by Newsnet.scot Reporter
The Labour Party’s decision to boycott a House of Commons debate on the renewal of the Trident nuclear missile system has been condemned by one of the parties behind the event.
An “opposition day” debate on the cost of renewing Trident – estimated currently at £100 bn – has been called by the SNP, Greens and Plaid Cymru and will take place tomorrow (Tuesday).
However in an apparent attempt at a pre-emptive strike, Labour indicated that its MPs would not attend the debate, confirming the support for Trident across the three main Unionist parties.
Although the Trident replacement programme has not been formally approved by Parliament, the Coalition government has already committed funds to various early-stage work, paving the way to a rubber-stamping of the project if all goes well for the “big” parties in the May general election.
It is known that some elements within the Ministry of Defence and armed forces harbour have questioned the expensive programme, questioning the need for a first-strike nuclear weapons system as well as its cost, particularly at a time of widescale cuts in military numbers and expenditure.
Scottish Labour leader, Jim Murphy MP, is a long-standing supporter of nuclear weapons, including Trident. Recently he confirmed that stance, commenting that Labour was “not a unilateralist party and not about to become one”.
SNP defence spokesperson Angus Robertson SNP said that the decision to boycott the debate on such a controversial topic came less than a week after Labour had voted with the Tories on a £30bn austerity package. “This episode is a grim insight into Labour’s priorities under Jim Murphy and Ed Miliband,” added Robertson.
The SNP’s commitment to scrapping Trident was attacked by Labour during the referendum campaign. Some Tory sources indicated that an rUK government would try to keepTrident at its base on the Clyde, as part of future negotiations about Scotland retaining Sterling within a currency union in the event of a Yes vote last September.
Labour’s decision has been linked by some to the growing incidence of “tit for tat” campaigning, mainly through the media, since Murphy’s election as Scottish leader, and his recruitment of fellow-Blairite fixer John McTernan as his “chief of staff”.
These include blaming the Scottish Government for not preparing for the recent oil price slump, and claiming that Cabinet Secretary John Swinney’s decision to review the banding of the new replacement for stamp duty north of the Border was a “humiliation” rather than a fair reflection of the replacement announced more recently for England and Wales.
“It’s no wonder that Labour MPs are embarrassed by their party’s support for a new generation of weapons of mass destruction. But they should at least have the guts to try to defend their position, rather than hiding from debate and hoping the people of Scotland won’t notice,” said Robertson.
“That Scottish Labour MPs support wasting another £100 bn on weapons of mass destruction while food bank use is rocketing, and more and more children are being pushed into poverty, is simply indefensible. With their refusal to debate it’s clear that they know it too.”
Ironically, the news came as a Survation poll for the Daily Record found that a Labour – SNP coalition in Westminster was the result most favoured by respondents, with 35 per cent support in Scotland. A majority Labour Government in Westminster after the May general election was favoured by only 20 per cent of Scots.
The poll also indicated a massive lead for the SNP in the 2016 Scottish election. It indicated a bigger majority for the SNP than it achieved at Holyrood in 2011.
The Scottish Socialist Party has called on Labour MPs to join Tuesday’s debate, which has been dismissed by some as an “SNP gimmick”.
The SSP’s Sandra Webster commented: “It is simply unacceptable, when we are seeing unprecedented cuts to public services, for the UK to spend billions upon billions on instruments of terror.
“Scottish Labour have a party policy which supports unilateral disarmament – so there is no reason whatsoever for Scottish Labour MPs to vote for renewing Trident. On an issue of this importance, it would also be a disgrace for Labour MPs to ignore this debate.”