By a Newsnet reporter
A study commissioned by a leading independent charity, the Nuclear Education Trust, has concluded that nuclear weapons have no military use and that there is now a need for an urgent debate on whether they contribute to UK national security.
The report, which was carried out on behalf of NET by Connect Communications, an award-winning independent political communications agency, is based on written submissions and a series of interviews with current and past Defence Secretaries and Ministers, academics, think tanks, campaign groups and other defence policy stakeholders.
The report found:
- “For now and foreseeable future no nuclear threat to UK” (in the words of Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind MP, former Defence and Foreign Secretary).
- The relevance of keeping nuclear weapons vis-à-vis current and foreseeable future UK security threats is either non-existent or negligible.
- There is an urgent need for a wider and more informed public and Parliamentary debate on nuclear weapons – and especially whether they do or do not contribute to UK’s security – but the multilateral versus unilateral nature of debate is anachronistic, inaccurate and unhelpful.
In addition the report questioned the legality of Trident renewal plans – and demanded that nuclear weapons be included in the next UK Strategic Defence and Security Review.
The report took evidence from senior politicians and military figures such as former Defence Secretaries Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Lord Des Browne as well as General Sir Mike Jackson, former Chief of the Defence Staff and Admiral Lord West.
Madeline Held MBE, Chair of the Nuclear Education Trust Board, said:
“Despite the wide range of contributors, there was a remarkable consensus on many issues. That the UK’s defence policy and procurement decisions should be more rigorously evidence-based; that the raison d’être of nuclear weapons has decreased since the end of the Cold War; and that progress on international nuclear disarmament is a necessary and desirable goal, for which there are concrete opportunities for success.’
“In the vastly different security landscape of the 21st century, the time is ripe for serious public and Parliamentary debate on the issue of whether or not the UK needs nuclear weapons and in particular whether it should modernise its Trident fleet.
“Such a debate is overdue but now critical. This country has a decision to make in 2016 and it should do so based on a thorough look at reality now – an age of globalisation, regional conflicts and terrorism as well as other pressing concerns such as austerity, poverty, and climate change.”
Commenting on the report, Angus Robertson MP, SNP Westminster Leader and Defence spokesperson said:
“I welcome this influential and well argued report. It throws a huge spanner in the works for those hell bent on renewing these obscene weapons.
“It finds Trident is irrelevant in clear and unequivocal language and from people who know of what they speak – and that the UK’s nuclear weapons programmes should be ‘subject to the same cost-effectiveness tests and public scrutiny’ as all public expenditure – something that is clearly not the case now, and if it ever was would fail immediately.
“It also highlights the fact the majority of the UK’s European neighbours and NATO allies have concluded that they do not need to possess nuclear weapons to guarantee their security.
“Apart from the massive hundred billion pounds we will have to fork out to pay for these weapons of mass destruction – they will be based on the Clyde half an hour from Scotland’s biggest population centres for the next 50 years – something that civic Scotland – the churches, trades unions and the majority of all Scotland’s elected representatives are completely opposed to – but Westminster won’t listen.”
“There is absolutely no justification for continuing with this nuclear madness – and this report adds the weight against any campaign to renew it. What is clear is that the only way to stop renewal of Trident in its track is a Yes vote. Only with independence can we be sure we rid Scotland of Trident – once and for all.”