SNP calls for Trident to be removed from Clyde

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FaslaneImage source, PA
Image caption,
The UK's four nuclear-armed submarines are based at Faslane on the Clyde

The SNP has called for Trident missiles to be removed from Scotland after MPs voted to renew the nuclear weapons system by 472 votes to 117.

The Trident fleet is based at Faslane on the Clyde, but all Scottish MPs voted against renewal, apart from Scottish Secretary David Mundell.

The SNP said Scotland's decision against renewal should be respected.

It said the UK government should "remove these nuclear weapons of mass destruction from the Clyde".

The vote, which was held late on Monday evening, means the UK government will press ahead with the manufacture of the next generation of nuclear submarines.

The current estimated cost of renewing the four submarines - which are expected to last for 30 years - is £31bn.

Will the UK government move trident?

Image source, Getty Images

Analysis by BBC Scotland's Westminster correspondent Nick Eardley

The breakdown of last night's vote is uncomfortable for the UK government. Theresa May has made maintaining the United Kingdom a central part of her first week in office. She's already promised to listen to the SNP Scottish government on Europe.

This gives the SNP the opportunity to say Scotland is being ignored.

Ministers in London believe the way Scottish MPs voted does not represent public opinion.

Opinion polls suggest they may have a point - a recent Yougov poll suggested Scots are less supportive of Trident than most of the UK, but a significant proportion still back the weapons system (though we've learned to take polls with heavy pinches of salt of late).

The Ministry of Defence has previously looked at other sites to store the weapons, but found none to be as good as Faslane.

There are no contingency plans to move the submarines from the Clyde (even if Scotland was to back independence).

For now it appears unlikely Trident submarines are going anywhere.

The SNP's 54 members opposed renewal, as did Labour's Ian Murray, Lib Dem Alistair Carmichael and independent MPs Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry.

But Conservative MP David Mundell backed the renewal proposals.

Labour was split over the issue with 140 of its 230 MPs going against leader Jeremy Corbyn and backing the motion.

In a statement to parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May said it would be a "gross irresponsibility" for the UK to abandon its nuclear weapons.

She added that the nuclear threat had not gone away, and "if anything, it has increased".

Asked by SNP MP Ian Blackford what message she was sending to the people of Scotland, Mrs May said: "Fifty-eight of the 59 Scottish MPS will be voting against jobs in Scotland which are supported by the nuclear deterrent."

What is Trident for?

Image source, Getty Images

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, based at Faslane on the River Clyde, carry up to eight Trident missiles; each can be fitted with a number of warheads.

SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP said: "The UK government must respect Scotland's clear decision against Trident renewal and remove these nuclear weapons of mass destruction from the Clyde.

"As a nation, Scotland has consistently shown itself to be opposed to the possession of nuclear weapons - a position taken by the Scottish government, the Scottish Parliament, Scotland's MPs, a majority of Scotland's political parties, churches, trade unions and other civic organisations.

"It would be democratically unacceptable if in the face of this clear opposition the UK government were to impose Trident nuclear weapons on the Clyde against Scotland's wishes."

He added: "On becoming Prime Minister Theresa May claimed that she wanted to govern in the interests of all nations and people in the UK - if that is true she must now make clear she respects Scotland's decision.

"The UK government must work with the Scottish government to ensure the earliest safe withdrawal of nuclear warheads from Scotland, and to discuss the retention and diversification of HMNB Clyde as a conventional naval base."

'Difficult decisions'

Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said renewing Trident was the "right decision" which would "ensure we retain a strong deterrent over the coming decades and which will secure thousands of jobs across the west of Scotland".

He said: "For all but one of Scotland's MPs to vote against Trident today is unrepresentative of Scottish public opinion which is, at the very least, evenly divided on retaining Trident.

"It puts Scottish MPs at odds with at least half of the electorate. With Labour split and the SNP opposed, it is clear that only Scottish Conservatives working with Theresa May's UK Conservative government are prepared to back our deterrent and take the decisions, however difficult they may be, to keep Scotland safe."

Rev Dr Richard Frazer, convener of the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said: "The Church of Scotland has consistently spoken out against nuclear weapons for more than 30 years.

"It is regrettable that we will have to be speaking out against nuclear weapons for another 30 years."

Before the vote, Mr Murray, the former shadow Scotland secretary, said the Labour split reflected similar attitudes in opinion across the country, and he welcomed Labour MPs being given a free vote on the issue.

He said he would be voting against renewal as "all nuclear weapons are immoral".

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