Scottish Labour conference to discuss Trident nuclear deterrent


Scottish Labour's stance on the renewal of Britain's Trident nuclear deterrent will be debated on the final day of its annual conference.

Members of local party branches and trade unions agreed on Saturday to discuss a motion opposing Trident renewal after a ballot on priority issues.

But the debate could cause a rift between Labour north and south of the border, if members in Scotland vote against renewing the weapons system, which is based at Faslane on the Clyde.

While Labour's position continues to be to support the continuation of Trident, UK leader Jeremy Corbyn is firmly against nuclear weapons.

His backing for unilateral disarmament puts him at odds with Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, who instead supports the removal of nuclear weapons on a multilateral basis.

But Labour's only surviving Scottish MP insisted the party could have different policies on renewing Trident north and south of the border.

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said moves to make the party in Scotland more autonomous meant it could ''have a different position on anything it wants''.

In his keynote address to the Perth conference on Saturday, Mr Corbyn said members should decide what position to take ''for the good of Scotland''.

He told them: ''Whatever you decide, it must be in solidarity with workers who may feel threatened and communities that may feel vulnerable.

''We know there are skilled jobs in the defence industry. We cannot be negligent about skills and jobs. We must secure every one of them.

''But don't tell me we can't put those skills to better use: the innovators, the engineers, the technicians, the security staff and the civil servants too.''

He insisted: ''No-one should even consider allocating a penny saved on not renewing Trident until those skills and jobs are protected through a proper programme of diversification.''

Unison, the UK's largest trade union, remains committed to getting rid of the deterrent, while it has been reported that Unite, which represents workers at the Faslane base, will also vote against renewal.

GMB Scotland, which also represents shipyard and defence workers, has made clear its support for renewal.

Currently trade unions hold 50% of the votes at conference, with the remaining half coming from the Scottish party's 73 constituency parties.

The majority of the union votes are held by Unite, Unison and the GMB.

Activists made Trident a priority issue for a policy vote after it received the most votes of the 17 issues proposed for debate.

The trade union reform Bill, housing and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) will also be discussed today.