Scots have their say on the pros and cons of Trident

Deterrent is essential to ward off threats in the future




THIS Wednesday the House of Commons will vote on the future of the UK nuclear deterrent. Parliament will be asked to support the measures set out in the deterrent white paper, which describe the decisions we must take now to ensure future governments can maintain a nuclear deterrent. The vote will bring to a conclusion the public and parliamentary debate on Trident that has been taking place over recent months.

Actually, the Labour Party has been debating this issue for as long as I can remember. Thankfully we have come a long way since our unilateralist days of the 1980s. Now, it is a Labour government which faces the difficult choice of whether to maintain our nuclear deterrent beyond the 2020s. Being in government means making tough decisions, and taking responsibility for the security of the nation.

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Large nuclear arsenals still exist around the world, some of which, in secret, are being expanded and modernised. The number of countries with nuclear weapons continues to grow. Several countries that have nuclear weapons or are trying to acquire them are in regions where instability may increase. Right now there isn't a country which has a nuclear capacity and the desire to threaten us - but countries' intentions can change quickly - more quickly than we could re-acquire a nuclear capability if we allow it to lapse.

We must make a decision now. We will not be able to maintain continuous deterrent patrols after the second Vanguard submarine leaves service, which will be around 2024. Our first new submarine must be available by this date. Experts estimate that to design, manufacture, test and deploy a new class of submarine will take around 17 years.

Some have argued that to maintain Trident while working to suppress the nuclear ambitions of other states is hypocritical. I disagree. Maintaining our deterrent is fully compliant with both the letter and the spirit of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Article VI does not establish any timetable for nuclear disarmament, nor does it prohibit the recognised nuclear weapons states, like the UK, from updating - all the other recognised nuclear states have done the same thing.

The treaty urges recognised nuclear states to work towards disarmament. The UK is doing so. We remain fully committed to achieving our goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. But that goal is hard to reach. It requires action to prevent nuclear proliferation and to pursue disarmament by the existing nuclear weapon states. The UK is at the forefront of efforts on both.

In comparison to other NPT-recognised nuclear weapons states, we possess by far the smallest arsenal of nuclear weapons - less than 1 per cent of the total global stockpile - and the white paper announced a further 20 per cent reduction. No-one can doubt that the UK is fully committed to the prevention of further proliferation and to nuclear disarmament.

This is a hard decision to make and if we could find a way of delaying it then of course we would. But we can't.

I am certain that what we are proposing is right for the country now, and for an uncertain future.

The threat to use nuclear weapons is as immoral as actual use



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THE Catholic Church has a long history of opposition to nuclear weapons.

Over the past year Cardinal Keith O'Brien has taken a leading role in promoting this case. Along with other Christian leaders such as the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church, Cardinal O'Brien has issued a ringing call to make Trident history. This is the churches' challenge to our politicians.

There are many reasons to oppose Trident's replacement. For example, there are strong arguments about the cost - where else could we spend 25 billion? Several military figures say there is no strategic reason why the UK should retain nuclear weapons.

However, the main opposition is on moral grounds.

In 1965, at the end of the Second Vatican Council, the Catholic Church condemned weapons which cause "indiscriminate destruction". In 1982 the Scottish Catholic bishops stated that: "If it is immoral to use nuclear weapons, it is also immoral to threaten their use." In April 2006 the Catholic bishops of Scotland called for Trident's decommissioning, with the money saved to be spent on aid and development programmes.

One Trident submarine is on patrol at all times, in our name, targeting people with nuclear weapons. Thus, we are making enemies of people of whom we know nothing. The Christian viewpoint calls us to love our neighbour and to treat them as we would like to be treated ourselves. Targeting people for annihilation does neither of these.

Pope Benedict XVI has stated clearly that "in a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims". He called for countries such as the UK which possess nuclear weapons to "strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament". The Pope believes the future of the world is at stake as a result of some states' desire to increase their nuclear arsenal.

The Pope called for greater efforts to promote non-proliferation. In his New Year message for 2007 he said: "The way to ensure a future of peace for everyone is found not only in international accords for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also in the determined commitment to seek their reduction and definitive dismantling. May every attempt be made to arrive through negotiation at the attainment of these objectives.

"The fate of the whole human family is at stake."

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The Catholic Church in Scotland hopes our government and MPs will heed these words.

The churches in Scotland have worked very closely to express their opposition to nuclear weapons. A petition with around 20,000 signatures sponsored by the Catholic Church, the Church of Scotland and the Scottish Episcopal Church, as well as Christians from many denominations, stating that Trident should not be replaced, was handed into the Ministry of Defence on 1 December, 2006.

There is a strong moral case against the retention and replacement of Trident. The voice of the churches, of trade unions, of civic society is clear in opposition to Trident and our politicians should act accordingly.

Joe Beltrami: Glasgow based lawyer

"I have never been in favour of Trident being in our waters. In principle I believe that it should not be renewed. It is far too costly and should be abolished or abandoned."

Clive Fairweather: Former prisons chief

"MAD - mutually assured destruction - is now irrelevant. During the Cold War and until recently, Trident served us well, but we are in a different world now, especially with the advent of suicide bombers. "

I think we should delay making a decision now."

Craig Murray: Former Foreign Office diplomat

"It should be scrapped. I find it incredible that we're thinking of spending 80 billion on a weapons system when it's not clear who it's meant to deter. I think we should be doing what we can to encourage nuclear disarmament, and we could start by doing it ourselves."

Michael Fry: Historian and writer

"No, I don't think we should replace Trident. I ask myself the question, on which country would we wish to drop this weapon and I can't name a single country or any circumstances when we would want to use it. The money would be much better spent on conventional weapons."

Peter Gillespie: Head of radio station Talk 107

"Yes it should be replaced, and I don't think we should give up our position as a world nuclear power when volatile states are trying to achieve that very position. We should replace it with the most cost-effective replacement possible that will do the job."

James Boyle: Chairman of cultural commission

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"No, I don't think Trident should be replaced. I don't know what its purpose is. It doesn't deter and it has no obvious strategic value."

Idris Jones: Scottish Episcopal Church primus

"Don't do it, because where we can act to reduce damage to the world we should do so; because where we have the chance to show courage and moral leadership we should take it; because using resources to improve education and health care is a better option."

Pat Kane: Writer, musician and activist

"Trident should not be replaced. I'm convinced that its renewal would contribute to nuclear proliferation. It's probably the number one reason why I'm supportive of the politics of independence for Scotland, because of its long tradition of being anti-nuclear and anti-militarist."

Canon Kenyon Wright: Former chair, Scottish Constitutional Convention

"Trident is an abomination, it is absolutely wrong, it should not be replaced. I recall the opinion of Lord Mountbatten, who said nuclear weapons make no military sense. Who are we deterring? In what possible circumstances would we ever use these weapons."

Gerald Laing: Artist and sculptor

"We all signed a non-proliferation agreement years ago and have not kept our part of it very well. We cannot expect other nations to desist if we, in our strong position, do not get rid of them ourselves.

If we have a nuclear war it will be goodbye to the human race."

Alan McDonald: Church of Scotland Moderator

"20 billion is an obscene amount to spend, but even if a Trident replacement cost nothing, we should still have nothing to do with it. Because it's wrong, morally, and theologically.

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There can be no place for weapons of mass destruction in the world that God loves so much."

Duncan McLaren: FoE Scotland chief executive

"Climate change is the new global threat that needs urgent attention. Spending billions on renewing Trident would do nothing to address this problem and would actually help destabilise the world in other ways."

Morgan Mylne: Church and Nation Committee

"There are no circumstances in which we would find [replacing Trident] to be the right thing to do. This is based on [the Kirk's] view that the consequences of using nuclear weapons would be abhorrent and grossly disproportionate in the context of warfare."

Cardinal O’Brien: Head of Scottish Catholics

"The Scottish bishops welcome the Prime Minister's comment that there should be the fullest possible public debate. We urge the government not to invest in a replacement for Trident and to decommission these weapons and divert the money to aid and development."

Osama Saeed: Scottish spokesman of the Muslim Association of Britain

"I do not trust the Prime Minister. He says Trident will be outdated in 17 years, but expert physicists say it should last 100 years. He says we need to take a decision now to develop a new system by 2024, but we're led to believe Iran could build one that would imperil us imminently."

Robbie the Pict: Veteran Scottish campaigner

"Spend the money on our needs and we will be much happier, instead of stitching ourselves into a long-term nuclear pact with Anglo-US megalomania, and more of the international embarrassment that might bring, just as we are organising our amicable divorce."

Ian Rankin: Edinburgh author of Rebus novels

"I think we can afford to put off that decision. There is no need to replace it straight away without thinking it through. My instinct is to avoid it, but my wife and I came up with a list of pros and cons. There were more cons than pros, but there are definitely strong arguments in favour."

Geoff Runcie: Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce

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"The current deterrent has been effective against perceived and real threats over a long period of time.

A world without a sledgehammer deterrent might be a very different and worse place than it is today. But is the greatest threat not our own pollution of the planet?"

Hardeep Singh Kohli: Writer and director

"The renewal has fallen in a period of devolved government in Scotland, and it doesn't seem to me a decision the Scots are making. Trident, if I'm right in thinking, is a weapon of mass destruction, so I'm not confident our government could find it anyway."

Paul Wilkinson: Expert on terrorism, academic

"I welcome the idea of reducing the number of warheads. "We should be very careful about the way we develop this policy with a mind to ensuring we don't jeopardise the counter-proliferation measures the UN and international community realise are necessary."