The British government dropped one shoe by confirming a billion-dollar contract to Rolls-Royce for reactors to power the new generation of British nuclear submarines, Great Britain's deterrence force.
The ostensive green light for the program triggers a conflict within the British government between the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition partners, hands the Scottish Nationalists a possible campaign issue in the referendum on Scottish independence and, as happens in any military establishment, provokes inter-service rivalry.
The Conservatives, who are the senior member of the British coalition, favor the move - not only as necessary to maintain British deterrence, but also to maintain Britain's technological capacity. Additionally the Tories argue that the project will create jobs. The final decision will not be taken until 2016, meaning during the next government.
However, work on the reactors must begin to ensure that the next government will have the option of going for the project. The Liberal Democrats want a cheaper way of constructing a deterrent, particularly during this time of austerity. The coalition agreement. while promising to maintain the British nuclear deterrent, also allows the Liberal Democrats to press the case for alternatives.
Britain's current nuclear submarine force is based in Scotland. Scottish Nationalist Party spokespersons, such as Angus Robertson, claimed overwhelming opposition to a policy that would dump weapons of mass destruction on Scotland's doorstep.
Bruce Crawford, the Strategy Secretary of the Scottish government called the program an obscenity. Robertson claims that everyone in Scotland, from church leaders to trade unionists, as well as the Scottish government - were all opposed to the program. As London did not consider what the Scottish people actually wanted. this represented further proof that independence was the way of establishing a government "making decisions based on what the people of Scotland actually want."
As the billio-n pounds sterling reactor contract is merely an appetizer for a program slated to cost 20 billion pounds sterling criticism from other military services. The government has madedeep cuts and even eliminated other programs and military manpower has been reduced. The former Chief of Staff Lord Danatt advises stretching out the life of the current submarine force but to avoid a permanent commitment to nuclear subs forever particularly given the nature of the conflicts that Britain had been involved in recently.