in Monday’s STV debate Patrick Harvie claimed the only purpose of nuclear weapons is the mass slaughter of the innocent, and that Scotland’s expulsion of Trident would put disarmament back on the international agenda. He is wrong on both counts.
First, the primary purpose of possessing nuclear weapons is deterrence. Imagine how much more overt Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine would be if he were unconstrained by the possibility of nuclear conflict with the West. Trident’s missiles are not currently targeted on population centres and, for all we know, the Prime Minister’s secret instructions in the event of a nuclear attack on the UK are not to retaliate.
Second, the removal of nuclear weapons from Faslane, even if it did precipitate the UK’s unilateral disarmament, would have no effect whatsoever on the USA or France, not to speak of Russia, China, Pakistan or North Korea.
So Scotland’s repudiation of Trident would be an empty moral gesture, doing nothing for international disarmament, and leaving the Scots in the hypocritical position of free-riding on American nuclear defence. Nuclear weapons are not the cause of international mistrust, but the effect. Unilateral disarmament would not make the world a safer place.
Regius Professor of Moral and Pastoral Theology
University of Oxford;
Director, McDonald Centre for Theology, Ethics and Public Life
As the independence debate has moved on to the defence of Scotland and the UK I have heard politicians from both sides state specifically that the UK has the fourth largest defence budget in the world.
Set that statistic against the fact that the army has been so reduced in numbers and equipment it couldn’t defend the Isle of Wight (let alone the Falklands the next time Argentina sneezes), the RAF has been reduced to about 100 aircraft and the Navy’s only aircraft carrier is still in pieces at Rosyth, and won’t have aircraft to fly until 2020 at the earliest.
One has to ask what on earth Westminster gets for that world’s fourth largest military budget – it hasn’t spent it on the new Trident, because those bills haven’t been paid yet… so what the devil has the Ministry of Defence done with our money?