The pro-Scottish independence paper launched this week. Photo: Getty
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Scotland's new pro-independence newspaper deserves its place

Avowedly pro-independence, The National hit the streets on Monday and sold out in a matter of hours.

Something highly unusual happened this week in Scotland – a new daily newspaper was launched on an unsuspecting public.

Avowedly pro-independence, The National hit the streets on Monday and sold out in a matter of hours; soon prompting complaints that it was as tough to track down as the proverbial hens teeth.

A hard copy of the first edition (sold for 50p) can still be bought - but only if you're prepared to fork out at least a tenner for it on eBay. In an era where papers are cutting staff and resources like there’s literally no tomorrow this is pretty stunning stuff.

By any measure then the first few days of this fledgling publication have been an enormous success. There are, of course, good reasons why it has been shifting up to 60,000 copies per day.

Post-referendum things remain very much up in the air. Politically there's plenty of unfinished business, not least the thorny issue of further devolved powers to Holyrood and an ongoing Labour leadership election.

Then there's the media. For those who didn't manage to follow every cough of the independence campaign it’s worth reflecting on the deep grassroots unease – nay, outright anger – on the Yes side about what is seen as an overwhelmingly pro-Union press.

Just one newspaper – The National’s sister paper, the Sunday Herald – came out in favour of independence. Others such as The Scotsman and the traditionally Labour-supporting Daily Record, were never likely to dive headlong into the Yes camp.

That meant the most pronounced and resolutely pro-indy voices were to be found away from the mainstream media on websites such as Wings Over Scotland and Bella Caledonia.

The Sunday Herald certainly did rather well on the back of its independence declaration, increasing by more than a hundred per cent its year on year circulation.

Such numbers are gold dust in these thin times and it can hardly be denied that The National is as much an economic as a democratic venture. Its publishers – Newsquest – have made it clear this is no more than a five-day pilot. It's sink or swim right now, this week.

Wisely The National's editor, Richard Walker, has said he's no knowledge of sales targets and even if he did would not spell out what they are.

Frankly has no need to take any hostages to fortune for his success with the Sunday Herald is evidence enough that the new paper stands more than a fighting chance.

It has a clear raison d’etre and will be welcomed by a large number of the 1.6 million Scots who voted Yes, a fair number of potential readers.

Angela Haggerty is editor of CommonSpace – a digital news and social networking service funded by the pro-independence Common Weal think-tank. She views the advent of The National as a "welcome development” and "certainly a step towards changing a lack of balance in the newspaper industry.”

That may depend on where you stand however, with some pro-Union journalists already gleefully describing the new venture as "McPravda".

A cheap shot this may be, but still, the last thing any newspaper would wish to be is a free-sheet for the party of government.

Doubtless the SNP will be rubbing its hands at the emergence of The National. For its part, its journalists will need to be prepared to hold the Holyrood government and Parliament to account as much as it would do the Smith Commission over devolution.

Indeed there is already some evidence of wider horizons, with child poverty and social inequality featuring as front-page leads.

As Haggerty rightly points out "at the very least the Scottish media has some excitement in it again. It has been a long time coming."

So let's have no knocking of The National, a serious voice reflecting a large chunk of public opinion and the changing landscape of Scottish politics. It deserves to be taken seriously.

Douglas Beattie is a journalist, author of The Rivals Game, Happy Birthday Dear Celtic, and The Pocket Book of Celtic, and a Labour Councillor based in London. He grew up in Scotland

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Chi Onwurah MP: I did not want to vote for Trident - but I did

I do believe the use of nuclear weapons is immoral, but there is more to consider than that.

I did not want to vote for the renewal of Trident. I don’t like voting with the Tories, I don’t want to legitimise a dialogue of death and I’d much, much prefer to vote for investment in schools and education than weapons of mass destruction. 

The fact that I’d recently returned from a commemorating the Centenary of the Somme with veterans of the Tyneside Battalions  had highlighted, again, both the horror and the futility of war. 

As friends in Newcastle and colleagues in Parliament can testify, I spent the days leading up to the vote asking for views. I read constituents’ emails on the subject as well as the (many) briefings. I studied the motion  in detail and listened carefully to the arguments of colleagues who were voting against Trident. 

I did not want to vote for Trident. But I did. Why?

The first duty of Government is to protect its citizens. That is a duty I take very seriously. Like all of my colleagues on the Labour benches, I am committed to the twin goals of a safe and secure United Kingdom and a world free of nuclear weapons. In both 2010 and in 2015 I was elected on manifestos that pledged we would retain the minimum necessary nuclear deterrent, whilst at the same time working towards reducing and eradicating nuclear weapons. Last year, Party members reaffirmed that policy at conference. However the Leader of my party and some of my frontbench colleagues voted against that position. 

For me there were four key questions – cost, effectiveness, morality and making the world safer.

1. Cost

Whilst there is not enough transparency on cost, the SNP and Green Party estimates of  up to £200bn double count all kinds of in-service costs, most of which would also be applicable to  any conventional replacement.  The estimate of between £30 to 40bn over 35 years seemed to me most credible. And this does not include the benefits of the 30,000 jobs that depend on building submarines - either directly or in the supply chain - or the value to the engineering and manufacturing sector that they represent. That is why my union, Unite, backed renewal. That is why EEF, the manufacturing association, backed renewal. If Trident were not renewed, the money saved would not go on the NHS, no more than our EU membership fee will.  We are a very unequal nation, but we are also a rich one - we should be able to maintain our defence capability and invest in a welfare system and the NHS.  

2. Effectiveness 

I read many reports citing cyber insecurity and potential drone attacks, but the evidence convinced me that, whilst these threats are real, they are not (yet) such as to significantly undermine effectiveness overall. Like Lisa Nandy, I was concerned about the apparently openended nature of the commitment to nuclear weapons but the motion did also emphasise disarmament. Jeremy Corbyn’s argument that nuclear weapons were ineffective because they did not deter the Rwandan genocide,  I found more difficult to follow. 

3. Morality 

This was for me perhaps the strongest argument agains renewal. It is one rarely articulated. Many hide behind cost and effectiveness when they believe nuclear weapons are immoral. 

I am not a conscientious objector  but I have a great deal of respect for those who are, and I do believe the use of nuclear weapons is immoral. 

But if you accept the concept of armed defence and believe in taking armed action to protect UK or global citizens, then the unilateral disarmament argument seems to resolve into 1) hiding behind the American deterrent 2) that it will make the world safer, or 3) that it doesn’t matter whether we end up in thermonuclear destruction as long as our hands are clean. The first and the third I do not accept.

4. A safer world

This was the question I ended up wrestling with.  Caroline Lucas’ argument that having nuclear weapons encourages other countries to use them would have been an excellent one to make back in 1948. The question now is not whether or not we have them -  we do -  but whether or not we get rid of them, unilaterally.

A world free of nuclear weapons needs countries like the UK to take a lead. It needs stability, balance, and a predictable pace of weapons reductions. It takes years of negotiations. I am proud of my party’s record on nuclear disarmament. The previous Labour Government was the first nuclear-armed power in the world to commit to the goal of a world free from nuclear weapons. We made the decision to decommission all land and air launched missiles. We did it unilaterally, setting an example. But nobody followed.

Working with other countries in recent decades, we have halved our own nuclear stockpiles and the US and Russia have reduced their warheads from 60,000 to 16,000 and that is expected to halve again by 2022. The evidence is clear that multilateralism works, although this Government has yet to demonstrate its commitment. 

So would Britain declaring that it was not going to renew Trident make the world, and the UK, safer? Would it tend to stabilise or destabilise? I spent hours debating that. I considered Britain on the road to Brexit with a new Prime Minister with no plan and an absent Labour leader, Europe between fear of migration and disintegration, Russia at bay, the Turkey coup, Israeli-Iranian relations, the Republican party’s candidate for President and the reality that terrorist massacres are a regular feature all over the world. I thought about my constituents, would declaring that Labour was against Trident make them feel safer and more secure?

My conclusion was that it would not make the world more stable and it would not make my constituents feel more secure.

And so I voted.