SNP secures Westminster debate on
The newly appointed SNP foreign affairs spokesperson Alex Salmond will lead the debate in the Commons next Thursday in the wake of claims that Britain’s nuclear deterrent is a “disaster waiting to happen”.
Able Seaman McNeilly, 25, is in the custody of Royal Navy police after he went absent without leave from Faslane naval base last week following the publication online of his 18-page report which included details of 30 alleged breaches of safety and security.
Salmond said that the debate would ensure that the allegations remained in the public domain. “The SNP will continue to keep the pressure on the government until we are satisfied that not only have they have investigated Mr McNeilly’s claims thoroughly and have acted on the findings but that those findings are put into the public domain.”
Brendan O’Hara, the SNP’s newly elected MP for Argyll and Bute, which includes Faslane, added: “The debate next Thursday allows us to address the very serious allegations made by Able Seaman William McNeilly and prevent them from being swept under the carpet by the Ministry of Defence.”
He continued: “We insist that the MoD make a formal statement on this matter at the earliest opportunity as there are now serious questions over the safety and security procedures currently operating at HMNB Clyde, Faslane and on the submarines that carry these nuclear missiles.”
McNeilly was apprehended at Edinburgh airport on Monday night after flying in from an undisclosed location in Europe. He has since been moved to a military establishment in England.
McNeilly is understood not to be under arrest or in custody. He remains technically on duty and so is required to remain at the establishment for the time being. Provision has been made for his family to join him from Belfast.
He will be offered legal representation, either by a naval barrister or a civilian lawyer of his own choosing, if the naval police decide that there is a case to answer. The Guardian has learned that at least two experienced human rights lawyers have offered to assist him.
McNeilly is expected to be charged with military infractions including going absent without leave, but the Ministry of Defence has already said that he will not be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act.
If he is found guilty, it is likely to result in incarceration in a military prison, though the discretion to impose a lengthy sentence is believed to be limited.
In the online dossier, McNeilly claimed it was more difficult to get into some nightclubs than to gain access to Britain’s nuclear programme facility. Referring to a chronic shortage of personnel, he suggested it was “a matter of time before we’re infiltrated by a psychopath or a terrorist”.
He also detailed a fire on board a submarine and the inappropriate use of HMS Vanguard’s missile compartment as a gym and accused navy chiefs of covering up a collision between HMS Vanguard and a French submarine in the Atlantic Ocean in February 2009.
At first minister’s questions earlier on Thursday, SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon described McNeilly’s allegations are “deeply concerning” and reiterated calls for an inquiry.
In a lengthy statement posted on Facebook on Monday, in which he announced that he would be turning himself in to the authorities because he “lacked the resources” to stay on the run, McNeilly wrote: “Unlike some whistleblowers out there who release information without consideration, put lives at risk and reduce security: I only included essential information, I tried the chain of command route, sources were referred to by rank instead of name, there was information I never released that would’ve helped the report but it would’ve caused a security risk … My motives are clearly to protect the people and land. Whatever happens, don’t worry about me; I’ll be alright.”