There has been a lot of press coverage regarding the debate over Trident in recent weeks, owing especially to the failure of the Labour Party to debate it at their national Conference. The continued possession of and the renewal of Trident is a contentious issue and the SNP are fully against the renewal of these nuclear weapons. It seems important that we fully understand the negative impact of Trident and the consequences of nuclear warfare.
The U.K’s nuclear arsenal consists of four Vanguard class nuclear powered submarines based at Faslane. These are equipped to carry up to sixteen missiles which are capable of reaching targets up to 7,500 miles away. This generation of submarines are due to be phased out by 2032 however construction of a new fleet, essentially a renewal of them is due to begin in 2016.
The economic cost of Trident is huge and it is clear that the money spent on maintaining and renewing them could be used in much more valuable places. The renewal of Trident alone will cost the UK between £17.5 billion and £23.5 billion pounds however added to the cost of maintenance and upkeep these figures will rise to over £100 billion over the next forty years. This is completely unacceptable. The current UK government has made cuts in a multitude of key areas; the NHS, social care, welfare and police forces to name just a few. Austerity is on the rise and funds devoted to Trident could help to alleviate this pressure. Food banks in the U.K are on the rise with the number of people using food banks in the year 2013-14 almost tripling from the previous year, at a total of 913,138 according to the Trussell Trust. How can we realistically propose spending all this money on our defence budget when there are a growing number of people starving? It is for these reasons that economically, SNP are fully against the renewal of Trident.
Only nine countries own nuclear weapons; the U.S, Russia, the U.K, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Five countries also host nuclear weapons through international alliances and treaties however without the threat of nuclear warfare might not feel the need to do so. It is clear then that owning nuclear weapons is not a top priority for a number of countries throughout the world. Perhaps the ownership of nuclear weapons has an underlying purpose then, to portray and emphasise an image of power. These countries which have nuclear weapons may see themselves as an international nuclear superpower and essentially, a world leader. Is this an acceptable reason for possession of them? Here at SNP we would rather our country be known for being at the forefront of nuclear disarmament, a much safer and morally-just stance.
A question of morality?
It is unclear whether any country will actually use their missiles and this is perhaps due to the deep moral reasoning that would have to take place before such a decision was made. Just recently we have had Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn admit that he would not authorise the use of nuclear weapons if he was in power and had to make the choice, in spite of the party’s support of the renewal of Trident. Prime Minister, David Cameron on the other hand, has declared that he would be willing to do this if he had to however it is unclear whether this is true or simply a show of power as referred to above. What is clear, is that deep moral considerations would have to be made before this decision was taken. To ‘push the button’ could be the declaration of the next world war and it is unclear in a moral sense, whether any country would be willing to unleash this devastation in this day and age. The effects that a nuclear weapon can have on human life and the environment are devastating. The devastation that atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WWII is still visible today and we have to remember that modern nuclear weapons are much more powerful than those used on Japan. As well as immediate blast effects, an atomic bomb can have lingering effects on a populace resulting from radioactive exposure such as; an increased likelihood of cancer, miscarriages, birth defects and death. Is it really possible to argue that unleashing this on any society is morally justifiable?
The damage to the environment can also be irreversible.The Red Cross has conducted research into the outcome and effects of a ‘limited nuclear war’ involving 100 Hiroshima sized bombs, which would have the power of less than 0.5% of the worlds current nuclear weapons. Their research showed that debris blasted into our upper atmosphere would cause global temperatures to fall severely for a number of years.
Deterrent or target?
Through these arguments some believe that although nuclear weapons should not be used, they should still be held. This stems from an idea that they will act as a deterrent, stopping other nations from attacking us. Not only is this a huge waste of money but it is also slightly deluded. The threats we are dealing with in this day and age are evidently not deterred by nuclear weapons and nuclear weapons would be useless for dealing with them – they did not help prevent 9/11, the London bombings and many other terrorist attacks.
Instead of this idea that nuclear weapons act as a ‘deterrent’ we should seriously consider whether, they could have the opposite effect, acting instead as a potential target. Those countries with nuclear weapons would be recognised as the the biggest threat to any hostile nation or group and so these would surely be targeted first?
Many argue about the loss of jobs that losing Trident would result in. In 2012 the Ministry of Defence reported that 520 civilian jobs were directly dependant on Trident. Although no loss of jobs is acceptable, this is a much smaller number than the 11,000 which the Labour party and Conservatives originally claimed would be lost. Moreover, the money that would be saved by getting rid of Trident could be diverted to other areas in Scotland such as infrastructure thereby creating more jobs and opening up a vast range of employment opportunities. As well as this, the abolition of Trident would not result in the end of military defense and spending completely and those with jobs directly linked to Trident could be utilised more effectively in other areas.
Overall, it is clear that nuclear weapons pose a huge threat to humanity and society. That is why we at SNP Youth fully support and promote SNP policy against the renewal of Trident.
Natalie Don SNP Youth Political Education Officer
There are plenty of ways to get involved in the campaign against the renewal of Trident and indeed, nuclear weapons on an international scale. The CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) lead the way in this and the SNP-CND join them at the forefront of this campaign.
For more information, further research or to get involved, follow these useful links.