Fraser Stewart: The UK's nuclear 'deterrent' is a PS100bn apocalyptic ornament - there are no excuses left for it

CommonSpace columnist Fraser Stewart argues that fear and theoretical warfare cannot justify spending billions on nuclear weapons while people are plunged further into poverty

AMID the ever-increasing wave of SNP support, the viability of our nuclear weapons programme has undergone a renewed scrutiny. This week, SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie was berated by the press for stating that he would vote down the defence budget as a means of protest against Trident.

Removal of Trident has long served as a focus of social justice campaigners the country over. There can be no confusion - nuclear weapons are abhorrent. Faslane naval base is not a bastion of global security: it represents the blackened heart of the most fearful and primitive side of humanity.

Which is precisely why it has to go, and why our press and politicians alike must realise the critical implications of their pro-nuclear perspective.

There is no convincing validation for contributing to insecurities so severe that they threaten the very existence of civilisation.

Paranoid arguments of deterrence and vulnerability just don't wash anymore. Even the staunchest realist must concede that nuclear weapons exist as the foremost man-made threat to humankind in our history: any initiation of nuclear war must rightly be considered apocalyptic.

There is no convincing validation for contributing to insecurities so severe that they threaten the very existence of civilisation. We must challenge the misappropriated inevitability of conflict that underlies these tired and primeval justifications.

There is no imminent nuclear threat from anywhere in the world at the present time, and it would be entirely reasonable to assume that there probably never will be. That doesn't make me a romantic or an idealist. This isn't 1960s Cuba - the world needs to have evolved from those attitudes by now.

We can no longer validate nuclear weapons because the other kids have them. But I suppose if Putin were to jump off a cliff, some of us wouldn't be far behind.

Military realists must ask themselves - will Russia ever actually launch a nuclear attack on London, or Glasgow? Krushchev failed to do so against America in 1962 with the provocation of a threatened ally and a somewhat limited knowledge on the potential extent of indiscriminate damage that such a war could cause.

For Putin to do so now, then, would be ludicrous. Any nuclear assault would surely result in the swiftest and harshest of Western retaliations, and the certain murder of an unthinkable number of innocent civilians. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a million deaths for a million deaths until nothing is left.

Having nuclear weapons doesn't make us safe, it makes us part of the problem.

Even the most vehement of autocrats understands the permanence of extinction. The idea that an authoritarian might one day become unhinged enough to pose a genuine nuclear threat serves only as supporting rhetoric for unilateral disarmament.

But dodgy dictators aren't the primary concern here. In forcing the renewal of our nuclear programme, the UK government is directly augmenting the globally held anxieties of nuclear annihilation, and under the guise of 'security' no less. Global security should not hinge on fear. One hundred and eighty seven countries in the world are without nuclear weapons: we are in the absurd and intimidating minority.

Having nuclear weapons doesn't make us safe, it makes us part of the problem.

The promotion of Trident renewal by each of our major parties, then, is hypocrisy of the most irresponsible and dangerous kind. To condone it is to become implicit. To do so in the same breath as pulling the trigger on PS30bn worth of public spending cuts borders on psychopathic.

Financial deficits created by New Labour are nothing compared to the moral deficit created by plunging your own into poverty for the sake of an apocalyptic ornament.

Which is perhaps the most demoralising aspect. The one priority that our major parties can agree on is that which sees the poorest in society suffer as a means to underwriting the most horrific creation known to man. But hey, at least our food banks are protected.

Of course, a more progressive nation might redistribute that money. To do so would surely be to drink from the holy grail of realism - the utilitarian question, only without a victim.

To condone Trident in the same breath as pulling the trigger on PS30bn worth of public spending cuts borders on psychopathic.

There are enough cost-benefit analysts in London to work this out. To put it into perspective, PS100bn could fund: 11 million university places in England; the NHS for an entire year; 10 million building-mounted wind turbines; two years worth of debt interest; or the entire pensions bill.

Central concerns of Westminster manifestos - aspects of the state that we are repeatedly reminded are under threat - could profit endlessly. Promises could be kept. Books could be balanced. Most importantly, our poorest and most vulnerable citizens could flourish.

Turning that cenotaph of fear into university places, hospital beds and welfare isn't just good sense; it's morally and theoretically incontrovertible.

Picture courtesy of UK Ministry of Defence