Majority of Labour MSPs vote not to renew Trident

HMS Vanguard sits in dock at Faslane Submarine base on the Clyde. Picture: Getty
HMS Vanguard sits in dock at Faslane Submarine base on the Clyde. Picture: Getty
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Labour is set to fight next year’s Holyrood elections with a manifesto policy in favour of scrapping Trident.

The Scottish Labour party conference in Perth voted by over 70 per cent to oppose renewal of the nuclear weapons system and call for defence diversification agencies at Scottish and UK levels to focus on alternative employment.

Shadow Scottish Secretary and Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray, a consistent opponent of Trident, said since there was more than a two-thirds majority for scrapping Trident, it was now official Scottish Labour policy and was likely to go into next year’s manifesto.

He said: “I’m pleased the party membership have been given the space to have this debate and they have come to quite a conclusive decision.”

Local party delegates and trade unions both voted around 70:30 in favour of scrapping Trident.

It means the Scottish party now has a position in line with UK leader Jeremy Corbyn’s view but at odds with the official UK party policy – which is still in favour of renewal – and the position of Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale, who says she is a “multilateralist”.

But Mr Murray denied the vote – on an issue chosen for debate by members – undermined Ms Dugdale’s authority.

He said: “You can’t on the one hand want to democratise your party and then say it can only be a democratic party if you agree with the leader. Kez has brought this process to the conference and I think it’s a great thing for us to have done.”

Gary Smith, acting secretary of the GMB union in Scotland, which includes shipyard and defence workers among its members, voiced disappointment with the stance adopted by the conference on Trident.

He said: “It is based on Alice in Wonderland politics and promises of pie in the sky alternative jobs for workers vital to our national security.”

During the debate Mr Smith had branded the motion calling for Trident to be scrapped an “indulgence” and attacked talk of defence diversification as “utterly disingenuous”.

He told delegates: “What you are asking us to do is vote our members out of skilled work and into non-jobs.”

Dumbarton MSP Jackie Baillie, whose constituency includes the Faslane submarine base, said 13,000 jobs would be under threat if Trident was scrapped.

But proposing the motion to abandon renewal, Stephen Low, of the Campaign for Socialism, said Trident was “something that we do not need and cannot afford”.

He said: “Its purpose is to detonate a thermo-nuclear warhead above a city, killing everyone in its radius.

“A country where children are fed from food banks should maybe have other priorities than spending £167 billion on nuclear weapons.”

Lothian Labour MSP Neil Findlay, who opposes nuclear weapons, told delegates: “We have nothing to fear from open, democratic debate. We are stronger when we do it and weaker when we don’t.”