A classic manoeuvre you will all be familiar with a report commissioned by the establishment produces findings in support of the establishment. A three-year study into the value of renewing Britain’s Trident nuclear missile programme in 2016 has come out in favour of retaining it, saying the weapons could “yet prove their worth” in preventing national blackmail or another security threat.
The commission cites the re-emergence of Russia as a potential threat which is interesting given Trident hasn’t deterred Russia from its annexation in the Crimea. The anti-nuclear campaigners shook their heads in dismay, but not surprise. The commission’s membership drew heavily from proponents of Trident, meaning it was a foregone conclusion.
The UK Government is due to make a decision about renewing the programme in 2016 at a cost of £15bn – £20bn, with £100bn in costs estimated for the lifetime of the proposed successor system.
To put things into a bit of perspective, the Scottish Government released a report on the same day on Poverty and Income Inequality in Scotland showing that up to one million Scots are living in poverty.
Scotland’s poorest households have seen the largest decrease in their income with a reduction of around 8% in 2012/13 approximately £20 a week. Six in 10 children living in poverty come from households where at least one adult is in work.
These are big figures, demonstrating the direct link between Westminster policy choices and poverty in Scotland. All the work done to reduce poverty in recent years is now being reversed.
Westminster welfare reforms, such as the reduction in in-work tax credits, are reducing incomes for some of our poorest households.
The most frustrating thing about it is that there is absolutely no good reason for one million Scots to be in poverty given Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world.
It’s a compelling and ethical argument; spend money on taking innocent children out of poverty instead of a costly deterrent system.
But the 43-page report by the “cross-party” Trident Commission was made up of former diplomats, defence experts and even led by three Scottish politicians. Surely they know better?
Scots Labour peer Lord Browne, the Conservatives’ Sir Malcolm Rifkind, as well as former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, all advocate Trident meaning the commision’s conclusions were unlikely to be anything different. With no representative from the SNP, never mind Plaid Cymru or the Greens, it’s also a bit of a cheek to call it cross-party.
And I’m sure many readers will find it particularly sad to see the Labour Party, given its traditional position against WMD, using an intellectually lazy defence of nuclear weapons as the status quo. However, the Labour leadership’s support for more nuclear bombs, as part of a Westminster consensus, is one of the factors driving Labour supporters towards a Yes vote.
Ironically, given the Trident report was supposed to demonstrate the UK moving towards its international obligations of nuclear disarmament, the biggest issue which they have conveniently postponed until 2015 was whether to build four new submarines or three.
Let’s make it easy for them and have nothing to do with this charade.
Spending billions on WMD just because other people have them isn’t a good enough reason. Many in the defence establishment believe it makes no military sense either.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) says the report has done little to challenge the pro-Trident mindset which dominates government. We are jeopardising the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and swimming against the tide of public opinion.
Tweeting about the report, Martin Butcher, the Arms and Conflict Policy Adviser at Oxfam, said the Trident Commission was giving Yes Scotland an unintended boost by recommending keeping Trident.
Perhaps he was right. The UK government has missed its chance to chart a better course.
The Scottish Government states that Trident should be removed from an independent Scotland by 2020 before we are hit with a further share of the costs, and would like to have removal of them written into a Scottish constitution.
The Trident Commission itself warns: “We need to be transparent about the cost to the public purse.” Indeed we do and it’s crystal clear we face a choice of two futures.
We can remain part of an establishment that pumps billions into a deterrent while plunging thousands more into poverty, or invest the vast sums of money saved by scrapping Trident in building a fairer Scotland. Transforming childcare would benefit 240,000 children across the country.
We can boycott international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons like the UK government or face the world with a clean conscience and be a beacon of social democracy meeting our international obligations head on.
We can let someone over 400 miles away make decisions for us or do it ourselves.
In September we can do something about it and vote “yes”.