By Bob Duncan
Johann Lamont’s continued silence on the renewal of Trident has become ‘untenable’, the SNP has said, after one of her own front-benchers became the latest politician to call for the renewal programme to be scrapped.
Writing on the Labour CND blog, Neil Findlay MSP denounced the UK Government’s £100bn replacement of its weapons of mass destruction programme.
He said: “Shortly before his tragic death in 2005, Robin Cook said, ‘nuclear weapons now have no relevance to Britain’s defences in the modern world.’ When we consider producing the new nuclear submarines will cost an apparent £25billion alone, and that the whole project could exceed £100 billion over its lifetime, Cook’s words seem more relevant than ever.
“Rightly, people will ask how we can afford Trident when we face the loss of 710,000 public sector jobs by 2017…if the Tories are making a mistake, it is clear that Labour needs to re-evaluate our position and fully debate Trident.”
Mr Findlay also recognised the weight of public opinion in Scotland against Trident and stated:
“An increasing number of polls show the public sees no future in nuclear weapons, and an even greater majority of Scots oppose Trident based at Faslane. Labour should move with popular public opinion. The trade unions, the churches, and civic society stand against nuclear weapons.”
The issue has exploded again this week following an ill-judged announcement from the Ministry of Defence, in which it boasted about spending a further £350m on the Trident renewal programme – at a time where it continues to make brutal welfare cuts.
Scottish CND wrote to Ms Lamont on 7 September, asking for her views on Trident. No reply was ever received. She was also the only candidate in the contest for the leadership and deputy leadership of the Scottish party in 2011 who did not respond to a survey on Trident.
Arthur West, Chair of Scottish CND, said,
“Trident is emerging as a key issue in the referendum campaign, but the leader of the Scottish Labour party has refused to say anything about it. Does Johann Lamont want Weapons of Mass Destruction to stay on the Clyde for the next 50 years? Does she think that this is the best way to spend £100 billion? Does she support the twelve Scottish Labour MPs who want to scrap the plans to replace Trident? The Scottish people have a right to know where she and the Scottish Labour Party stand.”
Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions, SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said that Johann Lamont’s continued silence on Trident – which attracted further criticism from the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament this week – has now become completely untenable. Ms McKelvie said:
“Even as the UK Government boasts about spending obscene amounts of money on weapons of mass destruction, Johann Lamont says nothing. Her silence has become completely untenable.
“Yesterday the Scottish campaign for Nuclear Disarmament criticised Johann Lamont for consistently failing to publicise her views on Trident. This was after one of her front benchers, Neil Findlay, claimed its renewal was ‘economically incompetent’.
“As the First Minister said today, the £163m that Scotland is currently paying towards Trident could be spent on 3,880 nurses, 4,527 teachers or a host of new schools and hospitals in our communities. This is even before we consider the extra £84 million a year that is proposed we spend on its replacement over the next 15 years.
“The SNP’s position on Trident is crystal clear – but all politicians in Scotland need to speak out on this, and resist the development and dumping of nuclear weapons in Scotland.
“The silence from Johann Lamont has become deafening – perhaps it is because, deep down, she knows that independence is the only constitutional option that will allow us to remove Trident from Scottish waters.”