A couple of interesting stories emerged today in naval circles.
Firstly, the Mail in Scotland yesterday reported that the Ministry of Defence was considering contingency plans to re-locate submarines and ships based at Faslane in Scotland, in the event of an independence referendum voting in favour of severing ties with the rest of Britain. Currently, Faslane hosts the four Vanguard Class Ballistic Missile Submarines, HMS Astute, and eight Sandown Class MCMV’s of the 1st MCM Squadron. Faslane is also due to be the base port for the rest of the Astute Class as they come in to service.
Devonport has the sole nuclear refuelling and repair facility for submarines in Britain, including a dock specially built to fit the Vanguard Class, so it would make sense to base at least some of the submarines there. Given that Plymouth is more remote than Portsmouth, it might make sense to base the Vanguards there, and the Astutes at Portsmouth. The Sandown Class Minehunters would fit in well at Portsmouth, given that the Hunt Class are already based there. Or, perhaps, Plymouth could become more of a Submarine base, taking Vanguards and Astutes and transferring surface ships to Portsmouth in their stead. The fly in the ointment would be the Trident missile facility at Coulport on the Clyde – not something you could move in a hurry.
Secondly, Education Secretary Michael Gove has egg on his face after suggesting that perhaps the Government could purchase a new Royal Yacht for the Queen to mark her Diamond Jubilee this year. The last Royal Yacht, HMY Britannia, was retired in 1997 as a cost-cutting measure. As wonderful as she was, the concept of a Royal Yacht belongs in the twentieth century. The figure being quoted for building a replacement is £60m, which seems conservative for me – that was the figure quoted in 1997, and with inflation, it must be well over twice that now. At a time when the Royal Navy is losing ships hand over fist, is it a great idea to commit it to running a Royal Yacht? Not only do we need to consider the build costs, but the fitting out, the manning, the basing, the maintenance, the running costs… can we really afford it? I doubt it. I’m a keen supporter of traditions and heritage, but only where it makes sense on an operational and economic level.
- Statement on Michael Gove’s proposal for a Royal Yacht (tom-watson.co.uk)
- Clegg torpedoes plans for new royal yacht (thetimes.co.uk)
- British government sinks new royal yacht suggestion (vancouversun.com)
- PM rules out new £60m royal yacht news: David Cameron says it would be inappropriate to use public cash (thesun.co.uk)
- Gove: Queen deserves £60m yacht for Queen (independent.co.uk)
- Taxpayers ‘should gift the Queen a new royal yacht’ for diamond jubilee, says Tory minister (menmedia.co.uk)
- UK: No public funding for new royal yacht (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- UK: No Public Funding for New Royal Yacht (abcnews.go.com)
- National News: New royal yacht ‘not appropriate’ (coventrytelegraph.net)