)First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been clear her government opposes nuclear weapons in Scotland (Andrew Milligan/PA) (Image: PA)

“And when we are dealing with international affairs, when we are trying to calm active military campaigns, to have that ability for our opponents, to not know what our tactics would be, but know that we have the ability to strike back equally makes a much safer world than if we were to just unilaterally disarm and leave our opponents with that capability.”

He added: “My approach is that I believe in the Union and the United Kingdom. What we have in Scotland is a strong nuclear deterrent that is taking part for our allies.

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“Nato is a nuclear defensive force, and the word is defensive. We are not an aggressive force, we are a deterrent.

“The UK plays a significant part in European security for all of our Nato allies, and therefore the UK will always stand steadfast in doing everything I can to protect us all.”

Sturgeon discussed her position on nuclear weapons in an independent Scotland. She told Channel 4: “It’s not up to me … to decide whether Trident was scrapped or not, that would be a UK Government decision.

“It would be for the Scottish Government to decide whether Trident was based in Scotland, and the position of my party, the strong position, is that it shouldn’t be.”