UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has been summoned to the House of Commons by The Speaker in order to answer urgent questions over plans to spend over £1bn on renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system.
Mr Hammond was ordered to appear after SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson demanded the UK Minister explain the UK Government’s plans to spend £1.1bn upgrading the nuclear cores used on the Trident submarine fleet.
Mr Robertson called the plans an “obscene waste of money” and a “democratic affront” and accused the Minister of trying to make the announcement without appearing in Parliament.
Green MP Caroline Lucas called the contract an “insidious attempt to pre-empt Parliament’s decision” on Trident.
Mr Robertson said the written statement from the MoD contradicted claims by Coalition Ministers that a decision on renewal will not be taken until 2016. The SNP MP accused the Westminster government of ignoring popular opposition to the nuclear weapons system across Scottish society.
Speaking after raising the urgent question, Mr Robertson, the SNP Defence spokesperson, said:
“The UK Government’s plans are a democratic affront and an obscene waste of money.
“Church leaders, the Scottish Trades Union Council, The Scottish Government and the Scotland’s Parliament are all against weapons of mass destruction being in our waters. The UK Government is aware of these objections but is ploughing on regardless.
“And at the same time as the MoD plan to cut regiments, battalions and the jobs of thousands of brave personnel, it is madness to blow £1bn paving the way for these Weapons of Mass Destruction that can never be used.
“From being a 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.
Mr Robertson insisted that far from creating jobs, the nuclear weapons system was in fact a “jobs destroyer”. The Moray MP claimed that far more jobs could be created in Scotland by investing the same amount of money in capital projects.
“… indeed, if capital expenditure of £1bn was invested in infrastructure projects it would support as many as 15,000 jobs – compared to only 300 he has confirmed.” he said and added:
“While Lib Dem partners in the UK Coalition seem to have abandoned their opposition to Trident renewal, it is quite clear that the people of Scotland remain overwhelmingly opposed to a new nuclear weapons system on the Clyde.”
Responding to the criticism, Mr Hammond said the announcement was “good news” for the UK. The £1.1bn funding commitment will secure 300 jobs at the Rolls Royce plant in Derby.
Mr Hammond also defended the Trident weapons system and claimed that it supported 6000 jobs in Scotland.
Labour joined the Tory Minister in defending the spending commitment. A party spokesman said the development of the new nuclear reactors should go ahead “whether or not there was a final decision on Trident” because they were crucial to the UK’s wider defence capability.
However Angus Robertson challenged both parties to explain what would happen to the £1.1bn contract if, as was being claimed, no decision on Trident renewal had been taken.
This morning on the BBC the Armed Forces Minister said that “if we decide in 2016 not to go ahead with some of these engines the government of the day would have to negotiate its way out of that.”
Mr Robertson demanded to know what extra costs would be incurred by the taxpayer in such a case and what other costs might be incurred by other “long lead items” by 2016.
Polls have consistently shown the Scottish public to be overwhelmingly against having Weapons of Mass Destruction situated on the Clyde, with a majority of voters from all political parties against Trident.
Organisations in Scotland who oppose the siting of the nuclear weapons system on the Clyde include:
• The majority of MPs from Scotland and MSPs have voted against Trident renewal.
• The Scottish Government is opposed to Trident.
• The Scottish Trades Union Congress is opposed.
• The Church of Scotland is opposed.
• The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is opposed.
• The Scottish Episcopal Church is opposed
• Muslim Association of Scotland is opposed