TAXPAYERS in Scotland spend half a million pounds a day maintaining nuclear weapons, according to SNP ministers.
The Scottish share of the estimated £2 billion a year it costs the UK to maintain Trident is £163 million annually, veterans minister Keith Brown told Holyrood yesterday.
The same amount is being spent to build nine schools under the Schools for the Future programme, an infrastructure investment progress report stated in January.
But Conservative leader Ruth Davidson accused the SNP of spending the money that would be saved, if Trident was scrapped, several times over.
She quoted SNP politicians who suggest diverting such cash to conventional defence, conflict resolution, frontline services, infrastructure, shovel-ready projects, job creation, youth unemployment, colleges, child poverty, welfare, nurses, teachers, schools, hospitals and tackling inequality.
Turning to a leaked independence document by finance secretary John Swinney, Ms Davidson said: “£163 million won’t go far. It’s going to cost nearly four times that to run a Scottish tax system every year.”
Mr Brown accused the Tories of dismissing the human cost of nuclear weapons by trying to delete a government motion that acknowledges their “devastating humanitarian impact”.
He quoted two former UK defence secretaries, Tory Michael Portillo and Labour’s Des Browne, who said respectively that nuclear weapons “serve no purpose whatsoever” and that their use would be “suicidal”.
Ms Davidson responded that it was misguided to depict Trident supporters like herself as “immoral, trigger-happy, war-crazed, Dr Strangelove-esque and intent on destruction”.
Dr Strangelove is a 1964 film satire about military insanity and nuclear war.
As well as costing £2bn a year to maintain, Trident’s replacement is expected to cost £20bn to build and £100bn over its lifetime, Mr Brown said. He also challenged the notion that nuclear weapons are a “deterrent”, insisting they did not deter Argentina from invading the Falklands in 1982 and may even prevent the UK from defending the islands in future by using money that could be spent on the navy.
Nor has the threat of nuclear attack deterred other countries, such as North Korea, from developing nuclear weapons, he said.
“A Scottish CND report, entitled If Britain Fired Trident, sets out in horrifying detail the consequences of a nuclear attack on a large urban area.”
But Labour’s Ken Macintosh attacked the Scottish Government for choosing an “entirely spurious debate” on Trident. It is “difficult not to be deeply sceptical of the reasons and the motivation behind the SNP calling today’s debate,” he said.
The “[political] difficulties the SNP have found themselves in in recent weeks” were a key reason behind the debate, he said.