The Scottish government has criticised a decision by the UK coalition to spend £350 million on laying the groundwork for replacing Trident nuclear weapons.
Nicola Sturgeon, Deputy Leader of the SNP, has claimed Trident weapons of mass destruction dumped in Scotland exemplifies the Independence Dividend potential that exists for Scotland, if a Yes vote is delivered in 2014.
Ms Sturgeon’s call comes as Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced £350m of public money for the next stage of designing Trident WMD replacement nuclear submarines – although Lib Dem sources are quoted on the BBC saying that this is not a new announcement.
She also pointed out that in the last Scottish Parliament – during the period of minority SNP government – the Scottish Parliament voted by 71 to 16 with 39 abstentions against the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons (on 14 June 2007).
A recent YouGov opinion poll commissioned by the SNP shows that 46% of people in Scotland want the Scottish Parliament to have more powers so that it can bring about the removal of Trident from Scottish waters, with 35% against and 19% don’t know. Excluding the ‘don’t knows’ this equates to 57% support for the powers to get rid of Trident, with 43% against.
According to the Scottish government, the £350 million spending announced by the UK Government could instead deliver:
- up to 8,333 nurses (at £42,000 per nurse);
- up to 9,722 teachers (at £36,000 for Initial Teacher Education);
- 43 single stream Primary Schools (at £8,000,000 per school);
- up to 18 Secondary Schools (at £20,000,000 per school);
- or up to 18 Community Hospitals (at £20,000,000 per hospital)
Ms Sturgeon said:
“The vast amount of tax-payers’ cash squandered by the UK government on designing the new Trident system – during a period of austerity, and cuts to services and benefits by the Tory-led coalition – is a staggering waste of money.
“The obscene amount ploughed into upgrading and maintaining Trident illustrates the Independence Dividend, and how with the powers of an independent Parliament we could spend Scotland’s share of Trident spending on key public services.
The Scottish Parliament has voted clearly across parties against Trident renewal, and most Scots want the parliament to have the powers to get rid of Trident.
“In any event, the UK Government’s position is mired in confusion. In the same BBC interview, Philip Hammond said there were no contingency plans to move Trident, but then said that there would be contingencies if there is a Yes vote. And while Mr Hammond is saying this is a new announcement, a senior Liberal Democrat source is quoted on the BBC saying that it is ‘just some detail around the announcement of funding that was made back in May 2011’.
“Mr Hammond is either misleading his coalition partners, or he is misleading Scotland. What we know for sure is that this appalling waste of money is highlights why Scotland needs a Yes vote in 2014, and is a huge blow to the anti-independence camp.
“The vast majority of MSPs, as well as the churches, trade unions, and civic society across the nation totally oppose Trident nuclear weapons being based in Scotland. A key advantage of independence is that it is the only constitutional option which gives Scotland the powers to have Trident removed from Scottish waters.
“As we have seen in the Scottish Affairs Committee report from last week, independence means we will be able to rid Scotland of these weapons and spend money on vital services which will help move Scotland forwards.
“The people of Scotland neither needs nor wants nuclear weapons of mass destruction – and with Labour siding with the Tories on Trident the only way we can rid our country of them is by voting Yes in 2014.
“We now know from the MoD itself that Trident supports only a fraction of the number of jobs claimed, and that Scotland will need Faslane as our naval base with independence.”
There has also been confusion over the economic benefits of having nuclear weapons in Scotland with Unionist politicians disagreeing on the number of jobs created. Tory Minister Philip Hammond has insisted that the weapons create 6000 Scottish jobs at Faslane, however Labour MSP Jackie Baillie has claimed that 11,000 jobs rely on the nuclear weapon system.
Both figures were challenged this week by Scottish CND who revealed that official MoD figures released through a Freedom of Information inquiry put the number of jobs directly linked to the nuclear weapons syetem at 520.