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I was the Head of Policy and Public Affairs at UNISON Scotland until my retirement in September 2018. I now work on several policy development projects, so all views are very definitely my own. You can also follow me on Twitter. I hope you find this blog interesting and I would welcome your comments.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Why we should vote to scrap Trident today

Trident is an expensive status symbol that has no military value and drains resources from conventional defence and socially useful investment.

Today, the Scottish Labour conference in Perth will debate the replacement of Trident. Having a debate is in itself a huge achievement. It is due to an imaginative members day initiative by the leadership of Scottish Labour and the support of both trade union and CLP sections in the priorities ballot.

The UNISON Labour Link Scotland delegation will be voting for the motion that opposes the replacement of Trident. Here's why.

Firstly, Nuclear weapons have no military rationale. They do not deter and hugely increase the costs of a miscalculation that would have devastating consequences for the planet. A growing number of senior military figures argue that there is no conceivable threat that nuclear weapons provide effective defence against. Instead, resources should be invested in real threats such as terrorism and cyber warfare. It also means that when we send service men and women into danger they are properly equipped.

Secondly, I understand the concerns of trade unions with members in the industry over the impact on jobs. The trade unions in Scotland have addressed this in the STUC report 'Trident and Jobs'. This detailed analysis makes the case for a Scottish Defence Diversification Agency and draws on experience from around world, that shows this can actually be done.

A proper analysis of the relatively small number of jobs associated with Trident, compared to the cost, shows that skills can be transferred to other defence options that are currently closed down because of Trident's burden on the defence budget. The motion debated today offers strong protection for defence workers.

Thirdly, the escalating cost of Trident, now up to £167bn, means that replacement is simply unaffordable. At a time of austerity these resources could also be better used to secure vital public services. This sum is the equivalent of the total devolved Scottish Budget for five years! Scotland's share would make a significant dent in the financial gap caused by Tory austerity.

There are those who object to nuclear weapons in principle. They make the moral argument that ownership of weapons of mass destruction can never be justified. They also argue that Britain has no right to own such weapons under international law. Important though these arguments are, the campaign against Trident has been boosted by pragmatic opponents who emphasis that Trident is 'militarily useless' and cost escalation makes it unaffordable.

I have heard it argued that it is easy for UNISON to take this position because we don't represent workers who could be employed on the Trident programme. I would respond to that by pointing out that we do have other policy positions that impact on our members jobs. Where we do, such as scrapping the crazy energy market, we develop clear policies to protect the members concerned. That is precisely what the unions who are involved in the defence industry have done over Trident.

There are times, when to retain credibility, trade unions have to accept that they can't defend the indefensible, just because it has an impact on our members. Trident replacement is just such a policy. Spending £167bn on a useless defence system is indefensible and that's why we will vote for the motion to scrap it today.



  1. Well said Dave! Its ridiculous and unacceptable for us to possess nuclear weapons. They dont destroy military bases or factories, no they kill people. Nuclear weapons kill millions of innocent people. If a nation fired a nuclear weapon upon us it would be inconceivable for us to return fire. The people who would be at consequence from our fire would hold no responsablity for the power who fired on us. There is no situation where firing a nuke is OK!!

    Hopefully the other 4 nuclear nations will follow our lead :)

    For world peace!

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