LABOUR leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he would be willing to press the nuclear button if he was prime minister and the UK was under attack.

His comments come after he said the UK’s nuclear deterrent is the “bedrock” of his plan to keep Britain safe. If elected, Labour said they will use defence procurement to strengthen UK security and economic growth.

The party hopes to direct British defence investment to British business first, with a higher bar set for any decisions to buy abroad.

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In the ITV News interview, Starmer was asked "what was wrong" with former Labour leader Jeremey Corbyn's "ambition" to have a nuclear-free world.

He said: "The only way to have a safer world is to have an effective deterrent, the nuclear deterrent has now been effective for decades. It's the single most important part of our armoury to protect our country and that's why I'm so committed to it.

"And it's important that we see this as a long-term project because not only do we need the deterrents today but we need the upgrades and the continued deterrents as we go forward. I do want a safer world but it's important to appreciate that deterrents and safety go together, they are two sides of the same coin."

The National: Starmer

He was then asked if he would push the nuclear button, to which he replied: "The nuclear deterrent is the ultimate threat and therefore, of course the deterrent only works if there is a preparedness to use it. Everybody understands that and I understand that."

After it was highlighted that he could "potentially kill millions of people", he said: "The deterrent only works if there is a preparedness to use it - so that is a clear answer to your question.

"To go beyond that and to discuss the circumstance in which it might be used would not be anything anyone who aspires to be prime minister would engage in - but as to preparedness, that has to be part and parcel of the deterrents." 

When asked how he would judge when to use it, he said "defence of the realm" was a key first priority for any UK Government.

In an interview with the i newspaper, Starmer confirmed his ambition was to boost the defence budget to 2.5% of GDP, if it fits with Labour’s fiscal rules.

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Labour have also said they are set to campaign on their commitment to the nuclear deterrent in key communities in the nuclear supply chain, such as: Plymouth Moor View, home to the Devonport shipyard; Filton and Bradley Stoke, home of Abbey Wood; Derby North and South, home to Rolls-Royce’s Raynesway site; and Argyll, Bute and South Lochaber, home to HMNB Clyde.

Meanwhile, the SNP have branded the proposals “grotesque” and accused Labour of throwing billions of pounds down the drain.

SNP defence spokesperson Martin Docherty-Hughes MP (below) said: “Westminster has already wasted billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on nuclear weapons and expensive nuclear energy.

The National: MP Martin Docherty-Hughes

“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 renewable energy potential, could be a green energy powerhouse of the 21st century.

“And while the UK Government wastes millions misfiring Trident missiles at the Defence Secretary, the urgent priority is more money for conventional defence and for our armed forces, who are underpaid and under-resourced.

“With both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer focused on the wrong priorities, it is only the SNP standing up for Scotland’s interests and Scotland’s values.”