By Bob Duncan
Labour’s Jim Murphy has implied that the only route open to rid Scotland of Trident is to vote Yes to independence in 2014, as he confirmed his party’s absolute support for the retention of Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Clyde.
Interviewed yesterday on BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Defence, said: “We’re in favour of the UK retaining a nuclear capability”.
He then reinforced Labour’s pro-Trident position, saying: “We’re not a unilateralist party. I mean, that happened in the ‘80s, that was a flirtation with surrealism. We’re not a unilateralist party and we’re not going to become a unilateralist party.”
The ‘surrealism’ taunt may have been aimed at Labour colleagues, including Deputy Scottish leader Anas Sarwar, who have been portraying Labour as an anti-nuclear party.
Sarwar, speaking in May 2012 on “Choosing Scotland’s Future – The Big Debate” said: “We (Labour) want to obliterate nuclear weapons not just in Scotland but from right across the UK and right across the world – that is why we are internationalists not nationalists”.
Mr Murphy’s statements also suggest that the London party is now in direct policy opposition to their Scottish parliamentary colleagues, who have refused to vote in favour of the Trident replacement.
On 14 June 2007 the Scottish Parliament voted against Trident renewal by 71 votes for and 16 against (all Conservative) with 39 abstentions (all Labour). The result equated to 82% against Trident renewal and only 18% for.
There were five Labour rebels: Bill Butler, Malcolm Chisholm, Marlyn Glen, Cathy Peattie and Elaine Smith.
Labour’s renewed commitment to nuclear weapons comes at a time when conventional defence spending is being sharply reduced, with Scotland losing out disproportionately as MoD promises on army basing are broken. This is despite the estimated bill for the replacement nuclear system exceeding £100 billion.
The new system will be so expensive to build and maintain that the Royal United Services Institute has forecast “submarine and deterrent spending” is set to account for around 35 per cent of the total core military procurement budget by 2021/22.
When questioned on GMS, Murphy was unable to state how many service personnel his party would expect to be stationed in Scotland if they were elected to Westminster. This is despite the Coalition statement that they expect a footprint of 12,500, and The SNP prediction of 15,000 active military personnel in an Independent Scotland’s defence force.
Murphy’s revelations leave both Labour and Tories committed to the replacement of Trident after 2015, with the Lib Dems still to announce whether they will support ‘like for like’ replacement and a possibly cheaper alternative.
Commenting, SNP Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson said:
“The people and parliament of Scotland oppose a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons on the Clyde for another 50 years – but Jim Murphy has confirmed that Labour will impose it on Scotland if they are ever allowed to be in charge of governing Scotland again.
“Mr Murphy could give no answer for how many defence personnel Labour propose for Scotland – an embarrassing and awkward position for the Shadow Secretary of State for Defence to be in. The SNP have clearly outlined 15,000, but Mr Murphy has no position on the conventional forces that Scotland wants.
“What is crystal clear is that Jim Murphy – and therefore the Labour Party – is in absolute agreement with the Tories in imposing Trident on Scotland which the people and parliament of Scotland don’t want.
“Only a Yes vote in the independence referendum can get rid of Trident from Scotland, and ensure that the billions of pounds the Westminster parties want to waste on weapons of mass destruction can be invested instead in building a fair society and strong economy.
“The No campaign must be honest with the people of Scotland that a No vote in the referendum is a vote to waste tens of billions on new nuclear weapons on our shores, instead of investing in our public services.”