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Scottish Parliament Trident Replacement Debate summary

Scottish Parliament Trident Replacement debate 4 May 2006 Summary of voting Neither the motion nor any of the amendments were agreed. A Conse rvative amendment supporting the principle of replacing Trident was only backed by 18 MSPs. The Green motion opposing the replacement of Trident was supported by 38 MPSs - Greens, SNP, Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) along with 4 Labour and 3 Independent MSPs. In addition 1 Lib Dem and 3 Labour MSPs abstained. The Labour amendment included the statement “that the Parliament … believes there should be the fullest possible public debate on any decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, considering all possible options including non-replacement”. It was supported by 44 MSPs. 6 Labour MSPs abstained. The Liberal Democrat amendment called on “the UK Government to publish a White Paper on the issue in order to stimulate public debate”. It was supported by 18 MSPs. The SSP and Greens backed an SNP amendment that Scottish independence was the best route to disarmament. This was supported by 32 MSPs. Debate There was no attempt to argue that the Scottish Parliament should not be debating the issue because it was reserved to Westminster. One of the points this issue arose was when Rosie Kane (SSP) pointed out that no Scottish Executive minister was present and Scott Barrie (Labour) responded that this was because the subject was reserved. Rob Gibson (SNP) said “the Scottish Parliament has an opportunity to act and to be a catalyst for change”. The parties opposing the motion accepted the need for a thorough public debate. Jackie Baillie, who presented the Labour amendment, said - “What is true is that the decision on whether to replace Trident will be momentous, and I agree with Chris Ballance that it is one of the critical economic and strategic decisions that the UK faces. … I want a full debate”. She said she welcomed the input from churches and trade unions, opposing nuclear weapons, and noted “the Scottish Labour Party conference has adopted a consistent anti-nuclear position”. She said she did not want the UK government to make a decision “until they have heard what people think” and “we have an opportunity to influence that decision”. Euan Robson, presenting the Lib Dem amendment, said there should be a debate and vote in Westminster. Mike Rumbles (Lib Dem) said “Although the replacement of the Trident Missile System is a reserved issue, it is absolutely right that the Scottish Parliament should debate the matter.” The time allocated on this occasion was short and he argued that there should be a longer debate. Presenting the motion, Chris Ballance (Green) argued that the Matrix Chambers opinion showed that the use of Trident would breach international law and that replacing Trident would be in breach of the Non Proliferation Treaty. Mark Ballard (Green) referred to the risk of an accident as nuclear weapons are transported across Scotland. Jackie Baillie (Labour) focused on the number of jobs in her constituency that depended on Faslane, rather than on the rationale for nuclear weapons. She said “ I will continue to argue that if we want to rid the UK of nuclear weapons, we will have to mitigate the consequences of so doing.” In response to the jobs issue Rosie Kane (SSP) argued that the skills could be used in other areas. Patrick Harvie (Green) asked whether any Labour MSPs had proposed an inquiry into diversification. Bruce Crawford (SNP) argued that since the end of the Cold War any rationale that might be used had gone and that independence was the best way to get rid of nuclear weapons. Patrick Harvie (Green) added ”Scottish independence is not the only conceivable way to achieve disarmament, but independence would make it far more likely”. SNP speakers said that Trident was dependent on US support. Sandra White (SNP) gave examples of how the money spent on Trident could be better used. Phill Gallie (Conservative) argued - “nuclear weapons have proved to be the most successful means of peacekeeping that the world has ever known”. Lord James Douglas Hamilton (Conservative) said - “for a deterrent to be credible, the potential aggressor must believe that it is capable of being used.” Euan Robson (Lib Dem) said – “the Liberal Democrat view is that the UK Government has still to make a case for a replacement system for Trident.” He also repeated the Lib Dem Westminster manifesto position that the UK should keep a minimum deterrent until there was progress with multilateral disarmament. Mike Rumbles summed up for the Lib Dems. In June 2005 he had said, in response to a Scottish CND survey, that he was opposed to replacing Trident. His contributions to the debate reflected that position. He said “Given that we would never use the Trident missile system, why are we even contemplating replacing it ?” Neither Euan Robson nor Mike Rumbles accepted the legal argument presented in the Green motion. Both Mike Rumbles and Patrick Harvie (Green) emphasised that this was a moral issue. Rosie Kane (SSP) pointed out the hypocrisy of Bush and Blair, criticising Iran and North Korea while developing their own weapons and ignoring Israel’s nuclear arsenal. John Swinbourne (Scottish Senior Citizens Unity Party) argued that the money that could be saved from not replacing Trident should be used for nuclear waste storage so new nuclear power stations could be built. John Home Robertson (Labour) said – “I did not think that Trident made sense at the end of the cold war, and I cannot for the life of me see how al-Qa’ida can be deterred by ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads now”. Detail of motions and amendments Voting was first taken on four amendments: *S2M-3866.4 Jackie Baillie (Labour): Replacement of Trident—As an amendment to motion (S2M-3866) in the name of Chris Ballance, leave out from \"believes\" to end and insert \"notes that in 2005 the UK Government reaffirmed its commitment to all its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1967; notes the commitment of all three major UK parties to retain an independent nuclear deterrent; notes the comments of the UK Government that no decisions on replacing Trident have yet been taken; believes there should be the fullest possible public debate on any decision to replace the Trident nuclear weapons system, considering all possible options including non-replacement; notes the significant reductions in the United Kingdom’s nuclear weapons arsenal; is committed to the goal of the global elimination of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, and wishes to see the United Kingdom continue to work both bilaterally and through the United Nations to urge states not yet party to non-proliferation instruments to become so, to remain committed to the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and to make further progress toward significant reductions in the nuclear arsenals of the major nuclear powers.\" Supported by: Scott Barrie* Vote: for 44, against 65, abstain 4, not agreed *S2M-3866.1 Bruce Crawford (SNP): Replacement of Trident—As an amendment to motion (S2M-3866) in the name of Chris Ballance, insert at end \"and believes that the best way to ensure that nuclear weapons are removed from Scotland is for Scotland to become an independent nation.\" Vote: for 32, against 82, abstain 1, not agreed *S2M-3866.2 Phil Gallie (Conservative): Replacement of Trident—As an amendment to motion (S2M-3866) in the name of Chris Ballance, leave out from \"that the United Kingdom\" to end and insert \"it essential that the United Kingdom should continue to play a full and effective role in the world and in NATO and that to do that requires the continuation of an effective defence capacity; notes that as long as other countries have nuclear weapons it is essential that Britain has the capacity to address that threat; supports the principle of replacing or updating the current Trident system with a successor generation nuclear deterrent when necessary; believes that there should be an objective of multilateral global nuclear disarmament, and further believes that, however, that objective can only safely be achieved by ensuring that no rogue dictatorships have the capacity to use nuclear weaponry unchallenged.\" Vote: for 14, against 100, abstain 1, not agreed *S2M-3866.3 Euan Robson (Lib Dem): Replacement of Trident—As an amendment to motion (S2M-3866) in the name of Chris Ballance, leave out from \"believes\" to end and insert \"wishes to see the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons; notes the UK Government’s commitment, made in June 2005, to reach a decision on the replacement of the Trident system by the end of the current Westminster Parliament; further notes that the Secretary of State for Defence stated in June 2005 that \"no decision on any replacement for Trident has been taken, either in principle or otherwise\"; calls on the UK Government to publish a White Paper on the issue in order to stimulate a full public debate; further calls on the UK Government to press for a new round of multilateral arms reduction talks, and believes that the UK’s current minimum nuclear deterrent should be retained for the foreseeable future until sufficient progress has been made towards the global elimination of nuclear weapons.\" Vote: for 18, against 97, abstain none, not agreed A vote was then taken on the motion S2M-3866 Chris Ballance (South of Scotland) (Green) : Replacement of Trident— That the Parliament believes that the United Kingdom should not seek to replace the Trident nuclear missile system; notes that in 2005 the UK Government reaffirmed its commitment to all its obligations under the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty 1967 (NPT), including its legally binding obligation to negotiate nuclear disarmament in good faith; agrees with the legal opinion of Rabinder Singh QC and Professor Christine Chinkin of Matrix Chambers on 19 December 2005 that any replacement of the Trident system would constitute a material breach of Article VI of the NPT, and calls on the Scottish Executive to seek an early assurance from the UK Government that it will fully comply with our legal obligations in respect of the NPT and that it will not seek to replace the Trident nuclear missile system with another weapon system of mass destruction. Vote: for 38, against 73, abstain 4, not agreed