Defence in Scotland

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David Cairns (Greenock and Inverclyde): Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Angus Robertson: No, I will not.

The need for that democratic power is supported by the unwelcome current stationing of nuclear weapons in Scotland. Hon. Members will know that there is a clear majority in Scotland against Trident nuclear weapons being based on the Clyde. That was shown in last year's System Three poll, in which 58 per cent. of respondents opposed Trident; that figure included 64 per cent. of Labour voters and 54 per cent. of Liberal Democrat voters. It is a policy supported by deputy Scottish Labour leader Cathy Jamieson and, according to a ''Newsnight'' survey, by the biggest single group of Labour candidates for the 1999 elections.

I could not agree more with the policy that states:

    ''Conference notes that Scotland now houses all of Britain's nuclear weapons and that the 'Russian threat' previously used to justify these weapons has disappeared.

    Conference further notes that scrapping Trident now would save around 1.5 billion pounds annually which could and should be constructively employed in areas of obvious need such as housing, education and the health service as well as ensuring the creation of alternative employment and retraining of displaced defence workers.''

Whose policy was that? It is the last one voted on by the Labour party following a debate at its Scottish conference in 1998. While Opposition Members may no longer agree with that principle, the Scottish National party, the Church of Scotland and many other civic groups in Scotland, as well as the majority of public opinion in our country, do agree with it. That is why we cannot take part in an alliance predicated on the first strike of weapons of mass destruction. That is a principle on which we are not prepared to compromise. All of that illustrates the excellent democratic argument for Scotland's Parliament to decide on defence matters and fulfil its obligations to

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Scotland's settled will. Westminster will not deliver a nuclear-free Scotland.

The second strong argument for Scottish defence priorities being decided in Scotland is economic. In January 2001, the Government were asked how much of the defence budget was spent in Scotland. A Defence Minister replied that the Defence Bills Agency had spent only 4.6 per cent. of its £15 billion budget in Scotland. That is a shortfall of £600 million to Scottish taxpayers in only one financial year. The Minister substantiated that figure today when he said that £1.4 billion is spent in Scotland from a total of £23.6 billion.

The £600 million shortfall includes several examples of underspend in Scotland. The Services Training Agency spent only slightly more than 1 per cent. of the total £1.1 billion that was spent in the UK on training. The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency spent just 2.7 per cent. of its considerable budget in Scotland. There are 43 MOD agencies, of which only one has headquarters in Scotland. The shortfall in personnel who are stationed in home bases means that £90 million of wages and employers' contributions are lost to the Scottish economy.

Instead of the massive reallocation of taxpayers' money from our economy—[Interruption.]

Mr. Roy: Will the hon. Gentleman give way?

Angus Robertson: I will not take the hon. Gentleman's intervention.

Mr. Joyce: On a point of order, Mr. Hood. Is it in order for an hon. Member to represent the Opposition's view as he sees it, and not to take any interventions? Does that not reduce the level of debate?

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Gentleman knows that that is not a point of order. I made it clear that it is up to the hon. Gentleman to decide whether he will take an intervention.

Angus Robertson: Thank you, Mr. Hood. I propose a positive argument in favour of how things would be prioritised in an independent Scotland if we allocated our spending and prioritised appropriately and sensibly, as our neighbouring countries choose to do. We would secure maximum benefit to the taxpayer through domestic procurement and, crucially, guaranteed offset contracts for the Scottish economy. No UK Defence Minister can deliver that for Scotland.

I will explain what offset means to hon. Members who do not know. If one cannot construct or assemble the necessary equipment in the domestic market, the providing country guarantees to import products from one's own economy. Scotland does not have that arrangement, nor does the UK provide the same procurement spend that neighbouring countries provide. Sweden is constructing four more substantial craft than Scotland plans to construct. Norway is also having four more vessels constructed than Scotland, as part of an offset agreement. Other small, independent, non-aligned, non-nuclear

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countries have a first-track record in the production of military equipment. Austria, for example, has developed an enviable industrial capacity with Glock and Steyr and produces some of the finest firearms and military transport vehicles.

While we are on the subject of international comparisons, the Minister must agree that our neighbours and other small and medium-sized, independent, non-nuclear countries play a constructive role in international defence and security. Ireland, for example, has over 500 troops on UN missions, mostly in Eritrea and Ethiopia. Sweden has over 700 troops in Kosovo. Norway has 1,400 troops on international service, and Austria has nearly 1,000. Perhaps the Minister will tell us which Scottish regiments have been committed to the European Rapid Reaction Force, and how much total manpower that Scotland has committed. Is the figure close to 2000, which the Finns have pledged and the Austrians have promised?

The positive role of independent non-nuclear countries is also seen in the leadership of Finnish General Gustav Hagglund, who heads the European Union military committee that brings together the European rapid reaction force. That shows the impact that a country of 5 million people can have in the new European context. I would like Scotland to follow those positive examples. We should be working together with our colleagues in England and Europe. We should be playing a peacekeeping role as a country not tainted by the highest megatonnage of nuclear weapons per head in the world. We can do better than act as an aircraft carrier for those who support a first-strike nuclear option.

Mr. Roy: Will the hon. Gentleman give way on aircraft?

Angus Robertson: No, I am just concluding my remarks.

Independence provides the opportunity, through current levels of per capita expenditure, to secure expanded manpower levels both for regular and reserve armed forces. Our tax contributions spent on defence procurement would then benefit all the Scottish economy, as opposed to a fraction of it, as is currently the case. That would also secure a defence diversification fund and guaranteed levels of service personnel and expenditure at bases including Lossiemouth and Kinloss. As I said before in answer to the hon. Member for West Renfrewshire (Mr. Sheridan), that was a pledge in the SNP party manifesto for the last election.

That is the positive vision that I have for Scotland and defence, which should be democratically controlled in Scotland without the need for nuclear weapons.

Mr. Roy rose—

Angus Robertson: I am not giving way.

The Chairman: Order. The hon. Member for Motherwell and Wishaw (Mr. Roy) should resume his seat.

Angus Robertson: Thank you, Mr. Hood. We should play a full, direct role in the European and

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international community, both in our own right and with our neighbours and friends.

Several hon. Members rose—

The Chairman: Order. We have more speakers than I will be able to call. I advise hon. Members that I intend to call the Minister to reply at 12.45 pm.

12.16 pm

John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): I will try to be brief, unlike all the previous speakers. Like the SNP, I will not be talking about nationalist policies. For the information of the hon. Member for Moray, my right hon. Friend the Minister of State for Defence took six interventions to his measly one.

Those who know me will not be surprised to learn that I am going to speak about shipbuilding. It is important that the country's past and position in the world should include its naval strength and its merchant trade. On the Clyde in the 19th and 20th centuries, we built some of the biggest ships in the world, which were probably of the best standard in the world. More than 100,000 people were employed on the Clyde alone at the industry's height. Unfortunately, by the 1960s some 200,000 people were employed in shipbuilding in the UK and, sadly, at the turn of the century we were down to 30,000.

I must commend the Government, and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State in particular, for the work that they have done for shipbuilding in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. There is no doubt that there would be no shipbuilding in this country if it were not for the Government; it would have ended years ago. Unfortunately, we are the only party that could have brought shipbuilding back. We have given it a long-term future on the Clyde. I am thinking in particular about the Scotstoun yard in my constituency and the Govan yard.

In the 1990s, the defence industry seemed to be on a downhill slope as peace came along with the break-up of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, during the past 10 years it has become a requirement for this country to help to police the rest of the world, and we and other countries have to look towards the defence industry not just for the security of the country, but for the security of the world.

David Cairns: Will my hon. Friend give way?

John Robertson: Unlike the SNP, I am happy to give way.

David Cairns: The welcome for the orders for the Type 45s extends well beyond the Govan yard on the Upper Clyde right down to Greenock and Inverclyde. Does he agree that workers in those yards will be alarmed to hear no commitment in today's debate from the Scottish nationalists to pursue the Type 45 building programme, or for the aircraft carriers? Those workers will be worried about whether we are fighting to preserve their jobs.

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