July 19, 2016 Scottish Scrap Trident Coalition & BBC Online
Parliament is due to vote on whether to go ahead with building replacements for the UK's Vanguard fleet of four submarines carrying Trident nuclear missiles. The subs are due to become obsolete by the end of the next decade. In advance of the vote, thousands of people gathered in 35 towns and cities across Scotland to make their opposition to Trident renewal known before the House of Commons votes on Monday.
(July 15, 2016) -- Today people gathered in 35 towns and cities across Scotland to make their opposition to Trident renewal known before the House of Commons votes on Monday on the UK government’s plan to renew and modernise the nuclear weapon system.
As well as large gatherings in the cities there were demonstrations in Ayr, Biggar, Bowmore (Islay), Clydebank, Cromarty, Dumbarton, Dumfries, Dundee East Kilbride, Helensburgh, Hamilton, Inverness, Kelty, Kilmarnock, Largs, Linlithgow, Melrose, North Berwick, Paisley, Peebles, Penicuik, Perth, Portree, Stirling, Stornoway, Ullapool and Wick.
David Mackenzie said: The fact that so many people in so many places have been ready and willing to take to the streets after only a few day’s notice is so heartening. The gatherings have been hugely varied in their nature, full of colour, sharp wit and good humour, showing the breadth and depth of the opposition to Trident”
A vote for Trident renewal in the UK parliament on Monday is close to inevitable unless a big number of those Labour and even Tory MPs who are uneasy about it find their courage and vote it down. The struggle continues and it is clear that how to clear nuclear weapons out of Scotland, and the whole of the UK, will be continue to be a huge issue.
Yet our focus has to be broader than the nasty behaviour of one little nuclear weapon state. Out there in the big world 127 nations have already signed the Humanitarian Pledge to do what they can to stigmatise, ban and eliminate nuclear weapons  and in August the UN disarmament negotiations continue with early work on a global nuclear ban the likely outcome . Here in Scotland we must align ourselves enthusiastically with that worldwide movement.
Thousands Attend Trident Protests across Scotland BBC News
SCOTLAND (July 16, 2016) -- Thousands of people are attending 36 protests in cities and towns including Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee, Inverness and Dumfries.
It is understood the UK government has no plans to move the missile system from Faslane on the Clyde. The Scottish government opposes Trident and the storing of nuclear weapons.
Former Prime Minister David Cameron said Trident was an "essential deterrent" to both Britain's security and the overall security of NATO.
The Scottish Scrap Trident Coalition, which organised the rallies, said about 7,000 people had attended.
David Mackenzie, from the coalition said: "Early calculations indicate that this is one of the biggest public demonstrations in Scotland for many years, showing just how people outraged people feel about this ghastly business."
Events included a demonstration at the Mound in Edinburgh, which attracted about 500 people, including SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, and a rally at Buchanan Street's steps in Glasgow, where speakers included SNP politicians Bill Kidd and Alison Thewliss.
Sandy Thomson, who attended the Cromarty event, said: "We felt we had to get out to show our opposition to the Trident plan. "We had a good representation here, including former Moderator of the Church of Scotland Alan McDonald. We also had two minutes of silent reflection for the victims of the violence in Nice and Turkey."
'Stop this Madness'
Les Robertson, from Dumbarton, said: "The people of Scotland have overwhelmingly voted for MPs and MSPs who support unilateral nuclear disarmament, yet nuclear warhead convoys regularly travel through our towns and cities and their deadly cargo is stored just 30 miles from Glasgow. "It's time to stop this madness and start investing in our communities rather than weapons of mass destruction."
The Scottish government had pledged it would get rid of nuclear weapons if Scotland voted to leave the UK.
At David Cameron's final PMQs this week, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said one of Theresa May's first tasks as the new prime minister would be to impose Trident "against the will of almost every single MP from Scotland".
Mr. Cameron responded: "On Trident, there will be a vote in this house and it's right that this house should decide and many people in Scotland support our nuclear deterrent, maintaining it and the jobs that come to Scotland."
The SNP and the Greens are opposed to the nuclear deterrent, while Scottish Labour voted to oppose it at the party's conference last year. The UK Labour is currently undertaking a defence review, which is reported to leave open the option of retaining Trident despite leader Jeremy Corbyn's lifelong support for unilateral disarmament.
One of the few policies Theresa May made clear in her short Conservative leadership campaign is that, as Prime Minister, she would immediately replace the Trident nuclear WMDs system (“Theresa May calls for urgent go-ahead on Trident replacement“, 5 July http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/04/theresa-may-calls-for-urgent-go-ahead-on-trident-replacement/)
Meanwhile the current defence secretary Michael Fallon is on the record as stating "....as a responsible nuclear weapon state and party to the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) the UK remains committed to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.” (Written Statement made by: Secretary of State for Defence (Michael Fallon) on 20 January 2015.
On Monday next week, the Government has called a debate and vote on the future of Trident and its replacement.
Do Labour MPs, pro-Trident Angela Eagle included, want to demonstrate their idea of representing their constituents’ interests next Monday is to vote with new Conservative leader to commit £205,000,000,000 (£205 billion) of their taxes to a nuclear WMD system which is highly likely to be made illegal when the United Nations General Assembly in New York adopts a motion in September for a Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, which has been under negotiation at the UN in Geneva for several months this year?
What an odd way to help the poor, the unemployed, the NHS and to reverse underinvestment in infrastructure voting £205 billion of taxpayers’ money for Trident replacement would be!
What is Trident? BBC News
Since 1969, according to government documents, a British submarine carrying nuclear weapons has always been on patrol, gliding silently beneath the waves, somewhere in the world's oceans.
The logic is to deter a nuclear attack on the UK because, even if the nation's conventional defence capabilities were destroyed, the silent submarine would still be able to launch a catastrophic retaliatory strike on the aggressor, a concept known as mutually assured destruction.
The submarines carry up to eight Trident missiles. Each can be fitted with a number of warheads, which can be directed at different targets.
Each of the four submarines carries a sealed "letter of last resort" in the prime minister's hand, containing instructions to follow if the UK has been devastated by a nuclear strike and the government annihilated.
What is Trident's History?
It was acquired by the Thatcher government in the early 1980s as a replacement for the Polaris missile system, which the UK had possessed since the 1960s.
Trident then came into use in the 1990s. There are three parts to Trident -- submarines, missiles and warheads. Although each component has years of use left, they cannot last indefinitely. The current generation of four submarines would begin to end their working lives some time in the late 2020s.
Work on a replacement cannot be delayed because the submarines alone could take up to 17 years to develop. Only one submarine is on patrol at any one time and it needs several days' notice to fire.
What Will MPs Be Voting On?
The motion to be moved by Prime Minister Theresa May supports: * The government's assessment that the UK's "independent minimum credible nuclear deterrent" based on continuous at-sea deployment will remain essential to the UK's security;
* The decision to take the necessary steps required to maintain the current posture by replacing the Vanguard Class submarines;
* The importance of the replacement programme to the UK's defence industrial base and in supporting thousands of highly skilled engineering jobs;
* Government commitment to reduce its overall nuclear weapon stockpile by the mid-2020s and press for "key steps towards multilateral disarmament".
What Are the Arguments for Replacing Trident?
Andrea Berger, from the Royal United Services Institute, says the government argues that the UK faces an uncertain "future threat environment".
We are unable to foresee the emergence or re-emergence of threats that have a nuclear dimension sufficiently far in advance, government officials say. They will point to concerns about the resurgence of aggressive Russian policies.
In that uncertain environment, the argument is made that the UK needs to ensure it is taking decisions now which mean that in future decades we have options available for defence and deterrence.
Although Trident submarines, missiles and warheads have years of use left, they cannot last indefinitely. Work on a replacement could not be delayed because the submarines alone could take up to 17 years to develop.
Supporters of replacement argue that threats from rogue states and terrorist groups could emerge at any time and a minimum nuclear deterrent is needed to help counter them.
The nuclear defence industry is also a major employer. Some estimates suggest that up to 15,000 jobs may be lost -- as well as considerable expertise -- if a new batch of submarines is not commissioned.
What Are the Arguments against Trident?
Some who object on ethical grounds say the UK should never be a country that is willing to threaten or use nuclear weapons against an adversary, even in the most extreme circumstances and that the humanitarian consequences of doing that would be so grotesque as to be unfathomable, says Rusi's Andrea Berger.
Current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, for example, has said that he could never be the person to press the nuclear button.
Others who object on the basis of cost assessments say that the UK should not be spending possibly £40bn on a programme that is designed for uncertainty and indeed that an "uncertain future threat environment" may mean no threats arise and so £40 billion would have been spent unnecessarily.
There are still others, says Ms Berger, who suggest that actually it is not so uncertain and the prospect of a significant threat arising to the UK in the timeline of the successor submarines is so remote as not to be worth taking significant action now.
Has Renewal Work Started?
Since 2007, when MPs backed plans to renew the Trident fleet by 409 votes to 61, "conceptual" work has been going on considering potential designs for replacement submarines, propulsion systems and other key components.
The "Initial Gate" phase, consisting of £3bn in procurement of important items, has also been approved.
But in October 2010, the government decided to delay the ultimate decision on whether to proceed and how many submarines to order until 2016. The delivery date for the first submarine was also put back to 2028.
Where Do the Political Parties Stand?
Conservative Theresa May said shortly before she became prime minister that there should be a vote in the House of Commons on replacing the Trident fleet before the summer recess and it would be "sheer madness" to give up the UK's nuclear weapons because of the threat posed by other countries including Russia. Renewing Trident would show Britain was "committed" to working with Nato allies after voting for Brexit, she added. Replacing Trident was a Tory manifesto pledge in the general election.
Labour Most Labour MPs are expected to vote for the Commons motion on renewal -- although the party's stance has been overshadowed by long-time opponent of nuclear weapons, Jeremy Corbyn, becoming its leader. Shadow Foreign Secretary Emily Thornberry, who conducted the party's review of the nuclear weapons issue, has said the party's view of replacement is "in flux" and criticised the government's decision to hold a vote without a "proper response" on cost and other concerns.
The SNP, which has 54 MPs in the House of Commons, opposes Trident renewal. During the election campaign it described Trident as "unusable and indefensible -- and the plans to renew it ludicrous on both defence and financial grounds".
The Lib Dems, who insisted on no final decision being taken while they were in coalition, have always been sceptical about a like-for-like replacement and insisted on a value for money review. They back a "step down the nuclear ladder" with a smaller nuclear weapons system providing a "minimal yet credible" deterrent.
How Much Will Replacement Cost?
According to Rusi's Andrea Berger the government says it needs £31bn over the lifetime of the programme, including adjustment for inflation over that period, and an additional £10bn as a "contingency".
Campaign group Greenpeace claims it will run to at least £34bn once extra costs like VAT are factored in. The Lib Dems say ordering fewer submarines would save up to £4bn in the long term but Conservatives have rejected this -- saying the savings made would be "trivial" in respect of the Ministry of Defence's annual £34bn budget.
Labour's shadow defence team have called for more transparency in the government's estimates, including what the £10bn "contingency" cash will be spent on.
Currently, the government is spending around 6% of its annual defence budget on Trident, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has confirmed.
Image copyright MOD
What Are the Alternatives?
Trident's ballistic missiles have a long range, of up to 7,500 miles. One alternative that has been suggested is using cruise missiles based on different submarines. But cruise missiles have a far shorter range, of over 1,000 miles, and are slower and vulnerable to being shot down. The government review concluded this would actually cost more than renewing Trident in its current form, since the UK might have to bear all the research and development costs of its own programme.
Others have suggested using a land-based delivery system, to avoid the cost of building new submarines. That has been rejected in the past as too vulnerable to attack and impractical although the 2013 options review said this could potentially be mitigated by having fewer "silo" sites that were more strategically located.
Some say it would be cheaper to launch missiles from a long-range aircraft. However, the shorter range would again be an issue -- and the aircraft could be brought down. The review said "much more work" would be needed on such an idea.
How do Britain's Nuclear Weapons Compare with Others?
The UK is the only nuclear weapons state that deploys submarines as its sole nuclear weapons delivery platform.
Other countries use multiple platforms. The United States has all submarines, bombers and silo-based Continental Ballistic Missiles.
France has planes and submarines; China has a mix of road mobile missiles as well as a backup role for nuclear aircraft, and is moving towards deploying submarines in the future as well.
Are Britain's Nuclear Weapons Independent?
Past prime ministers have always stressed Trident's independence, saying its firing does not require the permission, the satellites or the codes of the US.
However, critics argue Britain is technically so dependent on the US that in effect Trident is not an independent system. For example, the British Trident missiles are serviced at a port in the Georgia, US, and some warhead components are also made in America.
As part of the renewal, common missile compartment systems that could be fitted into both UK and US submarines are set to be developed as a means of saving money.
It could be argued that having a powerful nuclear ally in the US, Britain does not need an atomic weapons system of its own.
But Andrea Berger of Rusi says some believe the decisions taken by an adversary are made harder if countries, which are allied and have common strategic outlook are nevertheless able to take decisions independently.
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