Early in 2016, MPs at Westminster are due to take a momentous decision: whether or not to renew the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons system. The trouble is, judging from what we’ve learnt in 2015, the decision has already effectively been made – and it will bring a host of problems in its wake.
The House of Commons is expecting to vote in the next few months on what the Ministry of Defence (MoD) calls “Main Gate”. This is the major decision on whether or not to authorise multi-billion expenditure on replacing the four ageing Vanguard submarines that carry Trident nuclear missiles in and out of the Faslane naval base on the Clyde.
But it has because increasingly clear that, following an earlier “Initial Gate” decision in 2011, major sums of money have already been committed. In February 2015, the Sunday Herald reported that £4.2 billion was going to be spent on designing new submarines, reactors and missile compartments before next year’s parliamentary decision.
The figure came from the UK government’s National Audit Office. The MoD was roundly attacked by the Scottish National Party and the Greens for pre-empting the decision to renew Trident.
“It is utterly unacceptable that over £4 billion will be blown on replacing Trident nuclear weapons before parliament actually decides on whether or not to even give it the go ahead,” said the SNP’s Westminster leader, Angus Robertson, at the time.