By a Newsnet reporter
Confirmation that the Ministry of Defence has committed £350million on design contracts for a new generation of nuclear-armed submarines have been condemned by the SNP, who said the money should better be spent on shovel ready projects to boost the economy and jobs.
The decision of the MoD to award design contracts to defence firms BAE Systems, Babcock and Rolls Royce, during a time of cutbacks in other areas of spending, illustrates the commitment of the Coalition Government to maintaining nuclear weaponry.
Renewal of the weapons system has been widely criticised as a product of outdated Cold War thinking.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond said: “This government is committed to maintaining a continuous submarine-based nuclear deterrent. The contracts announced today … symbolise an important step towards renewing our nation’s nuclear deterrent into the 2060s.”
The contracts form part of almost £4 billion allocated on the design work for Trident replacement. The announcement comes six months before the Trident Alternatives Review is due to report, and ahead of a parliamentary decision in 2016 on whether or not to replace Trident.
Amongst the shovel ready projects in Scotland which have put on hold due to the UK Government’s insistence on going ahead with a new generation of weapons of mass destruction are:
- Improvements to ferry services between Ullapool and Lewis, and Gourock and Dunoon.
- Upgrade work on major highways including the A96, A68, A95, A702, A876, A75 the A737.
- Improvements to the M8, M73 and M74 motorways.
- Refurbishment of the Kincardine Bridge.
- University research programmes across Scotland, costing a total of £35m, plus a £6m investment in a new campus for Inverness.
SNP Treasury spokesperson Stewart Hosie MP pointed out that, with every £100m of capital investment estimated to support 1400 jobs, the UK Government has the wrong priorities.
Mr Hosie said:
“With the UK in recession again it is a scandal that the MoD is wasting £350million on a down-payment for these nuclear weapons. This money should be invested in the £300million of shovel ready projects to boost jobs and economic growth.
“It is a crying shame that the coalition’s austerity programme has not been extended to renewal of Trident – instead these weapons of mass destruction are being treated as some sacred cow by Tory and Lib Dem Ministers.
“The UK cannot afford Trident – we could save billions by cancelling it now and as much as £100bn over its lifetime.
“Scotland doesn’t want nuclear weapons – the Scottish Parliament, a majority of MPs, civic Scotland and the Scottish public have made their opposition plain time and again.
“With every £100m of capital investment estimated to support 1400 jobs, the UK Government has the wrong priorities by blowing taxpayers money on Trident.
“Whatever way you look at it, Trident is morally, economically and politically untenable – a key advantage of independence is that it is the only constitutional option which gives Scotland the powers to have Trident removed from Scottish waters.”