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     Scottish CND      Magazine

Trident and the Defence Review

Scottish CND were invited to participate in the third seminar of the review at the MoD in London. Thirty people sat around the table, most of them were senior academics in International Relations. There were also representatives from Oxfam and the UN Association.

Early on in the seminar, Group Captain Steven Chisnall, the Deputy Director of Defence Policy, said that “EM>there is currently no strategic threat to the United Kingdom. This line was repeated by other participants. Rear Admiral Cobbold from the Royal United Services Institute said that Russia, if it was a potential threat at all, was only a possibly threat in the very long term.

Jon Day from the MoD produced a list and asked us to propose what bits of the armed forces we could do without, or scale down. Professor Michael Sheehan from Aberdeen University noted that something was missing from the list - Trident and he proposed that we should do without that. George Robertson was asked to reply and said that Trident didn’t really cost very much and doing away with it was not an option.

One worrying development was the apparent sidelining of the Foreign Office. The review was launched as a joint enterprise by the FO and MoD. But the MoD are now largely running the show. This may be bad news for us. It is the Foreign Office which has been pushing for Trident to be taken off patrol.

So what should we expect when the review is concluded in February or March ? George Robertson will say how they have listened to the people and consulted widely. He will no doubt present the results as a “EM>consensus - even though most of the participants in this and the other seminars might disagree.

On Trident a number of possible changes have been floated by the government -

Taking Trident off patrol - the submarines would stay armed at Faslane, but not on constant patrol.

Reducing the number of warheads on a submarine - those which are removed would probably stay in Scotland, at Coulport.

Reducing the number of missiles - a further £170 million order for 7 Trident missiles is due in July 1998 - will it go ahead ? ?

At the end of the day the review gives the government an opportunity to scrap Trident and save £1,500 million a year, but George Robertson has already ruled this out. Although the government may introduce some changes, fundamentally they will be missing the real opportunity to divert spending away from these weapons of mass destruction towards helping the most needy in our society.

John Ainslie

Scottish CND      Magazine