Holyrood 2016: Scottish Labour '˜at war' over Trident

Scottish Labour's position on nuclear weapons was last night described as a 'shambles' after a senior party figure rejected its manifesto commitment to abandon Trident renewal.

One of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines at Faslane. Picture: PA
One of the UK's four nuclear warhead-carrying submarines at Faslane. Picture: PA

Labour’s opponents claimed the party was “at war” when Jackie Baillie made a submission to the party’s defence review claiming the nuclear deterrent should be maintained and scrapping Trident renewal would put thousands of jobs at risk.

Ms Baillie, the party’s public services spokeswoman, made her contribution just days after Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale endorsed a manifesto arguing against
Trident renewal.

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In a letter to Emily Thornberry MP, the Shadow Secretary of Defence and Chair of the review, Ms Baillie said that scrapping Trident would put more than 13,000 local jobs at risk, and threaten thousands more across Scotland and the UK.

Prior to this Thursday’s election Ms Baillie was the Labour member for Dumbarton, a constituency that includes the Faslane Naval Base where the missiles are housed. She has been a long-standing supporter of Trident renewal.

Ms Baillie said 6,800 people are directly employed by the Royal Navy and its contractors on the site. A further 4,500 jobs are dependent on the base through the supply chain and the local economy.

On top of that, the Ministry of Defence expects the directly employed workforce to rise by 2,000 in the next few years when Faslane becomes the sole base for the UK’s submarine fleet.

Ms Baillie hit out at those who want to abandon Trident without putting in place plans to replace the jobs which depend on the base.

Ms Baillie said: “I will stand up for local jobs by continuing to make the case for maintaining the UK’s nuclear deterrent at Faslane and Coulport.

“This is a position I have held consistently during my 16 years as the MSP for this area and I will continue to defend the jobs of base workers. I will always put the interests of local people ahead of my party.

“There will be a vote on Trident renewal later this year in the House of Commons and a substantial number of Labour MPs are likely to support renewal. I will continue to stand by the workforce at Faslane and Coulport whatever happens.”

Labour’s position on nuclear weapons has been the source of confusion. At its Autumn conference, Scottish Labour delegates voted to scrap Trident even though the UK party’s position was for renewal.

The Scottish party’s decision was a boost for UK leader Jeremy Corbyn who has campaigned his whole political life for nuclear disarmament.

But it was an uncomfortable moment for Ms Dugdale, who had previously expressed support for Trident renewal.