I wrote yesterday about attitudes in England towards the Scottish referendum. England, Wales and Northern Ireland – as well as places further afield – will be affected by the result. Like many English people hoping for a Yes vote, I’m motivated mainly by a desire to get rid of Trident.
The future of the Trident nuclear weapons system is one of the biggest issues at stake in this referendum. It is currently located at Faslane in Scotland, as no other UK port is considered deep enough for docking nuclear submarines. The SNP have promised to get rid of it Scotland votes Yes, leaving the UK government with a major problem about where to move it to.
While I’m hoping that a Yes vote will be a major step forward for campaigns against nuclear weapons, I am concerned that some of my fellow peace activists are sounding a bit naïve about it.
It’s sometimes implied that Trident’s removal is a foregone conclusion if Scotland votes Yes. But, to be frank, I don’t trust the SNP to keep to their commitment to getting rid of it. They may use it as a bargaining chip with the UK government. If not, then British ministers will desperately look for somewhere else to site it.
Nonetheless, these events will force Trident into the headlines in a way that it hasn’t been for years. Polls consistently show a majority of the British public opposed to Trident and more publicity for the issue will see that opposition becoming more vocal, active and effective.
A decision on Trident renewal is due in 2016, although the Tories have already started spending public money as if the decision has been made. Renewal is likely to cost nearly £100bn at a time of massive cuts to public services and social security. Trident can only work by killing millions of people. It does not deter terrorists, nor will it address the biggest security threat of our age – the threat of climate chaos. Trident is described as “independent” and “British”, but the missiles are loaned from the US and it relies on US technical support. No wonder Obama and his cronies are hoping for a No vote.
There are other reasons why I want a Yes vote, including my belief that democracy works better on smaller scales. That does not mean I am persuaded by all the Yes campaign’s arguments. In particular, I think the currency issue has not been well addressed and there is potential for several things to go badly wrong. Nor do I believe that a Yes vote in itself will deliver greater social justice; the SNP are not nearly as progressive as they would like us to believe. People at the grassroots must continue to push for radical change after a Yes vote as much as after a No vote.
Whatever the result, let’s build on the momentum the referendum has generated and be quick and vocal in pushing for the end of Trident.