Another Trident debate
By far one of the most emotive arguments put forward for independence is the possibility of being able to rid Scotland of its very own “weapons of mass destruction”.
The nuclear deterrent Trident, based at Faslane on the Clyde, allows the UK to be part of an exclusive group of nations, but its presence has long been a source of major contention.
Many of the SNP’s members joined up through their association with groups like the CND who argued for ridding the world of nuclear weapons – indeed two of its MSPs John Finnie and Jean Urquhart left the party when it changed its policy over membership of NATO.
With only weeks left until the referendum, the Scottish Parliament again found itself debating Trident and how independence would remove it from Scotland – and by association from the UK shores entirely.
Again, because as former Tory leader Annabel Goldie pointed out, this was the third time it had been debated in parliament within 18 months. Views – however fervently held– have not been changed in that time.
The Scottish Government debate coinciding with Hiroshima Day led by Veterans Minister Keith Brown called for the speediest safe withdrawal of nuclear weapons and opposed the renewal of trident and said only a Yes vote in the referendum would ensure it would leave Scotland.
Trident is probably one of the most obvious examples from Yes campaigners of a Westminster policy imposed against their will, but Labour’s Neil Findlay, who said he has opposed nuclear weapons all his life, said the debate saw the issue of disarmament being reduced to a “cynical and partisan” vehicle for debate on independence.
Labour, whose members are divided on the issue of disarmament, was criticised for not putting forward an amendment, while the Greens called for a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons.
Whether purely a referendum “tactic” or not, members who had been long-standing campaigners were given their chance to speak about an issue of global importance with Christina McKelvie saying the billions required for Trident’s renewal was “investment in global murder” and Bill Kidd asking what good a nuclear deterrent does to fight cyber crime, the war on drugs or Isis.
It was a reminder, if one was needed that the parliament is capable of looking at “grown-up” issues and this should continue, regardless of whether Scotland becomes an independent country.
In fact, an important issue raised by several including Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, whose motion claimed banning weapons from Scotland would not result in fewer nuclear weapons in the world, was that it was not just independence supporters who back nuclear disarmament.
It’s just that, for the moment at least, those are the ones who are shouting loudest.