The events of April and May this year could have a huge impact on the global movement for peace and nuclear disarmament. The signing of the Start Treaty, the publication of the US Nuclear Posture Review and the Nuclear Security Summit have all helped to build an atmosphere of optimism around the all-important Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference which is due to open in New York on May 3. However, events nearer home could have a bigger impact than all of these. The British general election offers us an opportunity to kill off the Trident project once and for all. Opposition to Trident replacement has been growing from across the political spectrum, especially in Scotland, where all Britain's nuclear weapons are based. Trident is widely seen as a useless and dangerous weapon of a bygone era, independent in name only. What has really tipped the balance, however, has been Britain's economic crisis. Even among supporters of nuclear weapons in the three main British political parties, Trident is now simply seen as unaffordable. The Liberal Democrats have come out against a like-for-like replacement of Trident, and similar misgivings have been expressed from the senior members of new Labour and the Conservative party and serving officers in the armed forces.
The peace movement has already scored a partial victory with the postponement of the design process for new nuclear weapons. Both Labour and the Tories have talked about deep cuts in defence procurement, but they have both refused to include Trident in their strategic defence review process planned for after the election. Scottish CND is working to put Trident at the heart of the election campaign - with some success. Last month its sister organisation Scotland's for Peace held a 2,000-strong march and rally in Edinburgh entitled Cut Trident Not Jobs, with a broad platform of speakers including First Minister Alex Salmond. Public service union Unison has revealed cuts of £300 million across Scottish local government with planned job losses of over 3,000. This is only the start. In the last few weeks, teachers and public service workers have held huge anti-cuts demonstrations in the streets of Glasgow. Does Trident bring jobs to Scotland? Yes, but the latest figures from the MoD suggest that the number of jobs at Faslane naval base dependent on Trident is less than 300. This confirms work done last year by the STUC and Scottish CND which showed that replacing Trident will destroy many more jobs than it will create. The money for the new system will not come out of the defence budget, but out of existing public expenditure - already under severe pressure because of recession and debt. In the next decade we could be spending £3 billion a year buying useless weapons we don't need and cannot use, rather than investing that money in basic health care and education for our people. Every candidate and sitting MP should ponder that fact with care.