Trident: What is the future of the UK’s nuclear status?

On Sunday 1 November, at the party’s Annual Conference in Perth, Scottish Labour voted to oppose the renewal of the UK’s nuclear weapons system, Trident.

The move is undoubtedly a major decision, but what will it mean for the future of Trident and the defence industry in the UK as a whole?

The Labour party’s official stance on Trident has been somewhat muddy in the past few months, and the recent vote by 70% of Scottish Labour members at conference to oppose the renewal of Trident nuclear weapons will not give any clarity to the issue.

Labour divided on Trident

Scottish Labour now officially oppose the renewal of Trident weapons, effectively striking a ‘unilateral’ disarmament approach, while their leader Kezia Dugdale has long maintained a ‘multilateralist’ position, meaning that the UK should only reduce the number of nuclear warheads in line with global trends.

In stark contrast, the UK Labour Party, where actual decisions about nuclear policy will be made, officially support Trident renewal as party policy, while their leader Jeremy Corbyn is himself a unilateralist.

The conflicting views will surely put pressure on both sides to reach a compromise so as to not risk losing voter confidence in a seemingly divided party.

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “The vote by the Scottish Labour Party conference on Trident renewal and the protection of defence jobs is a clear sign that Labour’s democracy has opened up. Scottish Labour Party members have spoken. That will now feed into the wider UK Labour debate and review of defence policy.”

Trident’s future uncertain?

The move by Scottish Labour to oppose Trident now means that all major parties in Scotland, with the exception of the Conservatives, officially oppose the nuclear deterrent.

In the wider UK, the Conservative party have made Trident renewal a key pledge in their election manifesto, and given their majority in the House of Commons this will surely be followed through when the decision is made in 2016.

The Liberal Democrats and UK Labour officially support a gradual reduction of the number of nuclear weapons held in the UK, while the SNP, now the third largest party at Westminster, support an outright scrapping of Trident immediately.

The conflicting messages from Labour and the divided nature of Westminster on this issue will certainly put the issue at the forefront of the defence agenda for the coming months.

With a Strategic Defence Review due by the end of 2015, the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent and the wider defence industry will remain up for debate.

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