THE SNP and Scottish Labour stood shoulder to shoulder last night after a historic vote saw the two parties unite to oppose Trident renewal.
Veterans secretary Keith Brown said that Holyrood had sent an “extremely powerful message” to David Cameron after the vote brought the two parties closer together over the controversial issue.
Labour has gone from a bit bonkers to irredeemable. I give upTom Harris
The convincing anti-nuclear weapons vote saw Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale reverse her stance on the issue as almost all Labour MSPs joined with the SNP to oppose Trident renewal.
The Scottish Parliament’s vote against Trident came as former Labour leader Lord Kinnock warned Jeremy Corbyn that British voters would never back unilateral nuclear disarmament.
At the end of a passionate debate on the issue, Mr Brown welcomed the position taken by Scottish Labour, which was in defiance of the UK party’s official policy in favour of Trident renewal.
He said: “I’m delighted we have managed to reach some kind of agreement on this after many years of being at odds and I hope we go on from this today and take this forward to the UK government and make sure we never again renew Trident nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
“We are going to have something like two-thirds of this chamber saying, ‘Do not renew Trident’. We are going to have 57 perhaps out of Scotland’s 59 MPs saying, ‘Do not renew Trident’. And where is Trident going to be if its renewed? It is going to be in Scotland. So I think it is an extremely powerful message to send out today.”
MSPs voted 96 to 17 in favour of a Scottish Government motion opposing Trident renewal, which had been amended by Labour so that it also included a call for a diversification strategy to protect defence workers’ jobs.
Labour front-bencher Jackie Baillie, whose Dumbarton constituency includes the nuclear base at Faslane, was the only MSP in her party not to support the motion and to vote for Trident renewal.
The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats also opposed the motion.
Ms Baillie’s pro-nuclear weapons argument, based on her claim that 13,000 jobs would be affected by cancelling the Trident successor, led to the SNP suggesting that she should step down from her role as public services spokeswoman in the shadow cabinet.
Ms Dugdale did not speak during the debate. But much attention was focused on how she would vote, given her previous support for multilateral disarmament – ie, only getting rid of nuclear weapons if it is part of a global strategy to do so.
In the end, Ms Dugdale voted for the anti-renewal motion just over 48 hours after Scottish Labour voted overwhelmingly against nuclear weapons at the party’s conference in Perth. Before Sunday’s conference debate, Ms Dugdale had said she would support whatever position the Scottish party took.
The Scottish conference decision was in line with Mr Corbyn’s personal views on Trident and has led to hope on the Labour far left that it will encourage the UK party to change its stance from retaining the deterrent to a unilateral approach.
But yesterday Lord Kinnock warned that opposing nuclear weapons would have disastrous consequences for Labour at the next general election.
It was under Lord Kinnock’s leadership that Labour abandoned its commitment to unilateral disarmament as he tried to make the party more electable in the 1980s.
“The debate is wide open,” Lord Kinnock said. “What I do know is the British people will not vote for unilateral disarmament, and that reality has to be dealt with.”
The former Glasgow South MP Tom Harris was another to vent his frustration at Labour’s position.
Mr Harris wrote on his Facebook page: “After 60 per cent votes for sure-fire election losers, IRA-supporting shadow chancellors and Scottish Labour unnecessarily splitting the party on issues over which it has no responsibility, we have a shadow minister telling Stop the War – a madcap coalition of Trots, Islamists and anti-West fury chimps – that Labour will consult them on how it will vote on Syria.
“So that’s it. Labour has jumped the shark. It has gone from ‘a bit bonkers’ to ‘irredeemable’ in the space of a single day.
“And I give up. That’s it for me. Giving. Up.”
During the Holyrood debate, Ms Baillie accused the SNP of not caring about the jobs generated by Trident.
She said: “Faslane is the single biggest site employer in Scotland. More than a quarter of West Dunbartonshire’s full-time workforce are employed there in good-quality well-paid jobs.
“The SNP don’t want to talk about jobs, the SNP are all about gesture politics – no concern for the workers, only for their position in the polls.”
But the SNP MSP Bill Kidd claimed that Ms Baillie’s decision not to follow the rest of her party made her position in the shadow cabinet untenable.
“While I welcome the fact that many Labour MSPs backed the SNP position on Trident and commend them for voting against these immoral weapons, the fact is that today’s vote raises more questions than answers on Labour’s position,” Mr Kidd said.
“If Labour’s official position in Scotland is to be anti-Trident, how can Jackie Baillie possibly remain in Labour’s shadow cabinet after voting against her own party’s apparent position? And the fact that Ms Baillie’s speech backing weapons of mass destruction was wildly applauded by the Tory benches should give her serious pause for thought.”
The last time Holyrood held a vote on Trident was in 2007. Back then the Scottish Parliament voted against renewal, but the vast majority of Labour MSPs abstained.