Do you agree that Trident should be based on the Clyde?
Do you agree that decision is properly taken by MPs, including Scottish MPs, in the UK Parliament?
Do you think the Scottish Government has a role to play?
Firstly, let’s agree that those are distinct, although not mutually exclusive, questions. It is possible, for example, to say Yes to both one and three: to think that Scotland should be consulted but that the enhanced Trident should go ahead.
It is possible, further, to say No to question one – but Yes to question two: in other words, you don’t want Trident and believe that MPs, who properly have the final say, should reflect that view.
I am being more than customarily pedantic on this because of the rather heated commentary which has surrounded today’s summit on the subject, convened by SNP Ministers in Glasgow.
Questions. Can this summit decide anything on Trident itself? No, defence policy is reserved. That is why this was a convocation of the modest and the good in a posh Glasgow pub-cum-theatre at the top of Byres Road rather than a full-scale governmental gathering.
Does that mean it’s a complete waste of time? That’s where opinion divides. SNP Ministers say it’s part of their National Conversation – and they’re entitled to examine options within devolved powers for thwarting the practical implementation of the Trident upgrade.
Critics say that those same Ministers should start delivering on the promises in their manifesto which dealt with substantive devolved issues such as policing, schools and housing.
They say this is another example of SNP Ministers indulging in gesture politics while neglecting their own in-tray.
Are the Nationalists out to gain political capital?
Unquestionably. They are presenting a direct political challenge to Labour, particularly Labour in Scotland. They are after votes.
But perhaps there is a balance to be struck.
Arguably, it would be somewhat strange if the SNP offered no resistance whatsoever to Trident. Their opposition to the nuclear deterrent is of long-standing.
Further, as the elected administration at Holyrood, they have a right, if not a duty, to consider wider issues of concern to the Scottish people. I suspect most neutral observers would concede that Trident is of passing interest to Scotland.
Against that, though, there is some substance, is there not, in the Labour complaint that the SNP initiative in contacting the 189 countries who are members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty risks running across the UK’s diplomatic remit.
Don’t think we can push that one too far, though. I cannot see the bells ringing at the UN when the news breaks that Bruce Crawford is on his feet in Byres Road giving it laldy to an audience of unions, church leaders, Greenpeace et al.
In general, SNP Ministers will be judged as a Scottish government not by their stance on Trident – but by their success or otherwise on those very devolved issues advance by their critics today.
But let’s remember that one of the biggest fallacies in politics – in a long list – is the fallacy of priorities. Don’t do this, do that instead. “I will take no lectures on ferret-taming from a politician who signally failed to tackle the problem of crop blight while in office.”
Anti-nuclear campaigners will say there is no bigger question than Trident. That doesn’t mean that SNP Ministers should spend every waking hour contesting Trident. They shouldn’t, they can’t, they won’t.
Equally, it is rather bogus to say that there is absolutely no time whatsoever to consider Trident, even though it is reserved, for as long as other manifesto promises remain pending. If that were simplistically true, then ministers would never do anything at all, for fear of neglecting something else.
Voters, I suspect, know that – and will judge accordingly.
PS: Much happen while I was away? Apart that is from Scotland winning then losing, United gubbing Hearts and Ming standing down?