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Speech in Scottish Parliament Malcolm Chisholm

14 June 2007

Malcolm Chisholm (Edinburgh North and Leith) (Lab): Over the past few months, I have read a great deal about the issue, and it is clear to me that the alliance against the renewal of Trident and in favour of nuclear disarmament is bigger and wider than at any point since the second world war. For many, including myself, the issue is still rooted in the fundamental moral objection to nuclear weapons. I applaud in particular the leadership of the churches and other religious leaders in putting that view so strongly in recent times.

However, many people will not be persuaded by those arguments, which is why we have also to consider the strategic and security arguments. That is where I am struck by the number of people who have changed their minds since the 1980s, including many in the Conservative party—members can read Michael Portillo in last week's Sunday Times, and Michael Ancram is even stronger on the subject. Lord Hattersley, who supported nuclear weapons in the 1980s, has said that

"to posture about the importance of nuclear independence is to fight the battles of the past."

Henry Kissinger and three other high-level architects of the cold war, in a remarkable article in The Wall Street Journal on 4 January, said that the reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence

"is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective"

in the modern world. They called on nuclear weapons states to engage seriously in nuclear disarmament.

Former chief of the defence staff Lord Brammall, speaking before George Foulkes in a recent House of Lords debate, said:

"it is difficult to see how the United Kingdom can exert any leadership and influence on the implementation of the non-proliferation treaty ... if we insist on a successor to Trident".—[Official Report, House of Lords, 24 January 2007; Vol 688, c 1137.]

The non-proliferation treaty is crucial to the debate. The treaty is a bargain: nations without nuclear weapons promised not to develop them and, in exchange, nuclear weapons states promised to pursue negotiations towards nuclear disarmament in good faith. As Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog, asked recently, how can Britain expect other countries to refrain from acquiring nuclear weapons if it upgrades Trident? It is supremely urgent that we stop nuclear proliferation, which is why the UK Government must change its disastrous policy decision.

I supported Elaine Smith's amendment, as I preferred its wording, but it was not selected for debate, so, given the urgency, I will vote for the Green party motion.