Yesterday was a historic day for Scotland, and my party, as the Scottish Parliament voted not to renew Trident and to safeguard Scotland’s defence jobs for the future. I did that to promote peace and security, recognising the crucial role of Scotland, as part of Britain, has played in supporting peacekeeping, and respond to global humanitarian crises. Below I have reproduced the amended motion agreed, and copied my contribution to the historic debate.
I welcome the chance to speak in today’s debate, especially in the light of my party’s historic debate at the weekend. The issue of whether the UK should invest in the new generation of Trident submarines involves a moral decision and a strategic decision, and this debate is a chance for MSPs to highlight where we agree with each other rather than where we disagree. It is a chance for us to work together.
The Labour motion is not a “delete all and insert … ” motion; it would rightly keep the first line of the SNP Government motion on the cost of Trident, which is an absolutely breathtaking amount. Given the choice that is facing the UK, the huge cost of a weaponry system that can never be used because of its immense destructive power should cause us to reflect and take a different path.
My party worked hard under the previous Labour Government to support moves towards nuclear disarmament, and significant progress was made. The debate around Trident must focus on the strategic choices that we must make not just to defend our own country, but to deliver peace in an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world. We need to think about global security for the 21st century, not for the post-war era.
I welcome the SNP’s acceptance of the Labour amendment, which highlights the fact that we must plan for the future of the thousands of workers throughout Scotland and the UK whose jobs are linked to the Trident programme. In the past few weeks we have seen Scottish jobs falling like ninepins, with the loss of jobs in our energy industries—in oil and gas, at Longannet—and now, potentially, in our steel industry. Social and economic justice demands that we support action to support the welfare of those workers and their communities. That is why the Labour amendment calls for the creation of defence diversification agencies in Scotland and the rest of the UK. We need the Scottish Government to act and to plan for our future now. As Claire Baker said, we cannot afford to lose those skills and that knowledge.
Our amendment also calls on the UK Government not to renew Trident. Building consensus and working across parties is important not just within our country, but across other nation states too. That is what is important about our debate today, and that is how we will make progress. We must think about how we will build those bridges and persuade other countries that they need to consider nuclear disarmament by getting rid of their weaponry and choosing not to invest in it.
Non-replacement of Trident is hugely important. It is the right thing to do morally and strategically, but it requires that we rethink what we do, as was highlighted in the Labour Party conference motion on Sunday. The world of the 21st century is increasingly dangerous and uncertain and demands that we invest in peacekeeping, solidarity and human rights.
Political instability can come from a variety of sources; Neil Findlay mentioned the challenge of climate change. When crops fail and food prices rocket, that can lead to changes of Government. Lack of access to water increasingly leads to the creation of flashpoints across the world, especially in some of the poorest and most unstable countries.
Challenges are also posed by countries that do not respect international laws, democracy and human rights. We need to use economic power and sanctions when states do not respect international laws and the United Nations.
As Claire Baker also rightly said, we need to address the threats that are now being presented by terrorism. That means that we need to invest in peacekeeping, we need to play our part in global humanitarian events and we need to invest in defence of our country, but that should not mean the replacement of Trident. The UK is and has been an important player in the world. We were a key nation in post-war Europe, and the Commonwealth has been a bridge between north and south. The price of renewing Trident will be that we do not get to play our full and potential part in leading the drive towards nuclear disarmament. We will not get to spend our resources on the peacekeeping and defence that are so crucial to the welfare of millions of citizens across the world whose lives are damaged by conflict. We need the hardware to do that.
We are talking about planning ahead and setting a new path for nuclear disarmament, which also has to be about supporting both the workers in our defence industries and the wider communities that they serve. We need to consider their livelihoods and we need to retain their skills and knowledge. We need to invest in their welfare and future because they are part of our country’s future. We need to make a just transition.
I am keen to hear from the minister how he will take forward our proposals for a defence diversification agency in Scotland. That will be our path. It should be our way of playing our part in defence diversification and setting a new path.
This is a really important moment for us and we need to work together. I welcome Labour’s amendment and hope that it will be accepted across the chamber this afternoon.
The motion, as amended, agreed to,
That the Parliament notes with concern new analysis by the Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, which suggests a dramatic increase in the projected cost of the successor Trident nuclear weapons programme to £167 billion; recognises the number of workers in the British defence system in Scotland and throughout the UK whose employment is linked to Trident-related activities and that firm commitments must be made to the trade unions on the retention of defence workers’ jobs; believes that, in the event of the cancellation of Trident, the establishment of defence diversification agencies at Scottish and UK levels is essential to deliver a strong defence diversification strategy that provides workers with high quality employment through the retention of skills developed in the sector, while delivering a UK defence sector equipped to deal with the world and dangers that it possesses, and calls on the UK Government not to renew Trident.
The result of the division was: For 96, Against 17, Abstentions 0.