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Trident Replacement Debate Scottish Parliament

The Scottish Parliament held a debate on Trident Replacement on 4 May. Neither the motion nor any of the amendments were agreed. A Conservativ e 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”. Full Debate