Sunday, 26 April 2009

The nuclear option

Let's go back a couple of years and take a look at the text of the final report by the STUC and CND which was co-authored by Labour's new convenor, Claudia Beamish.

From the intro there is this point which should be borne in mind:
The report assumes the continuation of the Faslane Royal Navy base for non-nuclear weapons functions in line with government projections.

The report referred to was the Review of Naval Bases, commissioned by Des Browne, which indicated that Faslane should be kept and that its operations couldn't be removed to one of the other two naval bases (Plymouth and Portsmouth). Clyde is responsible for ammunition supply to all of the UK's submarines, Portsmouth is home to two thirds of the UK's surface fleet and Devonport refits nuclear subs. Devonport is suffering cutbacks under the Marine Change Programme with destroyers being moved to Portsmouth and routine maintenance on all surface warships also being removed to Portsmouth (Clyde does routine maintenance on the subfleet).

How many jobs would be at risk from cancelling the Trident renewal? Far fewer than are currently being lost in the recession - page 5:
936 civilian jobs directly dependent on Trident would become redundant between 2022 and 2027. The main skill groups would be MoD police and security (400), outfitting and steel work (240), technical and supervisory mainly in shipbuilding related areas (70) and clerical (70). If, however, Trident was decommissioned early to coincide with the build up of Astute class nuclear submarines at Faslane to a total of six by 2018, and thereby avoiding the need to increase the workforce to service ten submarines between 2018 and 2022, the level of job losses could be reduced mainly to security staff between 2016 and 2018. Few Scottish manufacturing jobs are likely to be jeopardised by a decision not to build a new Trident submarine – at most 150. The number of potential Scottish job openings at risk, civilian and military, direct, indirect and induced, from Trident cancellation in 2022-2027 is estimated as 2,191. The number of civilian jobs would be 1,891.

Let's put that job count into perspective, though - page 6:
Over 40,000 Scottish defence-related jobs have been shed since 1990 without significant government intervention to ensure the provision of alternative employment.

What are the costs of this weapon system that has been branded "no bloody use" by General Sir Hugh Beach? Page 9:
“we went through an exercise recently to make sure that we were identifying as accurately as we could the costs that were associated with our nuclear weapons system and that caused us to revise information that previous governments may have put into the public domain.”

Leading to costs of around £1.63bn a year (2007 prices) on annual in-service costs - 5% to 6% of the UK's defence budget, according to the MoD.

The White Paper gives procurement costs of £15bn to £20bn which the UK Government intends to spread over 15 years (but it won't allow the Scottish Government to spread the costs of the new Forth Bridge) on top of which the Atomic Weapons Establishment will have a £12 billion capital spend over 12 years and will take up another 3% of the defence budget - £850m a year. Then there's future costs like decommissioning costs and the storage of nuclear waste.

And all for a weapon that we keep getting told will never be used.

The report estimates a £153m a year cost to Scotland if Trident is replaced - money that would be better spent on renewing Scotland's economy and helping set us up to recover from the UK's recession.

How many employees are there on nuclear weapons duty? Page 15:
810 Trident crew members
530 Marines to guard Trident.
1146 shore based personnel to serve the 3 Trident vessels and the 10 other vessels at Faslane which don't carry nuclear weapons.
A civilian workforce of 3,180 between Faslane and Coulport.

Then there was this Parliamentary Answer on 21 Feb 2005:
Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence if he will estimate how many (a) direct and (b) indirect civilian jobs in (i) Scotland and (ii) the rest of the UK rely upon the Trident programme. [214416]
Mr. Hoon: The number of civilian jobs which directly rely upon the Trident programme is estimated to be 936 in Scotland, with an additional 6,640 in the rest of the United Kingdom. The number of civilian jobs which indirectly rely upon the Trident programme is estimated to be 300 in Scotland and 5,700 for the rest of the UK.

So 1,236 civilian jobs might be less secure, 810 crew would be affected, perhaps 100 onshore service personnel, and the 530 Commanchio Company Marines (away with that terrible new name).

The crew and the Marines could, no doubt, be redeployed, given the current stretch in armed forces. The onshore service personnel and the civilian jobs would require more effort, although 1,050 of them are MoD police - many of whom could be redeployed and some, I presume (though I can't say for sure) could join the civilian police (especially given that the SNP Government is expanding the numbers).

Addressing job losses
The report goes on to examine cases where bases have closed in the past - including Holy Loch - and shows that, where the closure has been planned properly, the impact on employment is massively reduced.

As the report points out, Jackie Baillie made up the 11,000 figure:
It has been widely claimed that Scotland would suffer economically as a result of job losses if Trident replacement does not proceed[1]. This report demonstrates the opposite to be the case.
[1] Scottish Parliament’ Report, Debate on Trident Renewal, 21 December 2006, Jackie Baillie, MSP West Dunbartonshire: ‘11,000 P45s would be issued to hard-working people in my area and to thousands more throughout Scotland’ if a decision were taken not to renew Trident.. Such claims have frequently been repeated in the press.

The money that is currently being pumped into maintaining Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Clyde that successive Governments insist is just a deterrent and not to be used, and the money that is projected to be wasted in the future is massive. The reports authors, including the new convenor of the Labour party in Scotland, claim an 8.5% share of that spend for Scotland (I assume on some population basis) and point out that spending that money in a fiscal stimulus would provide more jobs - and productive jobs - than Trident currently supports.

So, according to Labour's convenor, the jobs argument that Labour keeps using is plain wrong. I think that there's another aspect to be considered, however, as I wrote in an answer to a comment on an earlier post:
[T]he banning of corporal punishment in schools led to a reduction in employment opportunities for people who had made the tawse - should we insist that teachers go back to beating children so that these employment opportunities can be restored? Think of all the soldiers demobbed at the end of the Second World War - should we return to a European bloodbath to provide employment? Should we have agitated for the Accudyne jobs instead of banning landmines? I believe that children used to be employed in the cleaning of chimneys, manual labour in mills and even underground in mines. Do you think we should send them back? Think of the jobs ...

We've got what it takes to rid Scotland of nuclear weapons, you know.

Mind how you go!

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