The Scottish Labour Party has voted against the renewal of the Trident nuclear programme, in a surprise break from the party’s traditional stance.
The vote, held on 1 November at the party conference in Perth, saw party members and union representatives pass the motion with a 70 per cent majority.
Sarah Boyack, Labour MSP of the Lothian region and Shadow Cabinet Member for Environmental Justice, spoke to The Student about Scottish Labour’s major decision.
She said: “This week’s vote was a historic day for Scotland, and my party and I voted not to renew Trident and to safeguard Scotland’s defence jobs for the future. I did that to promote peace and security, recognising the crucial role Scotland, as part of Britain, has played in supporting peacekeeping, and responding to global humanitarian crisis events.”
Boyack insisted that the Trident debate should maintain an international dimension.
She said: “Going forward I think it’s important that we don’t just see this as a Scottish issue. I know some who would demand that we get rid of Trident believe that moving the subs and docking facilities 300 miles to the south is a victory.
“For me the challenge is to generate a debate across the whole of the UK and to link in to disarmament movements in the rest of the world too.”
The vote will bring Scottish Labour closer to the Scrap Trident Coalition, a group of Scottish political parties such as the Scottish National Party, Scottish Green Party, and Scottish Socialist Party, who oppose the renewal of Trident.
It also divides the party between its northern and southern factions, with the Labour Party of Westminster continuing to support Trident renewal.
However, Labour’s new party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, has come out against Trident and is campaigning to change the party’s current stance.
The debate that ensued at the conference was a major turning point for the MSPs and union members present.
“I am proud of the decision taken [by] our new Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale MSP, to enable our party to have a proper debate and to reflect the views of our members”, Boyack told The Student.
“I think it showed leadership and demonstrated that she is determined that Scottish Labour needs to debate all the big issues that affect Scotland and campaign for the change we wish to see to deliver a fairer country for all our citizens.”
Molly Stanford Ward, a first year member of Labour Students and former treasurer of her hometown’s Labour branch, told The Student she was still undecided on the Trident issue, but supported the party’s motion at the conference.
“I have a lot of sympathy for Corbyn and Scottish Labour’s stance. I think the vote is incredibly heartening in that it demonstrates how the party is opening up to debate, strengthening its internal democracy and potentially really paving the way towards offering a real alternative to the electorate”, she told The Student.
Despite the debate, certain aspects of the nuclear programme have received less attention, according to Boyack.
“I don’t think there has been enough debate about the cost of renewing Trident versus the alternatives,” she told The Student.
“However, the cost of Trident is an absolutely breath-taking amount. Given the choice that is facing the UK, the huge cost of a weaponry system that can never be used because of its immense destructive power should cause us to reflect and take a different path.”