1 Nov 2015

Scottish Labour rejects Trident

Party delegates in Scotland vote overwhelmingly against renewing the nuclear deterrent, rejecting the official line of the UK party.

Kezia Dugdale and Jeremy Corbyn (Reuters)

A vote to scrap Trident won just over 70 per cent of the votes at the Scottish Labour Party conference in Perth.

The result means the party north of the border is at odds with the views of its leader, Kezia Dugdale – the opposite of the situation in the UK-wide party, which still backs Trident against the wishes of leader Jeremy Corbyn.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn hinted that the vote could herald a change of position on nuclear weapons for UK Labour, saying: “The vote by the Scottish Labour Party Conference on Trident renewal and the protection of defence jobs is a clear sign that Labour’s democracy has opened up.

“Scottish Labour Party members have spoken. That will now feed into the wider UK Labour debate and review of defence policy.”

That will now feed into the wider UK Labour debate and review of defence policy. Corbyn spokesman

Stephen Low, the Labour activist and Unison union member who moved the motion, said: “It’s without question Scottish party policy now. The Scottish Labour Party is now completely committed to a non-renewal position.”

He said the change of position could help win the party votes in next year’s Holyrood elections.

The Trident debate saw trade unions, MSPs and other party members all divided over Trident, with the motion backed by 70.3 to 29.7 per cent.

Christopher Rimicans, 16, from Labour’s Cunninghame South branch, won cheers for his speech against renewal.

The teenager said: “Trident will cost over £100 billion for renewal, we could fund 150,000 more nurses, we could pay for 180 state of the art schools.

“This shows the money could be used elsewhere to make sure we have a better society.”

He added: “The one thing I struggle to understand about Trident is why you would use it in the first place? I’m proud of Jeremy Corbyn’s stance against Trident, saying he would not push the button. I think everyone in this room should have the same stance. It’s obvious.”

This debate is a nonsense, and frankly it is an utter indulgence. Gary Smith

Gary Smith of the GMB union said the motion’s backing for a “firm commitment on the retention of defence workers’ jobs”, contained no detail about future employment opportunities and pay and conditions.

“This debate is a nonsense, and frankly it is an utter indulgence,” he said.

“We’ve closed dozens of yards, we have closed thousands of factories up and down this country, and people have seen what actually happens.

“High skilled well paid union jobs replaced by part-time, low skill, low paid work. Rising levels of unemployment, increasingly levels of poverty – that’s what the real alternative is.”

But leaders of the other unionist parties in Scotland criticised Labour’s decision.

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon said the vote by Scottish Labour “underlines the danger that the Labour leadership poses to our national security”.

He added: “We cannot know what threats will emerge over the next 40 years. Renewing the nuclear deterrent is crucial to ensuring we are prepared for the worst of them. It will also guarantee thousands of jobs.

“For 60 years, successive Labour and Conservative governments have been united on this issue. I appeal to moderate Labour MPs to back our decision to maintain a round the clock nuclear capability – the ultimate guarantee of Britain’s security.”