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Speech in Scottish Parliament Bruce Crawford

14 June 2007

The Minister for Parliamentary Business (Bruce Crawford): I welcome this morning's debate on Trident and the Green Party's motion. Trident is a vital issue that divides public opinion and political parties. However, as others have said, it is evident that a clear majority of the Scottish public is against a new generation of weapons of mass destruction. The people of Scotland have shown their opposition to Trident time and time again. As Patrick Harvie said, today is the fourth time in just over a year that the Parliament has discussed Trident. That perhaps shows the importance of the issue and how strongly people feel.

This Government is happy to continue to debate the arguments for and against Trident. In the past, the intellectual argument was that that the Soviet bloc represented a threat and that nuclear capability provided a form of deterrent, kept the peace and prevented further wars.

George Foulkes: In all sincerity, does not Bruce Crawford—as a minister in the Scottish Parliament, which has substantial responsibilities and makes decisions that affect the people of Scotland—find it demeaning to turn the Parliament into a protest movement?

Bruce Crawford: I find it utterly demeaning for someone such as George Foulkes to come here and try to put the Parliament in a box and constrain what it wants to do.

Of course, the end of the cold war put paid to the previous theory, which by any reasonable measure no longer holds water. The UK Government's white paper admits:

"Currently no state has both the intent to threaten our vital interests and the capability to do so with nuclear weapons."

It is far from clear who our enemies are and why a nuclear capability is thought necessary. To be blunt, the UK Government's position that there is no known enemy means that multilateralism is dead. No one can argue a position of multilateralism if there is no known enemy.

The Government is happy to talk about the costs, including the merit of spending, on the basis of some threat from a mythical enemy, £25 billion in capital and perhaps as much as £100 billion in lifetime costs—an obscene sum—to replace a system of weapons of mass destruction that runs counter to long-standing international non-proliferation agreements. That money could be better spent on public services such as schools, hospitals and housing.

How many more debates will we have during the coming months and years on the rights and wrongs of the son of Trident? Where will those debates take us? Of course, in an independent Scotland we would not have such debates because no weapons of mass destruction would be based in Scotland. In our election manifesto, we stated that Scotland should be free to remove nuclear weapons from our shores. Short of the full responsibilities of independence, the Government will reflect on the views of the majority of Scots and carefully consider which aspects of the plans to replace Trident impact on devolved areas. We will do what we can, using those responsibilities, to persuade the UK Government to change its stance.

We also intend to hold a summit with key stakeholders to agree a joint position against Trident and get the best ideas and proposals from an alliance of people from throughout Scottish life who oppose the son of Trident. We will stand up for our beliefs and do all that we can to represent Scottish opinion on these vital matters. I compare that principled position with the position of the Liberal Democrats.

Bill Butler: At the assembly that is to be called, will the minister invite English and Welsh opinion as well?

Bruce Crawford: I called it a summit. We will consider who we appropriately invite along to that, but provided that it is an alliance of people who believe what we believe—that Scotland should be free from weapons of mass destruction—I think that that is pretty fair.

Until today, the Liberal Democrats' position was typical of what we might expect from a party whose policy bends in the wind and which thinks, "Let's not decide on Trident today." The Liberal Democrats have now made up their minds—at least, I thought that they had, but their amendment seeks to remove from the Green party's motion the words:

"and calls on the UK Government not to go ahead at this time with the proposal in the White Paper, The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent."