By Martin Kelly
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont is facing calls to clarify her stance on the Trident nuclear weapons system following confirmation of a split within the UK coalition government over plans to spend £350 million on replacing the WMDs.
Ms Lamont has again been challenged to come clean on her views on nuclear weapons following comments from Nick Clegg which have publically exposed the internal rifts in the coalition on replacing Trident.
Defence Secretary Philip Hammond’s announcement of £350 million towards a replacement for Trident was met with accusations by Mr Clegg that he was “jumping the gun”.
Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander is currently leading a review into alternatives to a like-for-like replacement. However, claims that his Lib Dem colleague’s review was now pointless were angrily denied by Mr Clegg who said:
“The coalition agreement is crystal clear. It stands. It will not be changed. It will not be undermined. The final decision on the replacement of Trident will not be taken until 2016, however much other people may not like it.
“The idea of a like-for-like entirely unchanged replacement of Trident is basically saying we will spend billions and billions and billions of pounds on a nuclear missile system designed with the sole strategic purpose of flattening Moscow at the press of a button.”
The UK Government’s coalition agreement makes clear that a decision on replacing Trident will not be made during the current UK Parliamentary term, but that has not prevented major public funds being committed to laying the groundwork for a new generation of weapons of mass destruction.
Following what the SNP described as “a summer of silence” in which Johann Lamont’s refusal to go public with her views on Trident became increasingly bewildering; the leader of Labour in Scotland has been repeatedly challenged to reveal her views.
During her leadership campaign, Johann Lamont was the only candidate who refused to answer questions from the CND on her stance on nuclear weapons.
MSP Ken Macintosh and MP Tom Harris said the UK should retain nuclear weapons. MP Ian Davidson said Trident should be scrapped, whilst now Scottish Labour Deputy leader MP Anas Sarwar said the UK should be looking at alternatives to Trident, including a non-nuclear defence policy
MSP Lewis Macdonald said the UK should keep Trident as a bargaining counter for disarmament and the issue should be dealt with at the UK Policy Forum.
However, despite being contacted by post, email and telephone, Johann Lamont failed to respond to questions.
Commenting, SNP MSP Bill Kidd who is a Co-President of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) said:
“Johann Lamont might like to think that she can stick to the shadows and duck this issue, but it is simply not tenable for her to remain silent while all the other parties set out their position.
“If the UK coalition is willing to go public with their internal splits on this issue, why can’t Johann Lamont just be upfront with people in Scotland?
“Does she support the basing of weapons of mass destruction on the Clyde and is she in favour of wasting billions of pounds on replacing Trident?
“It is a ludicrous situation when we have heard more about the future of nuclear weapons on the Clyde from the LibDems, the Tories and even the Labour party in Wales than we have from Johann Lamont.
“The fact is that Scotland simply does not want these horrific weapons to remain in our waters and only a Yes vote in 2014 will see them removed.”
Labour’s position on the siting of nuclear weapons in Scotland is mired in confusion and one MP, Jim McGovern, recently claimed that Scottish Labour was pro-nuclear.
In 1999 Ms Lamont claimed to support the decommissioning of nuclear weapons, however her continued silence will lead to fears that she has now dumped her opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland.