Defence Secretary, Philip Hammond is to proceed with the order for the submarines to carry Trident II, replacing the ageing Vanguard class thermonuclear ballistic missile submarines.
This will obviously create more tensions within the Westminster coalition, with the settled Liberal Democrat opposition to nuclear weapons.
However, it shuts off a useful option in negotiations with Scotland.
In the scenario of an independent Scotland, opposed to the nuclear deterrent and to the renewal of the massively expensive Trident system, the Westminster government would have had the option of unilateral nuclear disarmament while retaining the nuclear powered but conventionally armed new Astute class hunter killer submarines,
This would be a situation an independent Scotland could accept, were the UK to wish – as it would – to retain its submarine fleet and armaments bases at Faslane and Coulport in Argyll – and pay for the privilege.
This unwavering commitment to Trident throws the situation into a full standoff with Scotland asw well as with the Liberal Democrats, both opposed to the deterrent, although an independent Scotland would, with neither principle nor logic, now seek membership of NATO – with its primary commitment to first strike nuclear deterrence.