KEIR Starmer has said Trident is the “bedrock” of Labour’s defence policy – despite growing concern over the state of the ageing nuclear fleet critics say is a “grotesque” waste of money.

The Labour leader launched a full-throated defence of Britain’s nuclear weapons in an attempt to stress the distance he has taken the party since its leadership under Jeremy Corbyn – who voted against the renewal of Trident while in charge.

During a visit to Barrow today, where nuclear submarines are being built, Starmer is expected to focus on increasing jobs and skills in defence.

The National: Trident

Alongside shadow defence minister John Healey and Australian high commissioner to the UK Stephen Smith, Starmer will speak to workers, union members and apprentices at the Barrow shipyard.

He is also expected use the visit on Friday to affirm Labour’s commitment to the Aukus military pact.

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Starmer said: “The changed Labour Party I lead knows that our nation’s defence must always come first. Labour’s commitment to our nuclear deterrent is total.

“In the face of rising global threats and growing Russian aggression, the UK’s nuclear deterrent is the bedrock of Labour’s plan to keep Britain safe.

“It will ensure vital protection for the UK and our Nato allies in the years ahead, as well as supporting thousands of high paying jobs across the UK.

“Countless families in Barrow and across Britain have built a secure future over decades of hard work building our defences. I want that to continue for the decades to come.

“That’s why we are fully backing Aukus submarines to be built in Barrow, too. And it’s why Labour will ensure that new UK leadership within Aukus helps make this national endeavour a success for Britain.”

The Aukus pact unites Australia, the UK and the USA in a military pact in the South Pacific, which critics say escalates tensions with the Chinese.

China's government has described Aukus – which will see Australia provided with nuclear-powered submarines – as indicative of an “obsolete Cold War zero sum mentality”.

READ MORE: Nato 'preparing for new theatre of war' in Pacific with major Australian arms deal

The SNP have said Labour’s commitment to Trident was “grotesque”.

Martin Docherty-Hughes (below), the party’s defence spokesperson, said: “Westminster has already wasted billions of pounds of taxpayer's money on nuclear weapons and expensive nuclear energy.

The National: Martin Docherty-Hughes MP

“It is therefore grotesque that Sir Keir Starmer is prepared to throw billions more down the drain when his party claim there is no money to improve our NHS, help families with the cost of living or to properly invest in our green energy future.

“This money would be better spent on a raft of other things – not least investing in the green energy gold rush, which would ensure Scotland, with all its renewal energy potential, could be a green energy powerhouse of the 21st century.”

He blasted the “misfiring Trident missiles”, drawing attention to a high-profile blunder which saw a test missile dramatically fail to launch, landing just yards from the submarine carrying it.

Docherty-Hughes said the Government should provide more money for “underpaid and under-resourced” armed forces staff and conventional defence systems.

Alba general secretary Chris McEleny, who worked at HM Naval Base Clyde, where nukes are stored, said: “When one in four children in Scotland live in poverty it is obscene that resources are wasted to ensure that we have the best defended foodbanks in the world.”

He added that the “war-mongering Labour Party have now made it clear that independence is the only way to free Scotland of nuclear weapons”.

Healey, Labour’s shadow defence minister, said a “strong defence industrial strategy” would be “hardwired” in the party’s quest to promote economic growth if it gains power at the election.

He added: “We will make it fundamental to direct defence investment first to British jobs and British industry.”

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Defence Secretary Grant Shapps (above) however said Labour were “not the party to be trusted with our nation’s defences”.

He added: “Sir Keir Starmer and John Healey tried twice to put Jeremy Corbyn in charge of the nation’s armed forces.

“The same man who wanted to scrap our nuclear deterrent, dismantle Nato and questioned the integrity of British intelligence community.

“Labour’s shadow foreign secretary [David Lammy] even voted repeatedly to scrap Trident.”

Kate Hudson, general secretary of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, said voters were “desperately looking for hope from the Labour Party”.

She added: “However, it’s increasingly clear that Starmer’s offer is just more of the same: billions of pounds wasted on nuclear weapons and nuclear power, and a belligerent foreign policy that includes support for the Aukus pact, Nato, and continuing arms sales to Israel, used to kill Palestinians.

“Putting billions of pounds into the pockets of arms companies and their investors will not reinvigorate the economy in any meaningful way.”