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SNP plan £1m toll for Trident

Posted by Abolition, 22nd Jan 2007 | Category: Nuclear Weapon News

AN SNP-LED Scottish Executive would openly challenge the government's decision to renew Trident by imposing a £1 million toll on every warhead transported in nuclear convoys.

SNP leader Alex Salmond says the levy will be the centrepiece of his attempt to prevent a new generation of nuclear weapons being based on the Clyde.

From: Sunday Herald

He believes the "Trident toll" will raise £85m and comes as the SNP leads Labour in the latest opinion polls for Holyrood's May election.

But Labour have hit back by saying the plan amounts to a road toll and is therefore illegal under EU law. They also say the Ministry of Defence (MoD) vehicles would be exempt from the tax.

It has become clear Salmond wants to use Holyrood's devolved powers to challenge controversial government decisions, such as building new nuclear power stations, but his latest initiative on Trident will cause alarm in Whitehall as it directly confronts a key part of the prime minister Tony Blair's defence policy.

The SNP leader says that a Nationalist-led Executive will introduce a Bill after May to block the renewal of the UK's nuclear deterrent. His party will use the parliament's local taxation powers to impose a £1m toll on every warhead transported to Scotland, a charge that would be paid by the MoD.

The new tax would be collected by councils and the proceeds given to the Executive, which would carve up the cash between Scotland's 32 local authorities.

SNP strategists estimate the "Trident toll" could raise £85m, a figure the party says is in line with Scotland's contribution to the replacement of the controversial weapons system.

The purpose of the legislation is to deter the renewal of Trident by heaping extra costs on to the project, but it is the effect of the policy that is likely to have the most impact. Salmond's desire for a £1m toll would put an SNP Executive at loggerheads with UK Ministers.

However, Labour strategists have launched a furious attack on the SNP plan, with defence secretary Adam Ingram telling the Sunday Herald: "Calling it a levy doesn't stop it from being a road toll. As such, it is illegal under EU road-pricing legislation, through the Euro-vignette directive. The maximum charge for any toll is £800 per year."

Ingram also said all MoD vehicles were exempt from road tolls, adding: "This is an utterly ridiculous idea - 11,000 workers on the Clyde would pay the price if the SNP forced the closure of Faslane. Last week Labour showed 26,000 defence and manufacturing jobs in Scotland would be threatened by the SNP."

However, Salmond denied his plan amounts to a road toll and hit out at Ingram: "The MoD is no more exempt from tolling legislation than it is from the community right to buy. It's typical of the overbearing arrogance of Labour to think the MoD is exempt from the law.

"The Trident Toll will be a powerful new deterrent and we hope it will make the government think again about bringing a new generation of nuclear bombs to Scotland's shores."

David McKenzie, of Stirling CND, welcomed the SNP plan, saying: "As an interim measure, this is an excellent idea. Many Scots will support this move."

A Church of Scotland spokesman said: "If it is possible to introduce disincentives to Trident under the terms of the Scotland Act, then that is something that we would welcome."