Tag Archives: Trident

Trident and Labour

The recent decision by the Labour party in Scotland to reject the renewal of Trident is to be welcomed. The size of the majority of delegates who voted against renewal – 70%-30% – is pretty conclusive, and should rule out any change for at least a couple of generations. Welcome though this conversion is, it is doubtful if it will have much or any impact either at Westminster or here in Scotland.

Trident will still be renewed

As Trident is a reserved matter, the only votes that count are those at Westminster. There, a large majority of MPs will vote to renew our nuclear weapons. The Tories of course, but also the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs. As Maria Eagles pointed out, the Labour party’s official position is to support the renewal of Trident. Irrespective of what Scottish Labour thinks or does.

As things stand in Scotland, three of our main political parties – SNP, Greens and now Scottish Labour (assuming SLAB is a party and not just a branch office) are against the renewal of Trident. At least 57 of Scottish MPs (not sure how Alistair Carmichael will vote) will vote against the renewal. Hard to find a clearer example of consensus in Scottish politics.

Yet all this will be brushed aside when the vote takes place in Westminster. The massed ranks of Tory and Labour MPs from England will ensure that Trident is replaced. Pretty much sums up the irrelevance of Scotland within the UK. Even if all these 57 MPs from Scotland were Labour and against Trident, it would make no difference.

Impact in Scotland

As the preceding section demonstrates this decision by Scottish Labour will only highlight yet again how Westminster can always overrule decisions by Scots. This is true for all reserved matters and the forthcoming vote in Westminster will only emphasise that if you want to get rid of Trident then the most effective and realistic way of achieving this is through Scottish independence. Perhaps not the message Scottish Labour were intending to send out.

Impact on Scottish Labour

The biggest impact of this vote may be on the Labour party itself.  For the dilemma for Labour in Scotland is that if it wants to convince a majority of Scots that their future is best served by continuing to remain in the UK, then they need to demonstrate that the views of Scots have some kind of influence at Westminster. This has to be in relation to reserved matters, not just Trident, but defence and foreign policy and above all, on macro-economic policy. Otherwise Labour runs the risk of a slow, but steady move of more and more Scots in favour of independence. After all if the UK is a union of equals, how come Scotland is always outvoted at Westminster?

If Labour seriously wants to preserve Scotland in the Union, then it needs to quickly come up with some practical ways of increasing Scotland’s say in reserved matters. I can think of two that would have some, though limited effect. The first is to campaign for PR for Westminster and to succeed in persuading the UK Labour party to do the same. With a PR system on the Scottish or German lines, it becomes difficult for a single party to achieve an overall majority on its own. PR would certainly prevent a party with only 37% of votes winning complete power. As the Tories did last May. With more parties represented in Westminster, Scottish MPs could expect to have greater influence on decisive votes.

The other practical step for Labour in Scotland is for the party to become a completely separate party from the UK party. A party with similar or the same values if you like, but accountable to a different electorate – the people of Scotland. Such a move would give Scottish Labour MPs a greater mandate at Westminster, when it comes to negotiating votes at Westminster. If the UK Labour wanted the support of Scottish Labour there would have to be some give and take. The views of Scottish Labour, if different from UK Labour would have to be recognised and taken into account in any negotiations.

If both steps were taken and the UK did move to PR, then, in a more plural Westminster, not just Scottish Labour but all Scottish MPs could expect to wield more power and influence than at present.  Together this might be enough to persuade enough Scots that Scottish Labour has something different and interesting to say.

While these steps might well increase the power and influence of Scottish MPs at Westminster, it would still only be a slight increase. Welcome enough , but perhaps not decisive enough. As with Trident, if you really want the decisions that affect Scotland and its future to be taken by the people who live in Scotland, then the only way to ensure that is in an independent Scotland.

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What’s Left for UK?

It is getting harder and harder to keep up with developments in the referendum campaign as the No side shows increasing signs of imploding. They clearly have lots of problems, and with all the dissension and infighting it is a wonder they have any time left for serious campaigning. But maybe serious campaigning is just beyond the assorted Unionists and Britnats that make up the No side. Robing McAlpine has a typically robust dismantling of the faults at the heart of Better Together, though he is none too impressed by the Yes campaign. A must read article which appeared on Bella Caledonia and you can find it here.

One by one the key scare stories of the No side keep falling down as the truth sooner or later emerges. Even shipbuilding in an independent Scotland it seems is now safe. The main story over the weekend though was the unnamed senior government minster who openly admitted that, “of course” there would be a currency union if Scotland votes Yes. Many people have examined the implications of this admission. The key one perhaps is that the credibility of the UK government and their acolytes in the No side has been pretty much destroyed. However I want to focus on just one part of the minister’s admission, which was the link between a currency union and rUK getting to keep Trident in Scotland.

Now I do not believe for a moment that any Scottish negotiating team would agree to Trident remaining in Scotland a day beyond what will be needed to secure its safe removal. What is much more interesting is what this link says about why the British establishment is so opposed to Scottish independence. It all comes down to loss of prestige and status in the world. The economic contribution that Scotland makes to the UK treasury and the UK’s trade balance should not be underestimated, but it would not in the fullness of time make that great a difference to total GDP or GDP per capita.  rUK would remain a very wealthy country with a large economy.

What it would not remain is the same size. Without Scotland rUK becomes quite a small sized state in world terms. Most important and of greatest relevance is that it would look rather small. Though Scotland represents less than 10% of UK population, Scotland accounts for around 32% of UK landmass. If you factor in the territorial waters then it seems that Scotland would be more or less the same size as rUK.  This means that rUK would rank below both Belarus and Kazakhstan in terms of landmass. If Wales and Northern Ireland were to leave rUK it would be even worse, as little England would be smaller than Greece. Just exactly what the British establishment most fears for their “Great” Britain.

Becoming significantly smaller in size and losing the name Great Britain would be bad enough. But to lose the Trident nuclear weapon system as well would strike a fatal blow to all that the top brass in London hold most dear. Their seat at the top table in the UN Security Council. Their continued membership of this elite club will be severely tested if Scotland votes for independence. If rUK cannot retain Trident in some form or another, then this membership would be all but impossible to maintain.  President Obama recently tried to dismiss and belittle Russia as merely a regional power.  Without Scotland and without Trident rUK would be hard pressed to be gain even this accolade – a regional power.

The establishment in London, all of them, from politicians, the military, finance, business, to the media will fight tooth and nail to prevent this ignominious end of “Great” Britain and their entry card into the world’s elite clubs. In the eyes of this group a currency union would be a small price to pay to keep Trident.  It won’t work of course, so we can expect even more bitterness from Better Together.

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