By a Newsnet reporter
The Scottish National Party has challenged Labour to outline its own vision for the transition of Faslane from a nuclear to a conventional naval base, or risk its claim to support multilateral disarmament becoming completely meaningless.
The SNP also attacked what it described as “Labour’s half-hearted and token support for nuclear disarmament” arguing that independence is the only way of ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons.
The criticism follows statements from Labour’s Shadow Defence Minister Gemma Doyle MP who insisted, during a TV interview on STV’s Scotland Tonight this week, that Johann Lamont supports nuclear disarmament.
The Scottish Labour leader has been reluctant to address the issue since replacing former leader Iain Gray just over a year ago.
Many other senior Labour figures, including Ms Lamont’s deputy Anas Sarwar, have publicly backed the removal of Trident from the Clyde.
Responding to questions from Scottish CND during the Scottish Labour leadership contest in 2011, Mr Sarwar said: “I believe that trident is undesirable in a 21st century country and we should be looking at alternatives and supporting others to do the same.”
Labour’s Shadow Defence Spokesperson Jim Murphy last year told a policy forum that he was “working for a world free of nuclear weapons”.
The Commons Select Committee on Scottish Affairs recently published a report on the future of Trident in an independent Scotland.
Its chair, Labour MP Ian Davidson, despite publicly supporting the complete removal of Trident and being against its renewal, last week attacked the SNP’s plan to remove the nuclear system from an independent Scotland. Mr Davidson claimed up to 19,000 jobs were at risk if the Faslane base was to close – thousands of which, according to Labour and the Conservatives, are reliant on the renewal of the nuclear weapons system.
However in March 2007 Mr Davidson voted against a UK Government motion which called for the renewal of Trident. Mr Davidson confirmed his views when asked by Scottish CND in 2011, replying “Yes” when asked if the UK government should scrap Trident and “Yes” when asked if “the UK government should cancel their current proposal to renew Trident”.
Labour’s manifesto for the 2010 General Election stated: “We will fight for multilateral disarmament, working for a world free of nuclear weapons”.
The SNP have insisted that nuclear weapons should be removed from Scotland and are arguing that a conventional weapons system will save hundreds of millions whilst allowing the Faslane base to continue with a comparable workforce.
In 2007, a report commissioned by the Scottish TUC and CND challenged claims that Trident renewal would create an additional 3000 jobs. According to the study, the renewal of Trident would see a reduction in the Scottish block grant of £85 million per year for fifteen years which would in fact harm Scottish employment and lead to a loss of thousands of jobs.
Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Spokesman on Defence said:
“People in Scotland deserve a bit of honesty from Labour rather than the contradictory positions they seem determined to pursue.
“If Johann Lamont genuinely believes in multi-lateral disarmament, then it is incumbent on her to explain what she would want to see happen to Faslane and the people working there if she got her wish.
“Labour cannot have it both ways. Does Johann Lamont have a plan for the base or is her party’s supposed commitment to nuclear disarmament simply warm words with no substance?
“Faslane has a very bright future ahead of it as a conventional base, but Labour cannot continue to attack that fact while themselves advocating nuclear disarmament.
“Will they accept that Faslane can and will be a major employer without nuclear weapons, or is Johann Lamont’s reluctant support for nuclear disarmament simply meaningless window dressing?
“It is time we had some serious answers from Labour instead of the completely contradictory approach they have tried to pursue.
“Frankly, Labour’s half-hearted and token support for nuclear disarmament reminds Scots once again that only a Yes vote in 2014 will enable Scotland to rid itself of nuclear weapons.”
During the STV interview on Wednesday evening, the following exchanges took place:
Interviewer: Gemma Doyle, Labour Party at Westminster support the retention of Trident at Faslane, correct?
Labour MP Gemma Doyle: Well, we support multilateral disarmament but Parliament has previously voted to renew the nuclear deterrent—we respect and agree with that position and that is the basis on which we are currently working.
Interviewer: Gemma Doyle, just out of interest, what is your Scottish Labour leader’s position on this? We’ve asked Johann Lamont in the past where she stands on this issue and she hasn’t been able to give us a definitive answer.
GD: I think Johann herself has reaffirmed the Labour Party’s position that we support…
Interviewer: Does she back the renewal of Trident?
GD: Well, our position is for multilateral disarmament, and Johann herself, I think has confirmed that position.