May I join others in paying tribute to the armed forces and their contribution to addressing the covid pandemic?
We on the Scottish National party Benches welcome the Government’s £188 billion increase in defence spending over the coming four years. However, it is clear that the Government are breaking their commitments on personal welfare, numbers and capacity.
The SNP has consistently called on the UK Government to guarantee that any future contracts for warships benefit Scotland’s shipyards, so I welcome the investment in shipbuilding and the new procurement strategy. The Minister must, however, commit to ensuring that the UK, and specifically the Clyde, will benefit from this investment, and any clarity the Minister can offer on these contracts will be welcome.
It remains unclear how a post-Brexit UK will co-operate with EU countries on security. Continued co-operation with the EU on defence procurement is in the best interests of the UK industry and would continue to allow the UK to be at the forefront. However, the lack in the review of a formal security treaty with the EU is a massive oversight. Can the Minister give us any assurance that the UK will be pursuing the administrative agreement with the European Defence Agency and the European defence fund? Investment in research and development and in apprenticeships to maintain our crucial skills base and strategic capabilities is essential, and new capacity in cyber-intelligence and space is welcome, but these increases must not come at the cost of conventional forces.
I must also address the elephant in the room: Trident. At a time when the equipment plan remains unaffordable, we are increasing the UK stockpile of nuclear warheads and the UK Government might well find themselves on the wrong side of international law given their commitment to non-proliferation. The UK Government have repeatedly set out their commitments to conventional forces, the armed forces covenant and long-term nuclear non-proliferation, all of which the SNP support. This integrated review stands in clear contradiction to those commitments. The UK must start matching its capabilities to its threats, and stop neglecting the real priorities.