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SNP Arms trade hypocrisy

Writing: Ed Evanson



Just how anti-arms is the SNP? A major SNP soundbite during the 2019 election was that the Labour Party is pro-Trident and the SNP not. A tweet from the SNP’s twitter account in November 2019 reads “CONFIRMED: Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour support the renewal of Trident …” The message appears to be a response to the CND’s statement that “Labour’s [December 2019] manifesto is a missed opportunity to address the growing threat of nuclear war…” and thus the SNP positions itself as the anti-Trident party, as most of its output media on the topic reiterates. You can read on their website that the case for nuclear weapons is “immoral”.


But can the SNP really claim that Corbyn himself supports Trident, given that he has never voted in favour of renewing or replacing Trident in the House of Commons? In particular he voted against renewal during Owen Smith’s 2016 leadership challenge, while the vast majority of his party voted in favour.. In an interview with Andrew Neil in 2017 he reiterated his views on nuclear disarmament but said that he respected the decision of his party. Aside from his voting record, as Corbyn himself puts it, his views on Trident are very well known. In 1966 he joined the CND at 15 years old and was eventually one of the CND’s vice presidents.

Labour CND . org. uk

The Labour party’s policy is to renew Trident and the SNP should of course criticise this, but the SNP’s rhetoric is misleading (if not an outright lie) regarding Corbyn, and this isn’t the only place where SNP rhetoric on arms is misleading.


The SNP’s position on arms in general can be found on their website. There are proclamations that the UK should “immediately halt all military support and arms sales to regimes suspected of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law”, mentioning Saudi Arabia’s role in the war in Yemen in the same piece. Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in the Commons, himself signed a letter to then foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, calling on Britain to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia. And further they have publicly stated that they do not support the manufacture or export of munitions from Scotland, making their position very clear.


Though one cannot find any declaration that the SNP is an anti-war party, one can surmise that they are an anti-arms party, or that they at least allow such summations to be drawn. But it has been regularly pointed out that they are not in practice an anti-arms party.

Largely through the tax-payer funded non-departmental branch of the Holyrood government, Scottish Enterprise (SE), funds are given over to arms companies regularly in Scotland. To list a few examples, £200,000 has been sent to Raytheon over the last 6-7 years. Raytheon is already quite well-funded, as it is the fourth largest arms-dealer in the world. In their manufacturing base in Glenrothes they produce the Saudi-bought laser-guidance systems for smart bombs. Paul Wheelhouse (the former Scottish Business Minister) even attempted to visit the factory secretly, and when his visit was publicised the SNP said they do not fund the manufacture or export of munitions from Scotland and that the funds given to Raytheon, the weapons-producing company, were used merely to “diversify the site into more defence-related activities”. Which is just a little doublethink.


In December 2017, another minister hosted a reception on behalf of the Aerospace Defence Security and Space Group, (ADS) a trade body for arms companies, in the Scottish Parliament. And Leonardo, (based in Edinburgh) the ninth biggest arms dealer and manufacturer of drones, helicopters and missiles in the world was also present. These companies have been accused of human rights abuse. Further, high profile SNP ministers Shirley-Anne Somerville (of the Higher Education Department) and Linda Fabiani (of the Human Rights Committee) were both hosts to the event. ADS say the ministers were there to celebrate the creation of apprenticeships.


Further, over the last six years Leonardo has received £6 million from Holyrood. Rolls Royce, the 17th largest arms firm, also took money, £300,000 in fact. Lockheed Martin received £176,615 for business improvement, innovation and marketing, Plexus was given £785,500.

In total, SE has given nearly £20 million in taxpayer money (according to reports in the Ferret) in grants to Leonardo alone. As recent as March 2020, SE was criticised for its funding of radars used by Leonardo in its military helicopters.


The SNP’s response to this criticism was again that the funds were used for “diversification” but also an assertion that “the export of arms is the responsibility of the UK government and we expect them to properly police such exports and to properly investigate any concerns raised.”, like with Trident the SNP wants you to think that arms-dealing is the responsibility of Westminster.


SNP wants you to think it is an anti-arms party. It is simply not.


Image: pressenza

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