At a joint press conference in London today (23 April), Plaid Cymru and the Scottish National Party (SNP) have insisted that they offer the only “real alternative” for voters opposed to the Trident nuclear weapons system. They pointed out that the Liberal Democrats remain committed to nuclear weapons, wishing only to replace Trident with a cheaper set of nuclear arms.
The two parties went on the attack following a discussion on Trident in the televised Leaders' Debate yesterday. Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg criticised a “like-for-like” renewal of Trident, while his Labour and Tory opponents accused him of posing a threat to security.
But Plaid Cymru's Adam Price said today that “The Liberal Democrats may paint themselves as a third option but the fact remains in this election, the choice is straight down the middle: voters can choose a party which wants to blow billions on nuclear weapons or a party who wants to see this cash invested in the things that matter”.
The SNP and Plaid appear to be emphasising their anti-nuclear credentials in the wake of the surge in popularity for the Liberal Democrats.
The Green Party, who also want to see an end to the ownership of all nuclear arms by the UK government, have similarly insisted that Nick Clegg does not offer a progressive alternative on defence, environmental or economic issues.
Trident renewal has been heavily criticised by a range of churches, faith groups, NGOs and trades unions. Polls suggest that opposition to nuclear weapons is higher in Scotland and Wales than in England, although they have recently showed the majority of the public across the UK to be against the renewal of Trident.
Plaid Cymru and the SNP, who are standing in every seat in Wales and Scotland respectively, launched a joint viral poster about Trident, entitled “A Future Feared by All”.
SNP Defence spokesperson Angus Robertson argued that, “Renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system will cost £100billion over the next 20 years”.
He added, “It cannot be right that we proceed with its procurement whilst simultaneously cutting funding for schools, hospitals and frontline services and putting the recovery of our nations at risk”.
Price referred to the origins of the Trident system, saying that, “The Cold War is long past and the world has changed, but the mindset of the London parties is stuck on weapons of mass destruction”.
He said that for the Liberal Democrats, “the question is not if we should be replacing the nuclear deterrent but how big the replacement should be”.
Price concluded, "Only a vote for Plaid in Wales and the SNP in Scotland at this forthcoming election is a real vote against nuclear weapons”.
Both the SNP and Plaid have been barred from participating in the televised Leaders' Debates, on the ground that they do not stand candidates throughout Britain. The decision has been criticised by democracy campaigners.