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Getting rid of Trident could increase Scottish jobs

Aerial view of the sprawling Faslane Naval Base

Scottish CND and the Scottish Trades Union Congress have come together to sponsor a joint project to examine the impact of Trident non-renewal on employment levels in Scotland and to propose practical measures for redeployment.

During the Scottish Parliament’s debate on Trident Renewal on 21 December the West Dunbartonshire MSP Jackie Baillie claimed ‘11,000 P45s would be issued to hard-working people in my area and to thousands more throughout Scotland’ if Trident were not renewed. These fears are widespread in the trade union movement. The objective of the Trident Employment and Arms Conversion Project is to overcome these fears by providing properly researched estimates of the employment consequences of cancellation together with proposals for alternative uses of the massive resources that will otherwise be consumed by Trident.

The project team consists of John Ainslie and Alan Mackinnon representing Scottish CND, Steven Boyd representing the STUC, Steven Maxwell and Professor Michael Danson who were both associated with similar research on Faslane in the 1980s, Claudia Beamish of SERA (the Labour environment campaign), Davie Torrance, previously staff convener at Govan shipyard, Dr Erik Sutherland and John Foster, emeritus Professor social sciences Paisley University.

The team plans to produce its report for early February. So far it has two initial findings. The first concerns the scale of employment loss. This appears to be much smaller than that claimed by Jackie Baillie. According to a parliamentary answer by Geoff Hoon on 21st February 2005 ‘The number of civilian jobs which directly depend upon the Trident programme is estimated to 936 in Scotland... The number of civilian jobs which indirectly rely on the Trident programme is estimated to be 300 in Scotland.’

Using the figures in the 2006 White Paper The Future of the United Kingdom’s Nuclear Deterrent and those supplied by the government to the House of Commons Defence Committee in 2006, it also appears that even these job losses could be further minimised by rescheduling the phasing out of the Trident submarines.

Jackie Baillie MSP has repeatedly claimed that 11,000 local jobs are dependent on Trident

This is because the Faslane Naval base is also used to service conventially armed nuclear submarines and the number of these is scheduled to increase. Currently Faslane is used to service the four Vanguard class Trident submarines, two SwiftSure class conventially armed submarines and nine mine sweepers. The two SwiftSure submarines will be phased out between 2008 and 2010 and replaced by the new Astute class of conventially armed submarines.

Jeremy Corbyn speaking at Faslane on 5th November

The first of these Astute class submarines will enter service in 2009 and the second in 2010. The number of these submarines will then build up to a total of at least six by 2016 bringing the combined number of Trident (Vanguard) and Astute class submarines to ten. At the same time the government’s White Paper proposes to extend the scheduled life of the current Vanguard Trident submarines by five years from 2017 to 2022 and then replace them by either three or four new submarines from 2022. From this it is clear that under existing MoD plans Faslane’s workforce will have to increase up to 2016 to cope with the work of servicing at least two additional nuclear submarines. Even after the last of the vanguard class submarines goes out of service on an extended life in 2026 there would still be no reduction on the current number of six submarines based at Faslane.

If the existing Vanguard submarines were retired near the end of their current scheduled life, between 2012 and 2016, the employment bulge could be minimised and the net reduction in the present total of 2,400 civilian employment limited to a couple of hundred at most - in ten years time.

The second interim finding concerns the cost of Trident replacement. Government estimates put this at nearly a £1 billion a year – in addition to the £1bn expenditure already authorised for the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston for 2006-2008 and the continuing £1 billion annual cost already incurred in running and servicing the system. The annual total is therefore £2 billion.

The government has made it clear that the cost of replacement will not come from the existing MoD budget. It will consequently either have to be raised in taxation or come from general government expenditure and in either case Scotland would forfeit around £80m a year in addition to the £85 million already being spent annually. Taking this amount of money from the Scottish budget would inevitably have adverse consequences for employment and services.

However, it would be the team’s suggestion that if only a fraction of this was invested annually from 2008 in R&D on efficient renewable energy production, it could generate viable employment projects for many hundreds of people by 2016. In other words, Trident’s renewal will directly harm Scottish employment while its cancellation would benefit Scotland economically and in employment terms.

The team intends to develop these findings in their final report. It believes that the peace movement has a responsibility to take seriously the employment consequences of nuclear disarmament and, jointly with the Scottish trade union movement, also take steps to ensure that the Scottish Executive takes equally seriously the issue of arms conversion.

John Foster

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