Labour MSP Elaine Smith has publicly called for the renewal of the Trident nuclear system to be abandoned.
The Coatbridge MSP made the call during a Holyrood debate in support of the Scottish TUC’s ‘There is a better way’ campaign that calls for an alternative to the spending cuts being imposed by the UK government.
Speaking at the opening of the debate Ms Smith claimed that cuts were “not inevitable” and “not necessary” and added that the UK coalition could save money if they were to “dump the renewal of Trident”.
The comments are in contrast to recent admissions from Labour leader Ed Miliband who said that had Labour won the last general election then cuts would have been imposed by Labour.
The calls for no renewal of the Clyde based weapons system is at odds with her party’s policy. Labour and the Conservatives both back Trident renewal, estimated to cost £20bn. It formed a central plank of the Labour party’s last UK election campaign and Gordon Brown himself endorsed the policy in the first of the televised debates.
Ms Smith’s Labour colleague Jackie Baillie is already on record attacking the SNP for making the same proposal. The Dumbarton MSP labelled the SNP calls “inadequate” and said: “They seem happy to propose the immediate scrapping of the Trident renewal programme yet they have no real suggestions as to how they would minimise the economic impact.”
Ms Smith also described what she called the “economic disaster we have witnessed” and spoke of the deficit caused by “the greed of the banks”. The Labour MSP raised the prospect of increased taxes should Labour win the next Holyrood election saying that using the Scottish Variable Rate “might be preferable” to the “devastation” Scotland would suffer at the hands of the Tories.
Ms Smith’s debate was supported by several Labour colleagues including Jackie Baillie. Others to support her debate included Frank McAveety and Lord George Foulkes although it is uncertain whether her colleagues were aware of the remarks Ms Smith planned to make.
The calls for the renewal of Trident to be dumped and for Scottish taxes to be raised in order to address cuts to the Scottish budget are sure to have surprised many in her own party.
Ms Smith’s comments come at a time when the leadership qualities of group leader Iain Gray are under scrutiny amidst claims of splits within his cabinet. These calls from one of the party’s most experienced members will have done nothing to dispel the rumours.
Recent reports suggested that senior colleagues were unhappy with Mr Gray’s decision not to back the SNP’s budget that included 25,000 extra apprenticeships and support for small businesses. The party were left isolated on Wednesday after refusing to back SNP calls for a fuel duty regulator to help families and businesses struggling with soaring fuel bills.