As someone who is undecided about the need to renew Trident, I am hopeful that the debate on its renewal that Kezia Dugdale has promised within Scottish Labour will involve the wider population and go beyond the use of party political slogans such as “bairns not bombs” by those who wish to polarise the debate.
Leading the campaign against Trident in Scotland we now have the SNP who estimate that Scotland contributed £100m to the system last year and that cancelling it will fund everything from nursery places to bus passes. The reality is that £100m is not significant compared to the Scottish Government’s underspend last year (£444m), Scotland’s deficit (£9.8b) or even the SNP’s Full Fiscal Autonomy blackhole (£7.6b). Furthermore, it is entirely likely that any savings associated with cancelling the Trident renewal (£200m-£300m per year) will largely be recycled within the defence budget.
Other anti-Trident arguments are focused around the morality of the weapon and the environmental risk it poses. However, one could argue that no weapon is “moral” and that the environmental risk posed by the SNP Government “sweating” Scotland’s ageing nuclear plants well beyond their design lives poses a far greater risk.
The arguments for retaining Trident are equally unconvincing and focus on the uncertain future the world faces over the lifetime of the system (up to 2080). However, it is inconceivable that the UK would threaten the use of the deterrent outside a wider NATO action – what difference would we make? The second argument for retaining Trident is that it is a net benefit to the Scottish economy. Whilst this is undoubtedly true, is the really a good thing?
It is within this uncertain context that I welcome Kezia Dugdale’s fresh look at the subject, and I am hopeful that she can engage those of us who are interested in a genuine debate rather than party political posturing.