THE British military establishment and its civilian networks are on manoeuvres. In just one week, a national newspaper has had three articles and a front page all urging independence supporters –and the SNP in particular – to change their policy on nuclear weapons.

The pitch is that if only we are realistic and mature and come to terms with Trident, the path to independence will be smooth. I suppose it is encouraging that they are increasingly taking the prospect of independence seriously.

But we’re not daft. We have always known that there would be a demand to “lease” Faslane/Coulport, initially maybe for 10 years, maybe 20. The British establishment’s assumption was, of course, that it would always be able to find pressing reasons for the need to extend the lease until it was accepted as the status quo.

The National: National Extra Scottish politics newsletter banner

“Being realistic”, however, means accepting around 260 nuclear bombs plus related infrastructure at a Guantanamo on the Clyde. Each one of these bombs could destroy a city. Accepting these horrific weapons is considered “mature”. Yet their presence makes central Scotland one of the very top targets in Europe. They expose us to great risk. They do not make us safe.

We have a different vision for Scotland.

Those presenting the case on behalf of the British state, whether formally or informally, base it on a very big lie. That lie is the claim that the UK has an independent nuclear system. There are eight states in the world which do have independent systems. The UK isn’t one of them.

It is wholly dependent on the United States and has been for decades.

Because of the failure of UK delivery systems, in 1958, Harold Macmillan had to go and plead with the US president to give his government Skybolt, an air-launched ballistic missile. There was considerable resistance to doing so but a deal was struck. The US agreed as long as they got the Holy Loch in return as a Polaris base. Macmillan tried hard to persuade them to go to Loch Linnhe instead –after all, that would only affect a few Highlanders – but it had to be the Holy Loch or nothing.

The Skybolt project didn’t go ahead, so Macmillan had to go back and beg the new president to lease the UK Polaris instead. And so we have Faslane. Trident is leased from the US and goes back there for servicing. The UK makes the warheads and the submarines but is totally dependent on following the US designs.

Significantly, there have always been doubts about the British claim that they control targeting. After all, it would be quite irresponsible of the US to provide its nuclear system to another state without keeping some control – who knows who might come to power?

A significant light was recently shone on this when the claim was made (by The Telegraph and the Daily Mail) that Exocet missiles sold by France to Argentina 40 years ago had a secret “stop-kill” device that retained ultimate control in France. Just think how technology has moved on since then. So we have a pseudo-independent British system. But its importance is as a political status symbol.

The reason why we need a very clear and firm plan for removing nuclear weapons from Scotland is, as any good negotiator knows, that unless you have some strong red lines, the opposition will walk all over you. The most common demand is that Scotland must give the remainder of the British state time to build another base somewhere else which will require staying at Faslane into the late 2030s or 40s.

Our hope, of course, is that Scotland’s anti-nuclear position will encourage the revival of the strong campaigns in England that there were in the 1960s and 1980s.

This will be helped by the realisation of the cost and environmental impact of building a base in England. But this has to be a choice for the remainder of the UK.

READ MORE: Indyref2 blueprint sets out ideological chasm between Holyrood and Westminster

We can, of course, give time for removal of infrastructure as long as the warheads are removed quickly. The requirement that the rUK creates new storage facilities elsewhere for the warheads is one of the red lines. That can be done and the bombs removed from Scotland within three years.

The idea that if there is not a UK nuclear-armed submarine on 24-hour patrol somewhere in the world’s oceans, we will all be at existential risk is nonsense. The great majority of states in the world don’t have nuclear weapons, nor are they in nuclear military alliances. The world is making no progress in nuclear disarmament. All of the nuclear states are pushing ahead with upgrading their systems in the vain hope that they can jump ahead of rivals. None of these states comes out of this well in a world facing disastrous climate change and massive poverty.

Scotland must have a different vision and a different role. We could be sucked into mediocre British establishment thinking driven by the need for status and bereft of any contribution to humanitarian reform.

Or we could take the opportunity to do something genuinely important for the world and show that the nuclear arms race can start to go into reverse. As a state party to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we would be joining almost all of Latin America, most of Africa, many important Asian states and our friends in Ireland, Austria and New Zealand. A truly international Scotland.

Isobel Lindsay is co vice-chair of the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament