Comment: Trident vote could undermine Scottish Labour

Kezia Dugdale has her hands tied


The decision by Scottish Labour’s annual conference yesterday not to support the renewal of Trident has inevitably been claimed by those around Jeremy Corbyn as a victory, and an opportunity to somehow undermine the SNP.

Those who feel that way must today take a cold shower.

Firstly, let’s tackle the myth that just because the SNP are against Trident renewal, it somehow means the people of Scotland are as well. One look at the polling scotches this myth completely.

In September, polling by YouGov for the Times found that 53 per cent of Scottish voters supported maintaining a nuclear deterrent.  This included 67 per cent of all those who said they had voted Labour in the General Election and 66 per cent who planned to vote Labour in next May’s Scottish parliamentary elections.

The idea therefore that being anti-nuclear is somehow a panacea for Scottish Labour is simply ludicrous. Indeed, it could be argued that yesterday’s vote could harm the party’s chances next May.

This brings me to my second point. The vote at the conference was a meaningless waste of time. The decision over Trident renewal will not take place at Holyrood but at Westminster where Labour’s only Scottish MP had already indicated opposition to maintaining a nuclear deterrent.

As George Eaton at the New Statesman has noted, the UK-wide party conference in September actually voted in favour of Trident renewal.

It does not take a genius to work out how the SNP will play this one. Scottish Labour will be campaigning against the nuclear deterrent whilst all the time UK Labour will be bound by a policy to keep it.

The cries will go out that the party in London is continuing to treat the Scottish Labour Party as a branch office, not taking it, or the people of Scotland, seriously. The SNP must be delighted.

Kezia Dugdale needed the space to carve out her leadership of Scottish labour and develop a radical policy platform for next May’s elections to Holyrood. Sadly, yesterday will have tied her hands, left her exposed to a mass of confusion and could undermine the party’s chances north of the border.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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