Trident funding this year hits £700 million

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Trident
Missile firing from HMS Vigilant. Photo: MoD

The £350 million pledged by the Defence Secretary today for work on the new submarines to carry Britain's at sea nuclear missiles means that £700 million has been committed to this project so far this year.

An earlier package of funding for £350 million was allocated in May.

All the money is being spent on designing new submarines which are due to enter service in 2028. At that point the Vanguard class subs - which currently deliver Britain's continuous at sea nuclear deterrent would be retired.

The Defence Secretary claims the money will secure 1,000 jobs and create an additional 200 as engineers push on with designing and developing the new boats (and, yes, a submarine can be called a boat).

HMS Vanguard
HMS Vanguard pictured in 2002 will be replaced. Credit: PA

The Trident weapons and the submarines which carry them will continue to be based at Faslane on the River Clyde in Scotland.

In making this announcement, the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond is picking a fight both with the Liberal Democrats, with whom he shares power in the coalition, and the Scottish National Party, which has pledged to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons if they achieve Independence.

The Lib Dems openly oppose the replacement of the Trident submarines. The coalition agreement identified that different point of view and it allows them to continue to make the case for alternatives.

The Cabinet office is currently carrying out a review on their behalf into other, cheaper, options. It will report early next year.

But it does mean the government is committing millions of pounds to a project which has yet to been given the final go-ahead.

The so-called "main gate" decision on constructing the Successor submarines will not be made until 2016.

Additionally, the government says the Scottish National Party must explain what it would do to the Navy base at Faslane.

HMS Vigilant
HMS Vigilant preparing to fire an unarmed Trident II (D5) ballistic missile, during a test launch. Credit: MoD Crown Copyright/PA Wire

The MoD says 6,500 people are employed there and an additional 1,500 will move to Faslane when the rest of the Navy's submarine fleet, including the Trafalgar and Astute class subs, are relocated there by 2017.

But the SNP has committed to making Scotland a nuclear-free country if it breaks away from the UK. It claims only 520 jobs are dependent on the nuclear weapons system at Faslane and they would find employment there as Faslane would become the main navy base in a independent Scotland.

The party's deputy leader, Nicola Sturgeon, says £350 million could pay for 8,333 nurses; 9,722 teachers and 18 Secondary Schools.