Nuclear Submarines No Deal Breakers for Scottish Nationalists

The Scottish National Party says it could support a Labour government on an “issue-by-issue” basis.

A British Trident submarine departs Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, Scotland, August 15, 2007
A British Trident submarine departs Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, Scotland, August 15, 2007 (JohnED76)

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon told The Guardian newspaper last week she would no longer condition policy support in Westminster on the removal of Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet from the region.

That takes away a major obstacle from a potential coalition with the Labour Party which is opposed to moving the Trident submarines from Faslane, a naval base west of Glasgow.

The nationalists are projected to win as many as 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in May’s general election. 41 of those are currently held by Labour.

Such a victory for the nationalists could deny Labour the opportunity to beat Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives although they are likely to fall short of an absolute majority as well.

If the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who currently rule in coalition, fail to defend their majority in Parliament, Labour could possibly form an alliance with the Scottish nationalists who share its left-wing economic and welfare agenda.

In her interview with The Guardian, Sturgeon played down the prospect of a coalition.

“It’s more likely to be an arrangement where we would support Labour on an issue-by-issue basis,” she said.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has refused to rule out an accord but would be hard-pressed to meet the nationalists’ demands even if they don’t insist on canceling Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent.

Despite losing a referendum on independence last year, the Scots want more powers from London.

The major national parties have already agreed to give the Scottish Parliament control over air passenger duties, housing credits, income taxes and winter fuel payments. It would also get additional welfare competencies. These reforms, if enacted, would represent the biggest transfer of power to the region since the Scottish Parliament was originally set up in 1999.

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