Scottish Labour – delegate view

Stephen Low, Glasgow Southside CLP, who moved the anti-Trident motion at Scottish Labour Party conference writes:

The debate on Trident  renewal  at Scottish Conference was passionate and delivered an unequivocal  verdict. With a near identical 70% vote from both CLPs and Trade Unions the UK’s possession of nuclear weapons was condemned and the concept of defence diversification was promoted. Hav ing been passed by more than a 2/3 majority it is now part of the Scottish Labour’s programme and will form the submission of the Scottish Labour Party to the Britain in the World Policy forum.

The debate stemmed from the results of a priorities ballot where Trident renewal was by some measure the most popular topic.   Although this decision by CLP delegates was itself  described  in the session as “”a nonsense and utter indulgence””  by Gary Smith,  Secretary of GMB Scotland.

The first indication that the vote might well go against Trident renewal was when a reference to Jeremy Corbyn’s statement that he would never launch a nuclear strike received loud applause from the hall.   

Those arguing for the motion cited a large number of factors; the morality of weapons which would kill so indiscriminately, the lack of utility in Trident a new Trident system in tackling the requirements under the Non Proliferation Treaty, the staggering cost and the loss of potential to diversify our industrial base if we are keeping so much of our industrial workforce locked into what is in many respects  an economic dead end.

 What was noticeable in the arguments of those who were advocating building what is one of the most destructive weapons system s in human history was how little they talked about the  defence of the realm. Even the few, like  ex MP Thomas Docherty and MSP Jackie Baillie who gave more thn passing reference to the role a new trident system would supposedly play in securing the UK  concentrated in what they claimed would be the impact on jobs.

Without Trident renewal it seems that British manufacturing will just collapse. This argument was pursued to such an extent that in my right of reply.  I felt obliged to apologise to conference for failing to notice the change in construction techniques which mean that the only possible use for British steel is in the construction of nuclear weapons.

The “Gie’s mair bombs – cos bombs means jobs” approach – and  this is a paraphrase, not a cariacature  – of the argument laid out,  is both curious and dispiriting. The purpose of a defence policy is in fact defence, not job creation. Incidentally Trident renewal  scores very poorly in terms of job creation. The likelihood is that it will force cutbacks in other defence spending). Moreover it represents an appalling failure of social and economic ambition.  It’s implication is that the only employment that can be envisaged  for  our most skilled craftspeople, our most highly trained technicians,  is in making nuclear weapons. That defence diversification is something that only other countries can make work.

 By a thumping majority, Scottish Labour decided otherwise.   

The Scottish view on Trident – Martyn Cook

Lenin’s quote that, “there are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen”, is certainly getting a workout in articles about Corbyn’s victory, but it is now also applicable to the current debates on Trident.

Seemingly out of the blue, both the UK Conference and Scottish Conference will be able to have the topic of our “independent” nuclear deterrent up for discussion, when it’s been deemed strictly out of bounds for decades. The leaderships of both the Scottish and UK Labour parties should be congratulated on opening up this for debate.

It is welcome and represents what will hopefully be a longer-term shift in opening up policy within the party at all levels, allowing us to build an inclusive and democratic mass party.
In the shorter term though, changing the Party’s position on Trident – to one that would oppose renewal – would be a massive step forward. As well as the moral arguments against owning weapons of mass destruction, the financial argument of saving billions that could be re-invested in job creation and defence diversification would fit in with our repositioning as the only major party that is genuinely anti-austerity.

In Scotland this would be particularly helpful for Labour to rebuild. The SNP/Yes campaign placed opposition to Trident renewal as one of the central pillars to their project, and was duly rewarded by the electorate. Across the UK, Labour is about 100 seats behind the Tories, and if there is any hope of winning in 2020, we will need to claw back at least some of the 56 seats in Scotland that turned yellow in May.

Labour didn’t lose for being too left-wing, but for not being clear enough on major issues. By taking a clear stance in favour of unilateral disarmament Labour will shift the entire framework of the debate, and the votes at UK and Scottish Conference over the next few weeks could be the next step towards winning in 2020.

Martyn Cook is a member of Labour CND and was recently elected to the National Policy Forum representing Scotland.

Neil Findlay: Cook on Trident more relevant than ever

Nuclear conflict is a scenario too horrific to contemplate. The existence of weapons of mass destruction like Trident is bad enough but plans to replace our current stockpile with newer, more powerful and eye-wateringly expensive warheads at time of financial crisis is morally as well as practically questionable.

Not only would the replacement of Trident contribute to a new arms race it would also, quite simply, cost too much money at a time when the country can ill afford spending such gross sums; money which could and should be better spent on job creation, public services, health and social care.

Shortly before his tragic death in 2005, Robin Cook said, “nuclear weapons now have no relevance to Britain’s defence’s in the modern world.” When we consider producing the new nuclear submarines will cost an apparent £25billion alone, and that the whole project could exceed £100 billion over its lifetime, Cook’s words seem more relevant than ever.

Supporting Trident’s replacement just as the British people are facing an onslaught on public services, the welfare state, jobs and living standards will understandably be a hard sell. Rightly, people will ask how we can afford Trident when we face the loss of 710,000 public sector jobs by 2017.

Currently, the Tory-led government has confirmed that despite the crisis in the country’s finances, it will be ploughing ahead with Trident replacement. But if the Tories are making a mistake, it is clear that Labour needs to re-evaluate our position and fully debate Trident.

Unfortunately, Labour pursuing Trident in Westminster has, up until now, given the SNP an easy ride.

Scottish Labour has watched as many natural allies have sat down with the SNP to discuss working together on an issue that should be own. Currently the SNP are moving towards abandonment of their long standing policy of opposition to membership of NATO – this will inevitably be followed by at best a fudge or more likely an end, to their opposition to Trident.

This presents an opportunity for Labour.

An increasing number of polls show the public sees no future in nuclear weapons, and an even greater majority of Scots oppose Trident based at Faslane. Labour should move with popular public opinion. The trade unions, the churches, and civic society stand against nuclear weapons.

This is the agenda Labour should also champion.


Neil Findlay is Member of the Scottish Parliament for Lothians region.

Westminster consensus on Trident is dead

The forthcoming Scottish referendum on independence has thrown up a new angle on the debate over Trident replacement. The home of Britain’s Vanguard submarines is the Faslane naval base west of Glasgow and the Royal Armaments Depot that stores the submarines Trident nuclear warheads is a few miles away at Coulport.

Should Scotland choose independence in a referendum, an SNP administration would force the Ministry of Defence to seek a new base for Trident south of the border in England or Wales.  This would take years to develop at an unknown cost. That is if a site can be found at all. A new report argues it would be more difficult to switch now to one of the alternative sites that were discounted back in 1963, when the government chose Faslane. If the Ministry of Defence has done more research in recent years, it hasn’t said so. Could a Labour Government afford to build a new submarine base and armaments depot in England? Anyway, aside from the referendum result, Labour has some real thinking to do.

The independence issue is only one of a number of reasons to question Trident, as the former Labour Chief Whip Nick Brown raised in a defence debate last week, when he said “The arguments, which were never that strong, are now moving away from Trident renewal.”

Nick Brown is right, raising the obvious economic question: do we continue to support other defence and public spending cuts – and of course the tuition fee hikes he specifically noted – when billions are spent on Trident? With the main decision on building the new submarines due in 2016, could a new Strategic Defence and Security Review following an election in 2015 be the opportunity to change course?

Before Christmas there was growing disquiet from MPs when the MoD announced it had no plans to publish the Trident Alternatives Review – the Cabinet Office review ordered to fulfil the agreement in the coalition agreement that Lib Dems could continue to argue for alternatives. The terms of the review are narrow, they don’t challenge nuclear weapons, more the delivery system and its costs.  But Lib Dem unease within the coalition over Trident is now coupled with consideration of the implications of Scottish independence. Meanwhile any discussion about public spending always raises the question why spend billions on Trident rather than our public services? Opposition to Trident is going to have a loud airing in the next few months and years, and Labour needs a policy for the manifesto.

Jim Murphy has himself stated that Labour’s defence policy review covering Trident is “parked until we see what the government’s evidence” in the Trident Alternatives Review and that he is “really not wedded” to a particular weapon system.  Whilst he is clearly committed to maintaining some sort of nuclear weapon system, this is something of a change of emphasis, and is a more flexible approach to the policy area than the traditional position of the Labour right which has been to close down debate on nuclear weapons by simply assiduously confirming that Labour is as committed as the Tories to nuclear weapons. Cheerleaders for nuclear weapons need to demonstrate the public want to keep Trident, as the polling suggests otherwise.  Ed Miliband clearly has an open mind: during the leadership election he said a defence review “should look at the totality of our conventional and nuclear capabilities, considering both our defence needs and what our priorities are in the changing economic climate. Defence should not be exempted from the tough spending choices we need to face.” Since being elected, although his public comments have only been occasional they have confirmed that open minded approach to the policy area – notably welcoming the Trident Review at last year’s Labour Party Conference.

Whilst they are saying different things, whether it is Nick Brown’s backbench intervention, Ed Miliband welcoming the Trident Review or Jim Murphy waiting for Nick Harvey to report, Labour is adopting a more open-minded approach to Trident. The previous Westminster consensus on Trident – that it is a non-negotiable facet of the politics of the centre ground – is dead.


This article by Daniel Blaney originally appeared here at LabourList.

Photo from Faslane 365.

Ian Davidson says scrap Trident in survey

Labour CND and Scottish CND joined forces to survey Scottish Labour Leader and Deputy Leader candidates on their views regarding the Trident nuclear weapon system based at the Clyde Naval Base – and for which the Westminster government is planning a £100 billion replacement.

In summary, leadership candidates Ken Macintosh and Tom Harris both said the UK should retain nuclear weapons whilst Johann Lamont unfortunately did not reply.

Responses were more encouraging amongst the deputy leader candidates, with Ian Davidson most closely representing Labour CND members views. Not only does he believe the Trident replacement programme should be cancelled but the existing system should be scrapped.

Anas Sarwar said the UK should be looking at alternatives to Trident, including a non-nuclear defence policy and both he and Davidson believe the Scottish Labour conference should discuss Trident.

Lewis Macdonald said the UK should keep Trident as a bargaining counter for disarmament and the issue should be dealt with at the National Policy Forum.


Candidates were all asked the same six questions – you can read a full version of their responses here.

Read more about the candidates here.