NICOLA Sturgeon accused Chancellor George Osborne of “arrogance” yesterday after he announced more than £500 million of contracts for the Royal Navy’s submarine base at Faslane.
The First Minister attacked the Chancellor’s plans to prepare for a new generation of Trident nuclear weapons, thus pre-empting Parliament’s decision on the replacement for the system.
The UK government said the work, which is due to begin in 2017, would secure 6,700 jobs and create thousands more.
Mr Osborne said the investment was a “massive boost for Scotland and the UK’s defence”.
However Ms Sturgeon said: “This is an arrogant decision by the Chancellor to try to pre-empt Parliament’s decision on the replacement of Trident.
“It’s also a decision that is cruelly ironic. This is the same Chancellor who is slashing people’s working tax credits and taking vital support away from disabled people.
“If the Chancellor’s got £500m to spend then I think he’d be better advised to spend it on health, education, giving young people the best start in life and reversing some of his cruel attacks on the most vulnerable.”
She added: “I want strong conventional forces. There’s a great irony here that at the same time as the Tories want to spend tens of billions of pounds replacing Trident, the UK has seen deep cuts to conventional forces.
“We don’t have a single maritime patrol aircraft - given that we’re an island nation, that seems to be a real gap in our defences.”
John Swinney described the Chancellor’s decision as the “wrong priority”.
The Deputy First Minister said that if savings were made by not renewing Trident, it would enable money to be invested in conventional forces and “as a consequence enable us to properly protect our country”.
Mr Swinney, who is also Scottish finance secretary, said “many people” in Scotland have a “fundamentally different moral and strategic argument” to Mr Osborne’s about whether to renew the system.
Mr Swinney said the announcement was a bid to “stir it up within the Labour Party; to be blunt, to try to exacerbate some of the stances taken by Jeremy Corbyn”, who opposes Trident’s renewal.
Mr Osborne “is making the wrong moral choice to prioritise investment in nuclear weapons over the protection of some of the most vulnerable citizens of our country,” said Mr Swinney.
He argued the funding was clearly linked to Trident renewal and claimed it was premature of the UK government to “spend money” on projects connected to a new generation of nuclear weapons when a decision on those new weapons had yet to be made by the Westminster parliament.
Mr Swinney said: “We think that’s the wrong priority.”