When will ministers hold their vote on Trident renewal? The Sun reports today that the ‘main gate’ decision on the size of the fleet will take place by the end of March, throwing Labour into disarray ahead of elections in Scotland, Wales, London and local government.
Cunning thinkers in the Tory party point out that for the vote to have maximum political effect, it needs to take place closer to the start of March. This is so that MSPs can also have a debate on Trident in the Scottish Parliament before Holyrood rises on 23 March for the election campaign. The SNP could decide to call a debate on the matter in order to highlight Scottish Labour divisions and to force the party’s leader Kezia Dugdale to take a position ahead of the elections (she is a multilateralist, but supported a previous Scottish Parliament vote on scrapping Trident that said a decision not to renew must be accompanied with a strategy for keeping workers in jobs).
Naturally such a debate would be useful for the SNP, but it would also help the Scottish Conservatives, as opinions on Trident in Scotland run roughly along unionist/nationalist lines. To throw UK Labour into disarray over Trident would be satisfying enough for the Conservatives, but to bring the chaos right into the heart of Scottish Labour in time for the Holyrood elections is surely what the party is aiming for. Of course, it’s worth remembering that this is a debate about national security, not a game, but given the Tories used Trident as part of their dead cat strategy during the election, it’s probably a bit too late for that.