THE First Minister has told nuclear defence workers that the SNP will match its call to scrap Trident with a commitment to provide alternative jobs.

Nicola Sturgeon met Len McCluskey, the boss of Unite for the first time yesterday, and assured him that the SNP supported his union’s call for a strategy of diversification to accompany any move to scrap nuclear weapons.

McCluskey had previously told Unite’s first Scottish policy conference in Clydebank – 20 miles from the nuclear submarine base at Faslane – that simply scrapping Trident could “devastate” communities such as Barrow-in-Furness, where the subs are built. Union delegates sidestepped a debate on renewing Trident, but all its main speakers were discussing the subject outside the conference hall.

Sturgeon also pledged that the Scottish Government would not willingly or voluntarily cooperate with the Trade Union Bill if it becomes law.

Holyrood’s Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick has said that MSPs were powerless to stop its implementation in Scotland, but Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale told delegates that a legal veto could still be secured. McCluskey accused the SNP of “hiding behind procedural niceties”, but Sturgeon said Labour and the SNP should not attack each other over the Bll.

Sturgeon affirmed theSNP would continue to argue against Trident’s renewal. She said: “My position on Trident is long held. It’s not something I do for party political advantage, I have believed in the anti-nuclear case all of my life.”

“But I also know, and this is a message to all of you, that for some people the nuclear base at Faslane is where you work and that for Unite the abolition of Trident must be matched by a programme of diversification and alternative employment.

“That is the position that the Scottish Parliament supported in November and that is the position that we will advocate. Renewing Trident, according to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, at current estimates is going to cost £167 billion over its lifetime.

“I think that is too high a cost to pay at a time of deep cutbacks elsewhere. It should be spent on genuine alternatives: health, education and conventional defence equipment and personnel.”

Sturgeon added that the Trade Union Bill would be “opposed at every single turn” by the SNP.

She said: “Let me say directly to David Cameron today: if the Tories have any respect whatsoever for the democratic process in Scotland they will drop this Bill and drop it now.

“It’s a measure that I don’t think would have ever been proposed, let alone passed, in the Scottish Parliament which is why I believe so strongly that the powers over trade union and employment law shouldn’t lie with the Tories at Westminster, these powers should lie with our own democratically elected parliament here in Scotland. Let me be clear about this: if this Bill becomes law we will not willingly or voluntarily cooperate with it or implement it.

“The Scottish Government, for as long as I lead it, will never employ agency workers to undermine strikes.

McCluskey had told journalists that 65 per cent of his 150,000 members had voted SNP at the General Election and said that while he “may not agree with that choice”, he could understand it.

And he offered to be a “critical friend” to the SNP, adding: “Nicola Sturgeon and her team have reached out to trade unions – including on vital issues like blacklisting – and we would be letting our members down if we responded anything other than enthusiastically.”

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