THE cost of replacing the UK’s nuclear deterrent could be as high as £167 billion, politicians opposed to the Trident weapons system have claimed.
But union officials have queried the figure and say the future of more than 10,000 skilled jobs at yards in Scotland and England depend on the existing system being renewed.
The UK Government’s most recent estimate on the procurement of a new nuclear deterrent was £25 billion. It is now in the process of updating these estimates to help inform the Comprehensive Spending Review and Strategic Defence and Security Review.
Presuming the new deterrent is active from 2028, and maintenance of the fleet costs around six per cent of the UK’s annual defence budget as the Government has suggested, the total cost of the deterrent could reach £167 billion by 2060, Conservative MP Crispin Blunt told Reuters.
Stewart Hosie MP, SNP deputy leader, said it was an “unthinkable and indefensible sum of money to spend on the renewal of an unwanted and unusable nuclear weapons”.
An spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said the UK Government was “committed to maintaining a minimum continuous at-sea deterrence in order to deter the most extreme threats that the UK and its vital interests might face.”
The Trident succesor programme is absolutely crucial to the future of defence jobs in Scotland and across the UKGary Smith, GMB
The existing nuclear armed Vanguard-class submarines will start to reach the end of their lives from the late 2020s.
The UK Parliament previously voted in 2007 and 2015 to support plans to replace them in order to renew the UK’s nuclear deterrent.
A definitive vote on the issue, once detailed costings have been revealed, is expected next year.
Opposition to nuclear weapons has intensified north of the border in recent weeks, with Scottish Labour conference delegates voting against plans to build a new generation of submarines capable of firing ballistic missiles.
A majority of MSPs backed a motion on November 3 calling on the UK Government to drop its plans to commission a new
The only Labour MSP to vote against was Jackie Baillie, whose Dumbarton constituency includes HMNB Clyde, the naval dockyard at Faslane where the Vanguard fleet is based.
The base will become home to all of the UK’s submarine fleet from 2020, with 8500 employees based on site from 2022.
She told Holyrood that more than a quarter of West Dumbartonshire’s full-time workforce was employed at Faslane and that scrapping Trident would place their future in jeopardy.
Politicians and trade unions opposed to renewal of the nuclear deterrent argue that the cost would be better spent on conventional weaponry - such as warships - as part of a ‘diversification’ of the defence budget.
Gary Smith, acting regional secretary of the GMB union, which represents non-naval staff at Faslane and Roysth dockyards, said: “The Trident successor programme is absolutely crucial to the future of defence jobs in Scotland and across the UK.
“The argument going round that it will take away money from building surface ships is nonsense. The Type-26 frigate project is in jeopardy because of defence cuts.
“The truth is Trident is going to be built. The question is whether the submarines will be built in the UK or not. There is always pressure within the admiralty to build abroad as it is cheaper.
“The other concern for Scotland is that the Tories will take as much work as possible down south.
“The political establishment in Scotland is either ignorant or doesn’t give a damn as to what the political realities around the successor programme actually are.”
Stewart Hosie said: “The UK Government is facing a United Nations probe over its cuts to support for disabled people and yet the Government’s own figures reveal that they are prepared to spend an astronomical £167 billion dumping four new Trident submarines on the Clyde.
“It was already ludicrous to consider the renewal of Trident when the cost was £100 billion but these figures show just how dangerous the Tories’ obsession with nuclear really is.
“How can Tory MPs expect to be able to look their constituents in the eye when on the one hand they are taking thousands of pounds from hard-working low income families who rely on tax credits and with the other they plan to pour money into brand new weapons of mass destruction?
“And at a time when Scotland’s conventional defence capabilities have shrunk dramatically with base closures and less than 10,000 personnel it is alarming that there seems to be an endless amounts of money seems to be available for abhorrent nuclear weapons.”