Trident is seemingly never far away from the surface (no pun intended) in the minds of the SNP and it’s returned to the fore this week as the Prime Minister announced a Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) and the SNP followed this up with an Opposition Day debate on Trident.
During the debate on the SDSR on Monday, Angus Robertson said that trident was a “super-expensive vanity project” which had failed to deter “against terrorism or cyber attack or conventional attacks on the UK and its allies and friends“.
To trivialise the debate around the future or the UK’s nuclear deterrent for a second on that basis we should do away with locks, alarms and umbrellas: houses still get broken into, cars still get nicked and we still get wet when it rains.
It never ceases to amaze the Scottish Politics Review how much time and effort the SNP spend on Trident. But why? Is because the public care about it or is it because it’s the perfect social media echo chamber issue? Something to strengthen support within the base.
Over September and October this year YouGov did some polling on what Britain should do when Trident reaches the end of its useful life. Excluding don’t knows, respondents thought that Britain should replace trident like for like or with something similar but cheaper by a margin of almost 60/40 over people who wanted to scrap it altogether.
In Scotland the poll was narrower, with no overall majority one way or another but support for maintaining a nuclear deterrent still came out on top.
Going further and asking respondents to answer if Scotland became independent, should it continue to host trident? Again excluding don’t knows, the answer came back that it should continue to host trident by 53/47.
The final poll we want to pull out from What Scotland Thinks is one on which issue was the most important to respondents in deciding how to vote in last years referendum. Essentially, how important was the issue to people when they voted last year. In this question, only 1% of people said defence and less than 1% said nuclear power.
To us it’s this final one that is key. Generally people have a view on trident or, at very least, nuclear weapons more widely. However the importance which they ascribe to it pales into insignificance when placed against policy areas which have an impact on their daily lives.
Is it a big issue? Absolutely. Emotive? Definitely. More important to voters than health, education, jobs, justice and pensions? Certainly not.
We hope that the closer to the elections in May we get, the less we hear about Trident.