Scotland’s Communities Minister Malcolm Chisholm has resigned after voting with the SNP on a motion opposing the renewal of Trident. The motion was defeated, but so to were amendments by Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories.
I was particularly struck by this contribution to the debate:
The first Labour MSP to speak, backbencher Maureen Macmillan, said she opposed nuclear weapons.
However, the representative for the Highlands and
Islands stressed that the decision on whether or not to replace Trident
would be made by Westminster and not Holyrood.
She said: "It is the UK Government which will make the
decision on Trident in due course and Scotland is ably represented by
MPs who will take part in that decision."
Ms Macmillan added: "We have to use this opportunity to
engage internationally with other nuclear powers at every level to
bring about a reduction in nuclear weapons." (BBC)
To me this exhibits one of the classic failings of the Labour Party, its blindness to the significance of constitutional issues.
Trident owes its existence to a certain vision of Britain’s role as a world power, a modern version of the same vision which created the union between England and Scotland.
It’s crazy therefore for any serious opponent of nuclear weapons, to say ‘leave it to Westminster’, where the ethos that created Trident is at its strongest. On the contrary they should be pushing for the Scottish Parliament to adopt as strong a resolution as possible, to de-legitimise the deployment of the weapons.
While Mr Chisholm and the other Labour members who voted for the SNP motion deserve great credit for having the courage of their convictions, the trident issue is intrinsically linked to the competing visions of Scotland’s future offered by Labour’s unionism and the SNP’s nationalism.
For that reason, Labour may come to regret raising the issue six months before a crucial Scottish election.