Trident, we’re told, is the UK’s insurance policy in an “uncertain” world. A relic of Cold War geo-politics, the Â£167billion it will cost to renew could be considerably better spent on problems we are certain about.
Arguments in favour of this spend increasingly talk about the 10,000 jobs and the skills related to it, as if this was now a Keynsian project. If we were looking to invest it in jobs and training, we could certainly find infrastructure to invest in that doesn’t relate to mass distraction of human life.
There are clearly major global threats to the UK’s security and to citizens across the world, but in recent decades these have been primarily from non state terrorism – the vast nuclear arsenals of Western nations were no deterrent to those responsible for terror in London, New York or Paris. As we know from our own experience, those who believe their ideology allows them to bomb and shoot without mandate subscribe to stubborn fundamentalism that has little regard for the loss of civilian life.
Even the UK’s military experts are increasingly sceptical of spend on trident, which drains funding away from traditional and alternative defence methods. Operations like that ongoing in Brussels illustrate that in the context of terrorism, defence is intelligence led and followed up with boots on the street. In the longer term, successful and ethical foreign policy will focus on draining the reservoirs of poverty and misery that allow fundamentalism to take hold, rather than spending tens of millions on an outdated military status symbol.
The SDLP opposes, and has always opposed, the renewal of Trident, both here and at Westminster where that decision will be made and where our opposition will be counted. There is an irony in those proposing this motion seeking to repatriate welfare powers and trying to devolve UK defence policy in the same week.