Michael Fallon, the defence secretary, will today announce a £640 million investment in Scotland. It will be specifically around renewing Trident with an emphasis on how the Tories want to protect the thousands of jobs directly related to Trident and its renewal in Scotland – while Labour wants to scrap the deterrent altogether, a comparison Fallon is eager to make.
“The GMB union understand that the Trident programme is going ahead. We are renewing these boats now, we’re spending money on them and we’re creating the skilled jobs in the Trident programme.
“Now the only threat to that is Labour. It is Labour that would jeopardise that programme, that would jeopardise those jobs by cancelling the deterrent and I hope they never get into power to do it.”
Scottish Labour have responded by saying Fallon is playing “agressive politics” alongside some piffle about Sadiq Khan that obviously has nothing to do with Scotland. To be fair, there wasn’t a whole lot Scottish Labour could actually do here – Fallon has them dead to rights. At Scottish Labour conference in November last year, the Scottish party voted to scrap Trident. Actually, it was much sillier than that, but let’s not dwell on it any further – Trident scraping was definitely approved.
The polls have Labour and the Tories virtually tied for second place in Scotland. Actually, a couple of Holyrood polls this week saw Labour doing slightly better than they have been doing recently, but there have also been polls in the last month that had the Conservatives ahead of Labour in Scotland as well. So it is entirely possible this could take place. It would be a crushing blow for Scottish Labour to say the least – fewer seats in Holyrood than the supposedly hated Tories.
What could make it happen is that you sense – from things like Fallon’s intervention today and Cameron’s visit to Scotland at the end of this week – that the Tories really believe they can do it. In politics, that counts for a lot. Being the official opposition in Scotland, leaving Labour what would amount to a minor party, would be a huge victory for the Conservatives. It would signal the end of Scottish Labour as a real electoral force, for starters, an achievement that would have seemed unobtainable five years ago.
So what do I think? If I had to place a bet right now, I think the Tories just might pull it off. They seem to be aggressively pursuing this goal at present and underestimating the strength of the Tory electoral machine seems to always be a mistake these days. Also, it appears that no matter what Labour does in Scotland, it just can’t get through to the voters. Their policies are more popular than they are – never a great sign.