Nicola Sturgeon accused the UK Government of “playing games” over Trident as MPs prepared to vote today on the renewal of the nuclear deterrent.
The First Minister also warned that it would be “unforgivable” if the Labour Party were to split over the Commons vote.
The SNP’s 54 MPs were to vote against the renewal of the deterrent based at Faslane on the Clyde after earlier calling for the vote to be delayed.
Ms Sturgeon said: “I think the timing of the vote is political, and on an issue as important as the future of a nuclear deterrent the government should not be playing games with the vote. I think it should have been delayed. We have just had a period of perhaps the greatest political chaos and turmoil that we’ve seen in recent times, and this vote is happening without the proper scrutiny that should have led up to it.
“The SNP said that vote should be delayed, but it is happening notwithstanding the fact that we’ve called for it to be delayed. In those circumstances, parties have to decide what side of this debate they are on. SNP MPs will vote against the renewal of Trident and I hope Labour MPs will do the same.
“I think it would be unforgivable if we have a Labour Party that splits perhaps three ways on this, instead of taking a principled decision against the renewal of Trident and against the spending of perhaps £200 billion on weapons we know can never be used, that are not the right way to defend us in the modern world. I think it would be unforgivable if the principal opposition party didn’t provide real opposition today.”
Scotland’s only Labour MP, Ian Murray, who is opposed to the renewal of Trident, criticised the Conservatives for “showboating” over the vote. He said: “This, for me, is an issue of conscience and I think most MPs will have to wrestle with their conscience in terms of how they vote. I think it’s right the Labour Party has a free vote on this. I think all votes of conscience in the House of Commons should always be a free vote.
“The country is completely divided on this, I think actually the latest polling shows marginal support for the renewal of Trident.”
He added: “I don’t think people should abstain today. You can either be for the renewal of the nuclear deterrent or against the renewal of the nuclear deterrent.”
In Edinburgh, two anti-Trident activists climbed an outside wall on an outbuilding at Holyrood Palace and attached a banner which read “HMS Trident 2? We say naw!”