By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has welcomed publication of a report by the liberal Centreforum thinktank which urges the UK Government to cancel the “nonsensical” replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system and use the money to “revitalise” the armed forces.
The report, entitled Dropping the Bomb, recommends the immediate retiral of the Trident weapons system and coverting the submarines to a conventional defence role.
The authors of the report call the UK government’s insistence on replacing the weapons as “nonsensical” and says that the UK is “sleepwalking” into a £25 billion expenditure although there is no current or medium term threat which justifies the cost.
Toby Fenwick, author of the report, said: “Replacing Trident is nonsensical. There is no current or medium-term threat to the UK which justifies the huge costs involved.
“A critical assessment of the UK’s strategic position and military requirements leads to a clear conclusion: Trident makes no effective contribution to our security. Cancelling it will provide a unique opportunity to rebalance and revitalise Britain’s forces for the 21st century.”
The report dismisses arguments that the UK would lose its seat on the UN Security Council if it gave up its nuclear weapons, saying: “Britain cannot lose its permanent seat without agreeing to do so … Linking possession of nuclear weapons as a sine qua non of holding security council permanent membership is both historically inaccurate and deeply unhelpful in the fight against nuclear proliferation … notions of national status have governed UK nuclear weapons policy. This is strategically myopic.”
Both the Conservative Lib Dem coalition and the Labour party support the renewal of Trident. Labour’s defence spokesman Jim Murphy MP recently spoke out giving renewal of Trident his backing, although Mr Murphy’s ‘boss’ in Scotland Johann Lamont claimed to be against the weapons system this weekend.
Liberal Democrat MP Menzies Campbell, who is chairing a Westminster cross-party commission investigating defence issues, said the Centreforum report was ill-timed.
Speaking to the BBC, Mr Campbell said that MPs were still considering a variety of evidence from experts and confidential sources. He added it was “premature to jump to a conclusion.”
SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson MP said the colossal replacement cost of Trident was indefensible at a time when conventional forces were being run down.
Mr Robertson said: “From being a supposed deterrence during the Cold War, Trident has itself now become one of the biggest defence risks we face with the cost of replacement threatening the future of conventional forces and bases.
“While conventional forces have been cut, run-down and overstretched, with 10,500 defence job losses in Scotland and a £5.6bn underspend over the last decade, Trident has been treated as some sacred cow by the UK Government.
“It is appalling that, whilst the Westminster government is forging ahead with cuts to basing and personnel, they can find the money for a nuclear weapons system that offers no meaningful defence to the threats we face in the 21st century. The UK government has its priorities all wrong when our conventional, front-line forces face redundancy, while the Trident nuclear weapons system gets renewal.
“Majority Scottish opinion, our churches, the Scottish Trade Union Congress and Civic Society, all oppose Trident – and the Scottish Parliament has voted against its replacement – yet the UK Government wants to use Scottish taxpayers’ money to pay for these weapons of mass destruction while cutting conventional defence.
“Any way you look at it – on moral, financial, or defence grounds – renewal of Trident is completely untenable in the face of these redundancies. A normal country with the power to decide its own defence and security policy would never be pushed into this crazy situation. Scotland must have independence to determine its own priorities, rather than have somebody else’s imposed on it.
“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, and we believe that the Westminster Government will wish to act on this and withdraw Trident as quickly as possible in these welcome circumstances.”