Ashcroft criticised for political spinning on Trident poll

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   By a Newsnet reporter

Conservative peer Michael Ashcroft is facing embarrassment today after his own poll showed only 35% of people in Scotland believe Trident should remain in an independent Scotland, compared with 50% who disagree.

The Tory Peer conducted the poll to supposedly show ‘more than half of Scots are in favour of nuclear weapons’ when in fact only 37% of Scots believe so in principle, compared with 48% who do not.

However Mr Ashcroft claimed that his poll contradicts a recent Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) survey which found that three-fifths of people in Scotland oppose a replacement for Trident (60%).  Mr Ashcroft believes this poll was biased.

He said:

“It is always worth looking twice at any survey that seems to show that the public support the agenda of whoever commissioned it.  The numbers served CND’s purpose and were duly seized upon by parts of the Scottish press, and the SNP which declared the issue a huge opportunity for the independence campaign.”

Opponents of nuclear weapons and the renewal of Trident have accused Mr Ashcroft of being guilty of the same thing he complains about in the CND poll.  Mr Ashcroft’s poll did not mention the total costs of the Trident replacement in his question, and his poll has likewise been seized upon by sections of the Scottish press and the anti-independence parties.

An SNP spokeswoman said:

“We are extremely confident that a majority of people in Scotland want to get rid of Trident nuclear weapons, in line with every other survey of opinion and the recent overwhelming vote in the Scottish Parliament. Lord Ashcroft is guilty of the very thing he complains about.”

Arthur West, chairman of Scottish CND, said: “[The Ashcroft poll] flies in the face of our own research. I don’t know if Lord Ashcroft gets out very much but we do and there’s clear opposition.

“The other thing is that we’re finding that people who might not necessarily side with us are coming to our side because of the economic situation and the costs.”

Commenting, SNP Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said:

“Now that Lord Ashcroft has released the full details of his poll, it in fact confirms Scottish opposition to nuclear weapons being based here. Just 37% of Scots support the UK having nuclear weapons, and even less – 35% – would want Trident to stay in Scotland after independence.

“We are extremely confident that a majority of people in Scotland want to get rid of Trident nuclear weapons – as this poll actually indicates, in line with every other survey of opinion, and the recent overwhelming vote in the Scottish Parliament.

“Lord Ashcroft is guilty of the very thing he complains about – his question only included the procurement cost of a Trident replacement, when independent research shows that its lifetime costs will be nearly £100 billion. Only a Yes vote next September can get rid of Trident for Scotland, so that we can spend Scotland’s share of this money helping to build a fairer society and stronger economy.”