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Speech in Scottish Parliament Elaine Smith

14 June 2007

Elaine Smith (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab): On a point of order, Presiding Officer. Under our standing orders, would it be in order for the member who lodged the motion to withdraw it and to replace it with a motion without notice that omitted the words "at this time", thereby making it akin to the amendment that I lodged, which was not selected? If so, we could have on the table a position that was clearly anti-Trident. That is not the case at present because my amendment was not selected and, as it stands, the motion is not anti-Trident. If that is possible, I trust that Patrick Harvie will act accordingly so that we have an anti-Trident position on the table.

The Presiding Officer: It would be in order to do as Elaine Smith suggests, but it is only fair to point out that motions without notice can be accepted only at my discretion. She will be aware that I had to make very careful considerations last night. I should point out that I would not be minded to accept such a motion this morning.


Elaine Smith (Coatbridge and Chryston) (Lab): It is unfortunate that the back-bench amendment in my name, which was supported by several comrades and is printed in section F of today's Business Bulletin, was not chosen for debate, because it is the only clear anti-Trident position.

As it stands, the motion is not anti-Trident; it is party-political posturing by the Greens and is designed to appease the Liberals by using the words "at this time". If we are not to renew Trident "at this time", when are we to do so? A year from now? Two years? Five years? Clearly, it will be at some time. My position is clear: Trident should never be replaced, neither at this time nor at any time.

Storing our own weapons of mass destruction is wrong, replacing them is wrong and using them would be not only wrong but reckless, despicable and immoral. I hope that my views are perfectly clear: replacing Trident is wrong and using it would be an abomination. That is also the view of a number of my colleagues on the Labour benches, and it is unacceptable that they cannot express it.

If we are going to have a debate, we should have a proper one. The reality is that the Greens thought that replacing Trident was such an important issue that they split their time this morning, giving us only half the available time on an issue of world peace. Then they lodged a motion that is wishy-washy at best and pro-Trident at worst, when they could have set out a clear anti-Trident position by leaving out the three little words "at this time".

If we were in the Parliament that actually has responsibility for Trident, a fudge might be better than nothing—if it was the only game in town and we could try again later. However, this Parliament can merely express an opinion. To make that opinion one that says, "We don't want to replace Trident at this time," is ridiculous. It is a wasted opportunity.

The motion is not anti-Trident, it is not a principled position and it is duplicitous. On those grounds, I will find it extremely hard to support it at decision time.

Intervention in speech by Robin Harper (Green)-

Elaine Smith: Why is the motion not clearly anti-Trident? Why does it include the phrase "at this time"?

Robin Harper: I would argue that the motion is clearly anti-Trident. The important thing is that the proposal to replace Trident undermines the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, international agreements and international law. We have the opportunity to support those 33 courageous Labour MPs who stood up in the House of Commons and voted against their party in defence of international law. That is the tenor of the motion and what it is about. It gives the Scottish Parliament the opportunity to support those 33 MPs, to support international law and to support the notion that Trident should not be replaced.