Scottish Labour Ditches Opposition to Trident Renewal for UK election

As nuclear weapons go centre-stage in the UK General Election and in Japan, campaigners have criticised Scottish Labour for having one stance on nuclear weapons for Holyrood elections and another for UK general elections.

Scottish Labour adopted a position against Trident renewal in 2015 and fought the 2016 Holyrood elections on that basis. However, in its manifestos for the 2017 and 2019 general elections it toes the UK party line. The current version states: “Defence is a reserved issue and UK Labour continues to support the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent.”

That’s a moral abandonment.

UK Labour’s stance was confirmed this week by Shadow Defence spokesperson Nia Griffiths on Radio Four’s Any Questions1 this week – the familiar emphasis on the need to maintain a “deterrent” to be able to negotiate for disarmament.

Following the formal signing of the ICAN Parliamentarian’s Pledge by SNP and Green MSPs, several Scottish Labour MSPs, including the Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard, signed the Pledge to ‘work for the signature and ratification of this landmark treaty by our respective countries, as we consider the abolition of nuclear weapons to be a global public good of the highest order’. This is a serious commitment. Richard Leonard also attended the visit to the Parliament by ICAN CEO Beatrice Fihn and the photocall that was arranged by the Nuclear Disarmament CPG of which he is a member.

Lynn Jamieson, Chair of Scottish CND said:

Time for politicians to change the tired old script, waiving around a threat of exploding nuclear bombs to destroy people and planet. It is a perversion of sanity that makes this seem like good leadership. Politicians should have the moral courage to be honest and tell uncomfortable truths. Trident wastes money that we don’t have to make us a target. The world is moving away from nuclear weapons – two thirds of the countries in the world have signed the UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons since 2017 and so should the UK. We invite a change to the narrative from ‘will you press the button’ to ‘what steps will you to take towards global nuclear disarmament’, The majority of Scottish people don’t want 200 nuclear warheads based on our waters or anywhere. All politicians should keep this in mind.“

Janet Fenton, ICAN Liaison in Scotland said:

In supporting the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, it is Scotland rather than the UK, that is in tune with the world view. Any Nuclear weapons use or accident will be catastrophic for humans and for our planet. Scottish Labour needs to decide what kind of internationalist influence it wants to have.

Meanwhile Pope Francis, speaking of the need to eliminate nuclear weapons during his visit to Nagasaki, said: “We must never grow weary of working to support the principal international legal instruments of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.”

Comments (11)

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  1. bringiton says:

    Even the British military establishment say that the money wasted on Trident iwould be better spent
    on conventional forces.
    Nuclear weapons are a political tool and not a “deterrent” and are seen by the British establishment as a symbol of global power allowing them a seat at the top table.
    Trouble is,no one else sees it that way and Brexit has done more to undermine their perceived power than anything else,as well as having BoJo the clown designated Foreign Minister and now PM.
    Politicians who glibly claim they would be prepared to use these weapons are lying for political purposes since the deterrence spin is not credible,no peace in our time.

  2. James Mills says:

    Did Jo ”Strangelove ” Swinson or any of her ‘Liberal’ Scottish team sign this pledge ?

  3. Ward Wilson says:

    Just a note for Lynn Jamieson. I entirely agree that the tired old script in favor of nuclear weapons is “a perversion of sanity” and think that is rather well put. However, two thirds of the countries in the world have not signed the treaty. 122 states voted for the treaty when it was presented in the UN, which represents 62.6% of the countries in the world. So far only 80 countries have actually signed the treaty, which is 41% of the countries in the world. I know I’m being nit-picky and kind of a pain, but I think it’s important to be accurate so as not to give the other side anything to work with. Keep giving them hell. (They’ve earned it.)

    1. Lynn Jamieson says:

      Hi, Yes you are right and I was wrong. I got to twothirds by mistakenly starting with the wrong humber of states. It was a genuine muddle but a bad one. I should have double checked my thinking and humbly apologies. Lynn Jamieson

      1. Lynn Jamieson says:

        PS It will be close to two thirds soon enough, if all those who have voted for the treaty do indeed sign it.

    2. Flavia says:

      Thanks for this. Yes you’re right, it should have been “in support” rather than “signed”. Flavia Scottish CND

  4. Richard Denton, MD Emeritus says:

    I fully agree that the use of nuclear weapons will soon become illegal with 50 countries ratifying the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that is in compliance with Article 6 of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Deterrence doesn’t work against accidents, miscalculations or for terrorists. It didn’t deter Argentina from attacking Britain over the Falklands nor did it deter North Korea attacking the South. We need to get rid of all nuclear weapons and the Trident submarines are a first step. Modernizing nuclear weapons is a poor use of a very large amount of money.

  5. Meg Beresford says:

    i was appalled when I heard Nia Griffiths on Any Questions speaking about Labour Party support for Trident, Faslane and nuclear power.
    I agree with Lynn Jamieson and Janet Fenton’s words above.

  6. Alasdair Macdonald says:

    This is another example of the myth of the “Scottish” Labor Party, which allegedly has autonomy. Mr Leonard exemplifies this by saying that “Scottish” Labour will campaign for Remain in another EU referendum, which is different from the stance of the Labour Party. Foreign afairs, which is where the EU lies is ‘a reserved matter’. However, despite opposing nuclear weapons in Holyrood (with the exception of Ms Jackie Baillie), “Scottish” Labour supports Trident renewal, because it is a reserved matter and it is for the Labour Party to decide.

    Now, I have no doubt that the all the individual MSPs (bar one, who appears to be acting principledly in this case) sitting for “Scottish” Labour in Holyrood are opposed sincerely to nuclear weapons, yet, they support a ‘precious union’ which is prepared to visit the effects of appalling weapons on ‘foreigners’, except that they won’t have to because, they claim ‘deterrence works’


    Trident and the House of Lords ! That’s what you call a left wing alternative government !

  8. SleepingDog says:

    Nuclear weapons are also used to maintain or create monarchical systems of political power (usually one person has or delegates authority to nuke civilian populations round the globe), which is useful in preserving the unaccountable and opaque militarist-security powers of the British state, under the royal prerogatives. There have never been democratic ways of launching nukes, to my knowledge (and it they were, I guess there would quickly be nuclear disarmament). See Elaine Scarry, Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom for a full explanation. Basically nukes are extremely anti-democratic, remember that when you are voting. Also, ecocide weapons of mass destruction, and genocide weapons of innocent-murder. They’ll make a mess that cannot be cleaned up.

    Also, nuclear weapons have been used since 1945 as Daniel Ellsberg describes in Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, where he lists 25 USAmerican nuclear threats from all Presidents up to and including Bill Clinton (these were usually kept secret from the public at the time). None of the US Presidents ruled out first strike (unlike USSR of China). I don’t have a list of British nuclear threats, but then UK official secrecy is extreme. This has long been considered the gravest crime against humanity by the UN General Assembly (

    And we have only survived so far by luck and occasional desperate human intervention in systems which should otherwise have destroyed human civilization. You can see the Chatham House (official UK) report on Too Close for Comfort: Cases of Near Nuclear Use and Options for Policy (2014) although there will be many other still-classified secrets, or the testimony of US ex-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Cuban Missile Crisis insider) in The Fog of War documentary.

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