By a Newsnet reporter
A former defence minister has claimed that the United Kingdom cannot afford to pay for a replacement for the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Speaking in the Guardian newspaper, former Liberal Democrat Armed Forces Minister, Sir Nick Harvey said that plans to spend billions replacing the nuclear fleet were “outdated and ludicrous” and would lead to conventional armed forces suffering.
According to the Guardian, Mr Harvey who spent two years at the Ministry of Defence said: “We simply can’t do it all,” he added. “Squeezing all of this out of the current, let alone any likely future, budget is an impossibility.”
In a speech to a UN-sponsored nuclear disarmament conference in Geneva, Mr Harvey described Trident as a “fantastically expensive insurance policy” that “no longer makes sense”.
“Our defence and security policy needs to move with the times rather than continue to drift along from its cold war configuration. We remain configured to cold-war-scale state-on-state warfare. All political parties now need to debate whether Trident can continue to be justified. At the height of the cold war, when Moscow also had us in its sights, there was a certain logic to having available a nuclear arsenal aimed at that specific target, but those days are long gone.”
Mr Harvey was formerly in charge of the Trident Renewal Review which is now being conducted by his colleague Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander .
Commenting, Angus Robertson MP, SNP Westminster leader and Defence spokesman said :
“Sir Nick Harvey’s assessment that like-for-like replacement of Trident is based on ‘outdated and ludicrous’ ideas about deterrence and that Trident is a ‘fantastically expensive insurance policy that no longer makes sense’ are sentiments we share.
“His conclusion that its enormous expense also distorts the defence budget is self-evidently true, as it always has been. It creates an awkward coalition split as the Prime Minister made his devotion to weapons of mass destruction clear on his recent voyage on a nuclear submarine up the Clyde. It also puts Labour in a difficult position as their policy seems to be entirely dependent on the outcome of the Alexander review.”
Describing Trident as “an outdated waste of money” that most Scots don’t want, Mr Robertson added:
“There will be no place for Trident in Scotland following a Yes vote next year, and we have made it clear that Faslane would continue to be the principal conventional naval facility for Scotland following independence.”