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Scotland Reasserts Anti-Trident Consensus

06/05/2016 13:15 | Updated 06 May 2016

Today's results show a continuing massive anti-Trident majority in the Scottish parliament. The SNP, Scottish Labour and Greens all have clear anti-nuclear policies, together with the Lib Dems who will vote against Trident replacement even though national policy hesitates around alternatives. In party terms this adds up to 98 out of 129 seats. Even taking into account a tiny handful of MSPs who may vote against party policy, this is a reaffirmation of the overwhelming anti-Trident sentiment in Scotland.

In effect, support for nuclear weapons is being reduced down to the Conservative Party, and this is a process being seen in Westminster too. At CND's recent Stop Trident rally in London, Scotland's First Minister, together with the leader of the Labour Party, Leanne Wood from Plaid Cymru and Caroline Lucas for the Greens, demonstrated the emergence of a new political consensus against Trident. In Northern Ireland too, both SDLP and Sinn Fein oppose Trident replacement.

Of course, the Labour leader's personal opposition to nuclear weapons does not yet translate into Labour Party policy. A decision on that is likely later this year but it is of huge significance that Labour is undergoing a genuine, open and rigorous Defence Review which includes party policy on nuclear weapons. Gone are the days when the government can claim that policy on the 'deterrent' as they like to call it, transcends party politics and is a no-brainer in terms of the national interest. Even within Tory ranks there are those who think that national security will be better served by spending on conventional weaponry instead of nuclear.

Those in Labour who remain wedded to replacing Trident - often because they mistakenly believe that scrapping it would be a vote loser - need to look at the reality of public opinion, particularly amongst young people, and those who have massively boosted Labour membership over the last few months. Labour hasn't crashed and burned in these elections. The results are patchy but there are significant bright spots and there is no evidence to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn's anti-nuclear position has led to the loss of council seats. Labour needs to seize this opportunity for a twenty-first century defence policy that doesn't rely on increasingly expensive and redundant old technology.

As parties and voters head away from nuclear weapons, it is hard to see how the Tory government can legitimately proceed with its plans to replace Trident. As today's results reaffirm, Scotland has categorically and repeatedly voted against it and as host country to the Trident submarines that has to be a major factor in any replacement decision.

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