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.   

Scottish Labour anti-Trident motion

The following is the motion passed by Scottish Labour Conference in Perth. It passed with the support of 70% of delegates from both CLPs and Trade unons.

“Conference recognises that the question of Britain’s nuclear weapons system is a moral issue and a strategic one concerning Britain’s place in the world and the international environment we wish to see. Such weapons would, if used, constitute a moral threat to humanity’s survival; they are massively expensive; senior military figures have described them as ‘militarily useless’ and said that they should be scrapped; and our possession of them encourages other countries to seek similar arsenal.

As a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Britain should, therefore, give a lead in discharging its obligations by not seeking a replacement for Trident and abandoning plans to spend billions on a new generation of nuclear weapons. This is more relevant than ever at a time of so-called austerity and it cannot be right to spend large sums on weapons of mass destruction when essential services are facing cuts.

However, conference also recognises the genuine and understandable concerns of workers engaged in Trident related work regarding their security of employment and believes that we need a policy that would see the jobs and skills of those workers preserved.
Conference believes that money saved by ending our nuclear weapons system could be used to sustain a process of defence diversification vital to our manufacturing future, as well as freeing resources for investment in other socially useful forms of public spending.

Conference therefore calls for the establishment of Defence Diversification Agencies at Scottish and UK levels, with a focus on ensuring a just transition for communities whose livelihoods are based in the defence sector and that: jobs, engineering and scientific skills are not lost; Britain’s defence equipment needs are met from domestic producers; there is proper forward planning of the defence budget; and that it is used to protect jobs and promote the smooth transition of manufacturing to alternative production.

Conference believes that; prior to any decision to cancel Trident, firm commitments must be made to trade unions representing defence workers on the retention of defence workers’ jobs and recognises that until they receive form commitments to this end trade unions will continue to support the continuity of employment of their members.”

Scottish Labour to debate Trident

Labour CND has welcp02n52f9omed the news today that the new leader of Scottish Labour, Kezia Dugdale, has confirmed that Trident will be on the agenda when conference takes place in Perth at the end of October.

The announcement follows a call from new Deputy Leader Alex Rowley for the party to debate Trident replacement. Defence remains a reserved issue and Labour’s only Scottish MP, Ian Murray has made his opposition to Trident replacement clear.

It’s unclear at this stage what form the debate will take, but the promise of a debate is a positive move. A final vote is set to take place in the House of Commons next year, with leadership front-runner Jeremy Corbyn ensuring that the issue has been on the agenda since the General Election.

Labour CND has put forward a motion to the UK Labour conference on Trident, following recent comments from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We are waiting to hear if the motion will be debated.

Elect Neil Findlay and Katy Clark

Neil Katy1Labour CND is proud to endorse Neil Findlay for Leader and Katy Clark for Deputy Leader of the Scottish Labour Party.

The Scottish people are opposed to Trident and Scottish Labour must be outspoken in its opposition to these weapons of mass destruction. A Scottish Labour leadership that recognises and addresses this issue is vital to rebuild the party’s support.

Neil has repeatedly spoken out against Trident since being elected to the Scottish Parliament – both in the Parliament and in support of public rallies and demonstrations.

Katy made her views clear when she voted against Trident replacement in the House of Commons in 2007, as did a majority of Scottish MPs. She has continued to challenge Trident ever since.

Both Neil and Katy would work closely with party members, trades unionists and community campaigners to make this necessary change a reality.

With Tory austerity increasing unemployment and reliance on social security, cutting and privatising our public services, and lowering living standards, the billions allocated to Trident becomes more outrageous by the day.

Scottish Labour should take the opportunity to bring a Scottish Defence Diversification Agency to life and prove that scrapping Trident to fund sustainable employment is not only the right thing to do, but a vote winner.

Electing a leadership committed to disarmament and diversification is the best way for Scottish Labour to reconnect with lost voters.

Elect Neil Findlay and Katy Clark to do just that.


Support their campaigns

Neil Findlay for Leader

Katy Clark for Deputy Leader

Scottish Defence Diversification Agency

Jackson Cullinane1Jackson Cullinane explains why defence diversification needs to be back on the agenda of trade unionists.

There are several reasons why STUC Congresses and policy conferences of the major STUC affiliates have in recent years consistently reaffirmed their opposition to nuclear weapons and to Trident replacement in particular.

The possession of nuclear weapons, threatening death and destruction to millions, is widely accepted as immoral and the assertion that possessing such weapons constitutes a deterrence is, to say the least, highly questionable.

The description of Britain’s nuclear weapons as being “independent” can also be called into question given that Trident is leased from the US, guided by US satellites and overhauled at Kings Bay in Georgia.

Most analysts consider it inconceivable that the system would be deployed outside the realms of US foreign policy aspirations or without authorisation from Washington.

And then we have the fact that the development and possession of ever-larger and increasingly accurate nuclear weapons systems directly contradicts the aims and objectives of international treaties on proliferation.

There are clearly difficulties in dissuading countries such as North Korea or Iran from developing nuclear weapons if British defence policy appears to promote the “value” of such weapons and a belief that they can ensure influence in the international arena.

Perhaps the most powerful argument for trade union opposition to nuclear weapons is on the grounds of cost, particularly at a time of austerity and service cuts.

When trade unionists face job losses, wage freezes, wage reductions, privatisations, cuts to terms and conditions and are being continually told to “tighten your belts,” proposals to spend up to £100 billion on a weapon of mass destruction, which will hopefully never be used, makes no economic sense.

The opposition of the bulk of the trade union movement to nuclear weapons appears unequivocal and assured. Or is it?

Despite the “paper policy” of trade unions opposing nuclear weapons, it should be noted that approval of these policies has seldom been unanimous when they have been debated at trade union conferences.

It should also be noted that there has been a marked reduction in the number of trade unionists and visible trade union banners on anti-nuclear weapons protests in recent years.

This is in contrast to the large mobilisation of trade unions that we saw in the big demonstrations against Polaris, Cruise and Pershing when the activities of CND were at their peak during the 1960s and ’80s.

Just as the “jobs and services” argument has been pivotal in securing the reaffirmation of trade union opposition to Trident in terms of paper policy, concerns over possible job losses may also explain the seeming reluctance of trade unions to prioritise involvement in the anti-nuclear weapons movement.

It is important to remember that advocates of maintaining Britain’s nuclear arsenal consistently emphasise the likelihood of job losses if this arsenal is to be abandoned.

While many studies, such as that conducted jointly by the STUC and Scottish CND in 2007, have played a crucial role in exposing the exaggerated claims of job loss among defence workers, concerns remain.

In contemplating a situation in which Trident were to be removed from the Clyde, the oft-cited suggestion that Trident expenditure should simply and wholly be transferred to public services might well appeal to public-sector workers. However, this scenario offers small comfort to defence workers if they were expected to shoulder the loss, however temporary, of skilled and relatively well-paid employment.

Similarly, references by some in the peace movement to the loss of “only” 1,700 Trident-related jobs at Faslane is unlikely to inspire those workers directly affected to enthusiastically promote an anti-nuclear weapons position, even if this is the official policy of their own union.

Given these understandable concerns, what needs to be done in order to secure the continued support of trade unions for anti-nuclear weapons policies?

Perhaps most importantly, given that protest against nuclear weapons may need to be maintained for some time if it is to be effective, how can longer-term engagement with and involvement by trade unionists in protest campaigns be secured?

A starting point is to take seriously defence workers’ concerns over their job security and to recognise that Scottish defence jobs have been haemorrhaging over many years.

Significantly, these jobs have been reducing over the lifetime of the existing Trident programme.

Over that period, 40,000 (35 per cent) of defence jobs have been lost, including 100 at Coulport, when overhaul responsibilities shifted to the US, and 250 at Faslane, principally as a consequence of Babcock privatisation.

The clear message is that Trident and expenditure on nuclear weapons is costing, and will continue to cost, jobs in the defence sector.

Following on from this, it is important to recognise that the job concerns of defence workers extend beyond those who are currently engaged in work related to nuclear weapons.

In recent weeks and months, shipbuilding workers – notably those at BAE Systems – have been seeking assurances over future orders.

In its recently published independence white paper, the Scottish government has pledged – if re-elected in the aftermath of a Yes vote in September’s independence referendum – to ensure the construction of four frigates on the Clyde.

Some trade union representatives, however, suggest that this promise is a hollow one – they claim that two of these frigates are likely to be completed under existing contracts in any case and that contracts for a minimum of 13 frigates are required in order to secure the medium to long-term future of the Clyde yards.

Concerns have been raised over the prospect of the Clyde shipyards losing out on British defence contracts in the event that Scotland votes for independence – this issue will, of course, continue to feature in the referendum debate.

While this suggestion is refuted by the Scottish government and others, what certainly should be accepted is that defence workers’ concerns over their future job security are real and understandable.

Whatever the outcome of the independence referendum, action is required to diversify work and to secure the employment of workers currently engaged in defence-related work, whether conventional or nuclear.

For this to occur, there is a pressing case to be made for the creation of a Scottish defence diversification agency. Such an agency would need to be properly staffed and resourced and would need to engage meaningfully with trade union representatives in order to develop and implement plans that are co-ordinated, realistic and have the confidence of the workforce.

Too often in the past such plans have failed through a lack of commitment to invest or due to a limitation in ideas. There are currently trade unionists who, having been previously engaged in discussions on diversification organised at the STUC, are now disillusioned with this project due to the minimal job potential of the suggestions which were made in those previous conversations.

As a precursor to developing concrete proposals on defence diversification, there is perhaps a case for a second STUC/CND report on the employment effects of Trident removal, one that includes a definitive skills audit and begins to make firm suggestions for a transition to alternative, but equivalent – in terms of skills base and earning potential – forms of employment.

Such a report should also complement others, such as those being commissioned by Unite via the Jimmy Reid Foundation, into the future of defence, shipbuilding and aerospace in Scotland.

Raising these issues and truly taking on board the concerns of defence workers is very much in the interest of the peace and anti-nuclear weapons movement.

Doing so could ensure the continuation of supportive union policies and the active involvement of trade unions in future moves for peace and nuclear disarmament.

Jackson Cullinane is a political officer at Unite Scotland.

This article is written in a personal capacity and was first published by the Morning Star.

See the Scottish TUC Congress Motion here.

Cutting Trident ‘essential to credibility’

Labour CND’s ‘Cutting Trident’ meeting in Parliament on 4th December saw the overwhelming case made for Labour to pledge its opposition to replacing the Trident nuclear weapon system at the next General Election and urged the party to open up to the debate in the coming months.

Addressing the meeting first was Nick Brown, former Chief Whip to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, said, ‘Labour can’t sit back and watch Coalition disagree on Trident – we need our own debate and clear position’. He argued that rather than waiting for reviews by other parties, Labour needs to debate Trident as soon as possible, including at the conference in 2013, then get out and explain it on the doors. He made clear his long-standing concerns about Trident had become outright opposition in the changed circumstances from when it was first commissioned.

His key argument against replacement were the changed security circumstances, when Trident was conceived as a weapon to ‘flatten Moscow’ whereas the latest National Security Strategy made clear that the likelihood of state-on-state conflict was low and decreasing. But the economic circumstances compound the security case against Trident, and in particular the cuts to education that threaten the futures of young people today, should be reversed by transferring the funds allocated to Trident to lowering university fees.

Clive Lewis, Labour’s candidate seeking to retake Charles Clarke’s old seat of Norwich South from the Lib Dems, spoke next and drew on his experience serving with the Territorial Army in Afghanistan in emphasising the security case against Trident replacement. In particular he said there was a strong military case with ‘conventional forces being hollowed out’ and listed the growing number of former senior officers who have condemned the allocation of funds to the submarine programme while conventional equipment ages. In his words, he said ‘I’d rather have more Chinooks than Trident’.

Katy Clark MP arrived fresh from voting against the Public Sector Pensions Bill and attacked the Tories for their public sector spending and welfare cuts while maintaining projects like Trident. She said the Labour Party needed to decide how it deals with Trident replacement in light of the attacks on living standards for ordinary voters and that, in that context, scrapping nuclear weapons would not be an electoral problem for the party. Addressing also the issue of Scottish independence, she said many in the Scottish Labour Party wanted to see Trident scrapped altogether, not just moved south, which was the risk of a yes vote in the Scottish separation referendum.

‘If Ed Miliband can be brave taking on Murdoch, he can be with Trident as well’, was National Policy Forum member Lucy Anderson’s view. On the party’s policy-making process, she said Labour should be talking to both the unions and employers about regional industrial strategies and the prospects for defence diversification. She said it was vital for Labour members to engage with the policy process, contributing directly to the Your Britain website – submitting proposals, voting on others and making comments – but also directly contacting NPF and NEC representatives.

There was wide agreement that the party should urgently debate Trident this year – a number of activists expressed doubt that the party would have such a debate at the conference before an election – so a conference debate and vote in September 2013 is vital. Nick Brown appealed to trade unions to use their influence to facilitate that debate at the conference.

And in rounding up, Walter Wolfgang from the floor said ‘the country is fed up with the Tories but not yet convinced Labour has a progressive alternative’ and that ‘cutting Trident is essential to Labour’s credibility drive ahead of the next election’.



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.