Staff at the Faslane nuclear submarine base on the Clyde have expressed “grave and genuine” fears about the impact of proposed cuts on safety at the site.

The concerns surround proposals to change the docking arrangements for submarines returning from missions. Currently, electricity to each sub is cut off about 20 minutes before docking, until it is connected to a shore power supply.

As part of cost-cutting measures believed to total £77.5m over the next five years, the engineering company Babcock, which is contracted by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to run the Faslane site, propose to extend this period without electricity for up to a maximum of three hours.

Brendan O’Hara, the Scottish National party (SNP) defence spokesman, whose Argyll and Bute constituency includes Faslane, said one of the worries was whether the nuclear reactors would begin to heat up if there was no electric-powered pump for the cooling system.

“I have been approached by several constituents who have worked at the base for many years and they have raised grave and genuine concerns about the proposed extension to how long a nuclear-powered submarine can lie alongside without power,” he said.

“This is all about safety. Safety, when we are dealing with nuclear-fuelled submarines is paramount and anything that appears to compromise that must be questioned and then explained fully.”

The proposed extension of docking time would save an estimated £4.5m a year in shift and staffing reductions. Babcock, which was last year awarded a £2.6bn contract by the MoD to manage Faslane and the Devonport naval base at Plymouth, is believed to be looking for an estimated £77.5m in savings over the next five years.

The MoD said that no decision on the berthing time issue had been taken, but that processes and procedures were regularly reviewed with industry partners, with safety remaining “the number one priority”.


A spokesperson for Babcock said: “Options analysis has allowed us to consider a more efficient and cost effective shift pattern within this area. This has absolutely no impact on the safety of our operations”.

The Commons is scheduled to vote next year on whether to push ahead with renewal of the ageing Trident nuclear programme, including the construction of four new submarines. While the Conservative government is committed to its renewal, the SNP is opposed and Labour ducked a debate on its policy at its annual conference in September.

Babcock’s website says it is “critically responsible for the supply of power and other utility services, management of radioactive waste streams and 24-hour berthing services” at the Faslane base.

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