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Speech in Scottish Parliament John Park

14 June 2007

John Park (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Lab): I enter this debate having been gainfully employed at Rosyth dockyard and Faslane naval base. My contribution comes from the perspective of someone who owes their place in this Parliament to having learnt difficult and sometimes harsh lessons while refitting Royal Navy ships and submarines.

It is important to remember that thousands of workers throughout Scotland are proud—as I was—of their contribution to the defence of the United Kingdom and to the growth of the Scottish economy. Despite members' different perspectives, I am sure that all will join me in paying tribute to those workers, particularly those at Rosyth who are currently in dispute with their employer. Those workers and I understand that Trident is an emotive issue that divides public opinion.

I recognise that there are people in my party who have been on both sides of the debate. I point out that there are people in the SNP who have also been on both sides of the debate—indeed, the First Minister was a vociferous campaigner for bringing Trident jobs to Rosyth in the early 1990s. One of the most interesting aspects of that campaign—in relation to which Murdo Fraser gave us an interesting history lesson—is that, if the contract had been awarded to Rosyth in 1993, we would be talking about a lot more jobs in Scotland than we are now. However, we all know what happened in 1993: a certain Malcolm Rifkind betrayed Scotland and made a decision in the interests not of national security but of the political survival of his party in the south-west. That flawed decision cost the taxpayer £666 million. Forgive me, therefore, if I find it difficult to take seriously the Tories' crusade for efficient government.

The one thing that I reject in this debate is the notion that there is public outcry about the replacement of Trident. I just do not see it. Perhaps it is indicative of views in the area of west Fife in which I live and in the wider Fife area but, during the election campaign, not one person mentioned Trident to me.

Bill Butler: Obviously, workers' interests are important. However, does John Park agree that the Scottish Trades Union Congress—nem con—is against Trident renewal now and at any time?

John Park: Bill Butler is absolutely correct that that is the STUC's position. However, I am representing the views of the people of Mid Scotland and Fife. The STUC and CND carried out excellent research into the consequences for jobs of cancelling Trident. Unfortunately, it considered only the removal of Trident from Scotland rather than the removal of Trident from the UK, and obviously there are jobs at Aldermaston and Devonport that rely on Trident. However, it was a sober piece of research and a great contribution to the debate.

On the extent to which the public are talking about Trident, I point out that, since entering Parliament, I have had considerably more correspondence complaining about the removal of the tolls from the Forth bridge than I have had about the renewal of Trident. Perhaps I should use my judgment in that regard.

Being a new and enthusiastic MSP, I was keen to get some feedback from constituents on the subject of the debate before speaking in it. Given the timescales, that proved to be difficult. However, this week I received e-mails highlighting the content of the debate before I even knew what the motion was—there must be some good organising going on in the Green party.

The people I have managed to speak to divide fairly equally on both sides of the debate. I am sure that we could become preoccupied with the semantic question of what is devolved and what is reserved, but the clear issue that has been raised in the feedback that I have received is that people do not know why the Scottish Parliament is talking about this issue. Although there may be strong views on either side of the argument, it is important that we do not ignore the silent majority in the middle.