The current bill for the renewal of Trident is £167 billion over the next 20 years, but will almost certainly rise to £200 billion before the programme is complete. This is money which, in these times of austerity could be better spent elsewhere. In fact, regardless of austerity, it could be better spent elsewhere.
I think a friend of mine put it best;
"Trident is supposedly a deterrent, but if we never use it, how can you justify the expense? And if you do have to use it, it clearly wasn't a deterrent."
This is one of those issues which is so mind-bogglingly one-sided that I find it hard to even muster the strength for an argument. But here goes…
It can't be justified from an economic standpoint, when conventional forces are so much cheaper and have a greater variety of uses, and where austerity is affecting the NHS and education unnecessarily.
It can't be justified from a moral standpoint, when we are expected to believe that it is acceptable to slaughter millions of innocents in retaliation for the actions of a few individuals.
Even that most tenuous of arguments, the question of the jobs tied up in maintaining the submarines and warheads at Coulport and Faslane, falls apart after closer scrutiny. The government could, if they wished, give each of the 17,000 people who would lose their jobs (the number is actually far below that but let’s humour the pessimists for a moment), £1,000,000 each and we would still save £150 billion. The reality is that many of the skills involved in maintaining the warheads are transferable to other, safer, fields, such as electronics, computing or the green energy industry.
And even in the event of nuclear war, with 20,000 megatons of nuclear missiles already on their way, several ex-Prime Ministers have said that they wouldn't have pressed the button anyway, since it would only have caused more death and destruction.
What is most telling is that 3 of the most recent Prime Ministers; Blair, Brown & Major, all wrote 'Letters of Last Resort' to the Trident commanders that, in the event that they last contact with Downing Street & High Command, they were NOT to retaliate under any circumstances. It would be very interesting to hear what orders Cameron gave, now that they are no longer a National Security issue.
In light of these facts, I find it impossible to view Trident as anything less than a millstone around our collective necks, holding us back from investing in the things that actually matter. Our health, our environment and our future.
I was proud to stand against Trident on Saturday, and even though Westminster will certainly force the bill through on Monday, against 58 of Scotland’s 59 MPs, they can’t pretend they didn’t know our opinion. Sometimes that small victory is enough.
By David Buckley, National Convenor.