Labour leadership favourite Johann Lamont challenged to clarify postion on Trident


by a Newsnet reporter

Scottish Labour leadership favourite Johann Lamont has been challenged to clarify her stance on the Trident nuclear weapons system after failing to reply to questions posed by Scottish CND.

The anti-nuclear weapons organisation has written to all of the candidates in the Scottish Labour leadership election to ask them for their views on the Trident warheads based on the Clyde.  Of the six leadership and deputy leadership candidates, all but front runner Lamont replied setting out their position.

A statement by Scottish CND said that despite emailing the set of questions twice to Ms Lamont, sending a copy by post, and leaving messages on her office answer machine, the MSP for Glasgow Pollok has failed to give a response.  

The CND survey shows that Ken Macintosh MSP and Tom Harris MP both want the UK to retain the weapons of mass destruction, deputy candidates Ian Davidson and Anas Sarwar want the matter to be decided by the Labour party conference, while Lewis McDonald wants the UK to retain Trident as a bargaining chip in disarmament talks.  

Although defence is an issue reserved to the Westminster Parliament, Ms Lamont has previously spoken out about her opposition to nuclear weapons.  

During an interview with Holyrood magazine in 2009, the Labour MSP was asked about the issues that first got her engaged with politics.  Ms Lamont replied:

“Of course as a child of the sixties, I was also aware of the huge debates on nuclear weapons and apartheid.  My friend the former MP Maria Fyfe is a role model for sticking to your principles and giving practical expression to your beliefs.”

In 1999 during the first election campaign for Holyrood, Scottish CND wrote to all the candidates of the main parties asking how they would vote if there was a motion before the Scottish Parliament saying that Trident should be decommissioned.  Ms Lamont was one of six newly elected Labour MSPs who replied that they would vote to decommission the missiles.

However by June 2006 Ms Lamont’s opposition to Trident appeared less clear cut.  That year she opposed two SNP motions condemning the renewal of Trident, and instead voted for Labour amendments which noted that defence was a matter reserved to Westminster.  In June 2007 she abstained during the vote on a further motion condemning the renewal of the weapons.  

Although individual Labour politicians have held a strong anti-nuclear line, this has often come at the expense of their advancement within the party.  The official policy of the Labour party is to retain the UK nuclear attack capacity.  

Now that Ms Lamont looks likely to become the next leader of the Labour party in Scotland she appears to be ducking the issue of her previous opposition to Trident.  The MSP’s silence on the issue is being met with increasing calls on her to make her position clear.  

SNP MSP Bill Kidd says Ms Lamont must come clean before the results of Labour’s leadership contest are announced on Saturday.  The MSP for Glasgow Anniesland, who is heavily involved in the campaign against nuclear weapons, called on Ms Lamont to set out her position.

Mr Kidd, an anti-nuclear campaigner, said:

“Johann Lamont owes it to the Scottish people to let them know her position on Trident before the leadership result on Saturday.

“Whilst it is no surprise that Tom Harris and Ken MacIntosh want to keep Trident it is disappointing that Johann Lamont appears to be dodging the question.

“We know a majority of people in Scotland, a majority of Scottish MPs and a majority of the Scottish Parliament are opposed to new nuclear weapons and want an end to Trident on the Clyde but we do not know the view of Labour’s prospective leader.

“Trident nuclear weapons are stored just miles from Glasgow.  Johann Lamont must tell us whether she is happy to have these so close to her Pollok constituency.

“Scotland doesn’t need nuclear weapons and doesn’t want them and I hope the new Labour leader, whoever that is, will recognise the folly of spending billions on Trident.

“Trident and new nuclear weapons are unwanted, unneeded and at a time of  public sector cuts are a waste of valuable cash that could be used to help boost our economy and get people into employment.”