Even those who have little interest in politics cannot have gone through the past few weeks without being stopped in their tracks by the ‘goings on’ at Westminster. There is a new Prime Minister taking residence at Downing Street – Theresa May. Although I may disagree with the route that propelled her to office, it would only be right to wish her well in what will be an even tougher job than in normal circumstances in the coming years.
Whatever your politics, I am sure you will agree that the image of Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon, outside Bute House in Edinburgh, should serve as an inspiration to all girls and young women. There are no limits to what can be achieved and that photo underlines it. Although there are still too many barriers, not least a pervasive lack of vision for girls across many industries, it is clear that the achievements of Nicola and Theresa prove that they can be navigated.
Over the past year, at my regular advice surgeries around the constituency, I have met many constituents with genuine distress and worry. Disabled people who have had their payments reduced, because of austerity cuts from Westminster, are often moved to tears. Women, born in the 1950s, who have worked all of their lives, paying into a pension system and expecting a fair pension upon their retirement – now being told that they will have a gap of years in their dues. This, even though a neighbour, born just a month or two earlier will not face such a fate.
There are many more cases where people are suffering injustice or going without because, we are told, we have to balance the books by successive UK chancellors.
With this in mind you might imagine that spending decisions at Westminster, especially large scale costs would, at least, be accompanied with a cost benefit analysis. Surely the really big spends would have months of scrutiny? You would think so… but not the case. This week, in the first debate and vote of the new Prime Minister, we will be asked to approve spending an estimated £205 billion pounds to replace the Trident submarine nuclear missile system. Yet at the same time, the Ministry of Defence is undertaking a process of “rationalising” defence bases – due to a shortage of cash – one of those on the proposed list is our very own Fort George, home to the Black Watch.
Today’s threats, as we have seen with tragic consequences, require intervention from people trained to intercept and run intelligence and the best military deployments are aimed at peace keeping, stabilising conflict areas and providing the preparation and planning that prevent the conditions for radicalisation. Countless informed security specialists tell us that we face much more of a present and growing national security threat from cyber terrorism and the spread of hate through the Internet. The Cold War is over, trident is a relic. Instead, future defence needs well equipped, modern military and people with the skills to fight a 21st century Code War.
Make no mistake, Nuclear weapons are obscene. Their single purpose is to annihilate countless thousands of people and as such their use represents a criminal act as well as a criminal waste of money.
That is why, when you read this, I will have joined 57 of Scotland’s 59 MPs to vote against Trident renewal. I will never vote for war crime in a rocket.