An independent Scotland may have to surrender control of the Faslane naval base to the rest of the UK or share the substantial bill of decommissioning, according to the UK Armed Forces Minister.
Nick Harvey told MPs at the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee on Wednesday night that removing the Trident nuclear deterrent from the Clyde would be the biggest bill in the post-independence negotiations.
He said it would be "sensible" for both sets of taxpayers to share the cost. He said the Ministry of Defence has no contingency plans for independence "because we don't expect it to happen". It is therefore "not making any plans to move the nuclear deterrent, or indeed the submarines, from HM Naval Base Clyde".
He admitted that independence is the subject of "occasional internal discussion", but said they have had no substantive discussion either internally or with the Scottish Government. With the SNP publicly committed to removing Trident, many MPs queried who would pick up the tab for decommissioning Faslane.
Mr Harvey said: "If that cost had to be met in a way that in a practical sense would seem to me - and I would have thought to people of good sense - to be completely unnecessary then the implication of that across the rest of the negotiation (would be that) it would be the largest item across the whole piece."
He said a "huge negotiation" would be required, and stressed that "if the residual UK taxpayer had to pick up that bill, their ability to pick up any other bills would be proportionately diminished".
Labour MP Iain McKenzie suggested that decommissioning would be included in the post split negotiations, alongside the division of the national debt and banking bailout.
"In the end a compromise would be made as to who pays for what so both sets of taxpayers would end up paying," he said.
Mr Harvey replied: "That sounds to me like a sensible characterisation of what I think will probably happen."
Conservative MP David Mowat asked what terms the UK Government would insist on if the SNP reversed its policy on Trident and permitted UK submarines to remain on the Clyde. Mr Harvey said: "I think the critical one would be complete freedom of action, complete control and complete sovereignty over the facility."
Junior Defence Minister Peter Luff confirmed that dismantling Faslane would incur a substantial bill, likening it to a "seismic shock" in the UK budget.
Previous estimates that it could take up to 20 years to decommission were not inconceivable, he said, given the complexities of decommissioning any large facility with the added complication of removing nuclear weapons.
He said the loss of Faslane would leave a large hole in Scotland's economy with the loss of 6,000 jobs and associated economic benefits.