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Speech in Scottish Parliament Mike Rumbles

14 June 2007

Mike Rumbles (West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine) (LD): It is legitimate for the Greens to bring the subject of Trident for debate in the chamber. It is important to be able to debate the issues, so let us remind ourselves of some of the facts. All the UK's tactical nuclear weapon systems have been taken out of service. The UK's nuclear force is now limited to its strategic deterrent, which is Trident. We spent huge resources on procuring Trident and we spend a substantial part of the UK's annual defence budget on the system.

There is a legitimate argument about whether any UK Government would ever use our nuclear deterrent. I think that it is important not only to set out my party's position but to make clear my own views on what is an important moral question for everyone. I cannot envisage any scenario in which use of the Trident missile system would be justified. I am at one with the many leaders of civic Scotland and our churches who have given a moral lead on the issue. During my 15 years' service in the Army—even during the cold war—I found little support among my colleagues for the diversion of funds to strategic nuclear weapons at the expense of our conventional forces.

Bill Butler (Glasgow Anniesland) (Lab): Is Mike Rumbles saying that the Liberal party is against Trident in principle both now and at any time, or just for now?

Mike Rumbles: Trident is an important moral issue for every MSP and every person in Scotland. It is important for each individual to take a view on the issue. At the moment, I am expressing my view. In a moment, I will emphasise my party's view on the matter.

Sarah Boyack: Why does the member not answer the question?

Mike Rumbles: The member should wait.

I have yet to hear anyone—even Murdo Fraser—outline the circumstances in which a UK Prime Minister would launch a so-called independent system to destroy millions of innocent people. I do not think that I will ever hear that.

Enough of my personal views on the matter—I want to emphasise my party's view. As much as we would like to see the weapons go, the Liberal Democrats believe that unilateral nuclear disarmament is not the best way forward. We believe that the key to a safer world is to make real progress on multilateral nuclear disarmament. We must be willing to take part in the disarmament process and we want the UK Government to press for a nuclear weapons convention to formalise all the nuclear states' commitment to disarmament.

It is entirely wrong for the UK to commit to renew our so-called independent nuclear deterrent when there is no need or justification for doing so.

Patrick Harvie: Will the member give way?

Mike Rumbles: I cannot give way, unfortunately, as I have only a minute left.

The argument that we must renew Trident because of the unserviceability of Royal Navy submarines is patently nonsense. That is why we are happy to join others today to congratulate the majority of Scottish MPs who made the right decision and voted against the UK Government's line that we should renew our strategic nuclear weapons. Most of our MPs, from all parties—except the Conservatives—joined together to reject that nonsensical argument.

It is clear to us that no effective case has been made for a successor to Trident. In any case, it must be right that the proper place in which to decide whether to replace Trident is the UK Parliament. That is why we lodged our amendment. The Liberal Democrat party is a federal party. We believe that domestic decisions for Scotland are best made here in the Scottish Parliament. However, although it is entirely appropriate for the Parliament to take a view to feed into the decision-making process, actual decisions on the defence of the realm are clearly and correctly the preserve of the UK Parliament.

The Liberal Democrats want real nuclear disarmament to make the world a safer place. The way to do that is to engage with others on multilateral nuclear disarmament. I urge members to support the Liberal Democrat amendment and then vote for the motion as amended.

I move amendment S3M-169.4, to insert after "Trident":

"recognises that decisions on matters of defence are matters within the responsibility of the UK Government and Parliament".