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Trident in Scotland

22/10/2007

The Scottish Government today hosted a summit - A National Conversation: Scotland's Future Without Nuclear Weapons - to discuss the implications of the UK Government's decision to replace the Trident system on Scotland.

The summit in Glasgow followed a vote in the Scottish Parliament on June 14 in which Holyrood registered its opposition to the proposal in the UK Government White Paper, The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent, to replace the existing Trident defence system.

The UK Government estimates that the procurement costs alone will be in the region of £15-£20 million.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Minister for Parliamentary Business Bruce Crawford represented the Scottish Government among representatives from churches, trade unions, local authorities, and government to discuss the impact of the UK Government's decision on devolved areas of responsibility and how best to present the Scottish view.

Ms Sturgeon said:

"There are few more important issues in the world than nuclear weapons. And the position of the Scottish Government is clear - we are opposed to the replacement of the Trident system and the deployment of weapons of mass destruction on Scottish soil.

"That position is shared by a majority of MSPs, a majority of Scottish MPs, and a majority of the Scottish public. The fact that defence issues are currently reserved to Westminster does not make such opposition irrelevant - rather it forces all of us to consider how best to convey that strong feeling of opposition to the UK Government.

"There are strong moral arguments against nuclear weapons. But we need to consider the practical implications of having a replacement to the Trident system on Scottish soil. That is the responsible thing to do - and that is what we are doing."

Mr Crawford said:

"There is a real breadth to the opposition to nuclear weapons in Scotland - it is not the preserve of any one political party, of any one section of society. Today's successful gathering has demonstrated that opposition to the principle of nuclear weapons must be married to an understanding of what a nuclear-free Scotland would look like.

"The summit provided an extremely useful platform for discussion of those issues and I was impressed and encouraged by the enthusiasm evident today. But it was not an end in itself. We have therefore agreed that we will continue to work together to make Scotland's case to Westminster - and we have agreed to establish a small working group to take forward the issues arising from today's discussion.

"It will, among other things, consider the options for future economic development around Faslane, help advise the Scottish Government on how best to explore the possibility of achieving NPT observer status at its next meeting in 2010 - and advise on how we can most effectively support international peace and reconciliation work, in the context of our devolved responsibilities.

"I will confirm membership of that group - and its remit - very soon and I would expect it to meet for the first time early in the New Year.

"Today is a historic day - and I believe we can maintain the momentum on this key issue and build the case for a Scotland without nuclear weapons."

On June 14 this year, the Scottish Parliament debated the following motion in relation to the UK Government's policy on nuclear weapons:

"That the Parliament congratulates the majority of Scottish MPs for voting on 14 March 2007 to reject the replacement of Trident, recognises that decisions on matters of defence are matters within the responsibility of the UK Government and Parliament and calls on the UK Government not to go ahead at this time with the proposal in the White Paper, The Future of the United Kingdom's Nuclear Deterrent."

The Scottish Parliament showed opposition to the UK Government's plan to replace its Trident nuclear weapons system (by 71 votes to 16, with 39 abstentions), and support for this Government's vision of a Scotland without nuclear weapons.

A poll conducted in May this year found that 58 per cent of the Scottish public opposed Trident while 33 per cent supported it.

Last week the First Minister wrote to representatives of State Parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to make them aware of the Scottish Government's views on nuclear weapons.

Defence is an issue currently reserved to the UK Government. The Ministry of Defence was represented at today's event and submitted a briefing paper for consideration.

The National Conversation launched by the First Minister in August aims to stimulate discussion around Scotland's constitutional future and asks which future powers would be best held by the Scottish Parliament.