Defence policy promises to feature more prominently in the 2015 UK General Election than in any in living memory (see the Director’s letter on the recent debate regarding the allocation of defence spending and international aid)
Overwhelmingly, the most divisive and important defence-policy issue is the continued existence of the UK Trident programme. Its importance in national politics has been magnified by its pivotal role in the ongoing debate over Scottish Independence. Some commentators have suggested that a SNP-Labour coalition or (more likely) a ‘confidence-and-supply’ arrangement between the SNP and Labour in the wake of the latter’s likely electoral collapse in Scotland, could lead to the permanent closure of the programme.
On Friday 20 March, the McDonald Centre organised and hosted a colloquium on the question of nuclear deterrence, Trident, and Trident’s role in contemporary Scottish politics. Attendees included several highly experienced and distinguished experts from the civil service, academia, and journalism:
- General Sir Hugh Beach, former Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.K. Land Forces
- Professor Nigel Biggar, Moral Theology, University of Oxford; author of In Defence of War
- Peter Burt, Researcher, Nuclear Information Service
- Desmond Bowen, former Director General of Policy at the M.o.D.
- Professor Paul Cornish, Research Group Director, Defence, Security & Infrastructure at RAND Europe, Cambridge
- Professor Andrew Dorman, International Security, Defence Academy and King’s College London; editor, International Affairs
- Tom McKane, L.S.E. and R.U.S.I.; former Director General for Strategy, and Director General for Security Policy, at the M.o.D.
- Dr James Orr, McDonald Postdoctoral Fellow in Christian Ethics and Public Life, University of Oxford
- Professor Paul Schulte, Institute for Conflict, Cooperation, and Security, University of Birmingham
- Dr Bruno Tertrais, Fondation pour la Recherche Stratégique, Paris; author of In Defense of Deterrence: The Relevance, Morality, and Cost-effectiveness of Nuclear Weapons (2011)
- David Torrance, freelance journalist; author of Salmond: Against the Odds (2010)
- Simon Webb, former Director General of Policy at the M.o.D.
Several of the participants attended a special edition of The World Tonight on BBC Radio 4 at Chatham House on the evening before the event, which examined the future of defence in the UK. The discussion can be viewed here on BBC iPlayer until 20 April 2015. The colloquium itself was referred to in a recent article for the Glasgow Herald by one of the participants