Tele column – 22nd July

On Monday the House of Commons voted to push ahead with the procurement of four successor submarines. This is the next step in renewing the Trident nuclear missile system.

It has been independently costed, using known government figures, at anywhere between £179 billion pounds and £205 billion pounds. With the falling pound, after the EU election result, those figures are already being revised, upwards. Somebody described it as an obscene amount of money. But it is not. That amount spent on generating jobs in other areas or being used to build schools and hospitals or paying pensions is not obscene. The obscenity is Trident. The two main arguments I hear for renewing Trident are that it creates jobs, however the same money invested differently would create far more and the timescale exists for those whose jobs may be threatened to retrain. Not just at HMNB Clyde but also at Aldermaston where the missiles are assembled. The second argument is that we need Trident as a deterrent. When a retired General who in his working life was in charge of the entire US strategic nuclear weapons system says that “nuclear weapons was and remains a slippery intellectual construct”, I think we should listen.

Last Monday, 58 out of 59 Scottish MPs voted against the renewal of Trident. This is in line with the policy of the SNP, the Labour Party in Scotland, the Green Party, Scottish TUC and is reflected in the Scottish Government and Scottish Parliament. It is supported by the Church of Scotland and Roman Catholic Bishops of Scotland along with many other faith groups and swathes of civic society. On Monday a government the people of Scotland did not vote for, yet again, forced a policy on the people of Scotland that we don’t want.

Last May, I met Setsuko Thurlow. She survived Hiroshima. Her story is harrowing and brutal. When I asked what she thought of such weapons she replied “it is not a weapon, it’s a method to massacre indiscriminately. It’s immoral. Let’s live together, don’t spend and squander our resources on such things.” I am ashamed that on Monday the Westminster parliament let her down.