SCOTTISH Labour leader Kezia Dugdale confirmed yesterday that the party will debate the future of the UK’s nuclear weapons and Scotland’s place in the world at its next party conference.
Ms Dugdale pledged to create “a more democratic Scottish Labour Party” where members will be free to discuss big issues and said Trident must be debated at the party conference in Perth in October.
While she acknowledged that defence is reserved to Westminster and the decision on the Faslane-based missiles will have to be taken by MPs from across the UK, she said it is important Scottish Labour make space to debate the issue.
Jeremy Corbyn, the left-wing frontrunner in the race to lead UK Labour, has set out plans to accelerate progress on international nuclear disarmament by scrapping the renewal of Trident and retraining existing nuclear defence workers. His rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall all back the renewal of Trident.
Alex Rowley, Scottish Labour’s new deputy leader, said on Saturday he has not seen a convincing case for the renewal of Trident and called for “a debate across the party, the country and a referendum” on renewal.
Speaking on a visit to a Lloyds Bank call centre in Glasgow, Ms Dugdale said: “What Alex and I both support is a more democratic Scottish Labour Party, that means not being afraid of having the type of political debate that the country wants to see, and that means at our party conference in October creating the space for party members to decide and debate the big ideas, the big issues, of the day.
“The big focus of that has got to be the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, there’s big questions that we have to grapple with as a party and resolve, so we’ll be creating the space for party members to do that and Alex, like myself, is just pointing out that one of the big issues we will need to debate in the future is things like Trident and Scotland’s place in the world.
““We’ll never shy away from having democratic debates at party conference.”
She added: “Alex and I have both said that we think it’s the right thing to do for the Scottish Labour Party to have policy and to talk about all areas that affect Scottish life.
“I don’t think your average voter in the street stops and thinks whether something is devolved or reserved before they have a view on it, so why should the Scottish Labour Party?”
In an interview with The Herald on Saturday, Mr Rowley said: “It is a military issue, with serious question marks over whether it is the best way to defend the country, but it is also a moral issue.
“On such a massive issue, there should be debate across the party, the country, and a referendum. I have not seen the case made as to why we would renew but the most striking thing is a complete lack of debate.”