By Owen O’Donnell
The SNP has blasted Westminster’s “Trident obsession” in light of a report on nuclear weapons set to be announced on Monday by UK Defence Secretary, Phillip Hammond.
The report shows that the UK government are not only pushing ahead with plans for a full scale replacement of nuclear weapons, but the total amount spent on replacing Trident is in excess of £800 million since 2011.
Mr Hammond is also set to announce new contracts worth £79 million on the next phase of work being carried out on developing a new fleet of submarines to be equipped with Trident missiles.
This has been met with anger by the Scottish government with SNP MSP Bill Kidd saying: “The Westminster establishment seem to have forgotten that Trident is based in Scotland, and neither the people, the churches, the trade unions nor the Parliament of Scotland wants it here – and Trident’s renewal has also been opposed by a majority of Scottish MPs at Westminster.”
The renewal of Trident is of course, heavily linked with the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum next year where the SNP has promised to scrap the nuclear weapons programme in the event of a Yes vote.
Mr Kidd commented: “Opposition in Scotland to Trident is clear, yet the SNP is the only major political party committed to banishing nuclear weapons from our shores.
“Only a Yes vote for an independent Scotland in 2014 will get rid of Trident from Scotland, and stop billions of Scottish taxpayers’ pounds being wasted on unusable and immoral weapons of mass destruction.”
The announcement is also likely to put further strain on the fraught relationship between both parties in the coalition government as the Lib Dems continue to be opposed to a “like for like” replacement of the controversial nuclear programme despite their Treasury minister, Danny Alexander, signing off funding for the developments.
A senior Lib Dem official acknowledged a “difference of opinion” within the government but insisted the final decision on a full replacement of Trident would take place after the 2015 election, where a further £2 billion is expected to be spent on the project.
Mr Kidd, a Co-President of the Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament (PNND) added: “It is absurd to suggest that the Lib Dems can do anything to halt Trident’s replacement. They are part of a Westminster Government that has already spent £800 million since 2011 and continue to assist the Tory plans.”
He also rounded on the Labour party, saying: “The Labour Party is no better. They know that the billions of pounds in taxpayer money that is wasted on Trident could be used to get rid of Westminster’s Bedroom Tax and relieving people from having to use foodbanks but their irrational devotion to weapons of mass destruction prevents them from acknowledging this publicly.”
While the announcement has been welcomed by the Conservatives, some are worried that Prime Minister David Cameron will commit the UK to further military co-operation with the EU as he attends a summit in Brussels later this week.
Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox told the Telegraph that the EU initiative was a threat to NATO and a “dangerous distraction” from the need to reinforce Europe’s links with America, where the Trident missiles are made.
Mr Hammond announced a £47 million contract between the government and BAE Systems Maritime Submarines based in Cumbria to provide parts of the hull structure in addition to fittings and electrics for the new submarines. A second contract with BAE worth £32 million will go towards the propulsion elements of the subs.