Philip Hammond
UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond stands in front of HMS Victorious, during a visit to the Faslane nuclear base Reuters

Britain is not making contingency plans to move its nuclear forces out of Scotland because the Westminster government does not think independence is a realistic prospect, despite the nation facing a referendum on the issue in September.

UK defence secretary Philip Hammond was asked about such plans while on a visit to a shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness near the English-Scottish border, to which he said there were none.

"We don't expect the Scots to vote for independence," he said.

Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond has said he would force the UK to remove its nuclear submarines from the Faslane base if Scotland became independent.

However Hammond dismissed a quick exit from Faslane, saying it would take "many, many years and vast amounts of money to replicate the facilities".

"People who have talked about rapid removal of nuclear forces from Scotland are not talking realistically," Hammond said.

A report by US investment bank Citi said Scottish independence is "highly unlikely" because almost all of the opinion polls suggest the majority of Scots will vote against splitting from the UK.