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9 April 2015, 07:12
The Tories are accusing Ed Miliband of preparing to "barter away'' Britain's nuclear deterrent in order to secure power in a backroom deal with the Scottish Nationalists.
Defence Secretary Michael Fallon will today confirm that a new Conservative government will go ahead with the construction of four new Trident nuclear missile submarines to replace the existing fleet.
In a speech in London, he will warn that Mr Miliband's refusal to rule out a post-election deal with the SNP - who are committed to nuclear disarmament - would put the future of the deterrent in jeopardy.
Labour - like the Conservatives - are committed to replacing the ageing fleet of Vanguard class submarines which carry the Trident missiles and maintaining the continuous at-sea deterrent, ensuring there is always one nuclear-armed vessel on patrol.
However with the polls suggesting the SNP could be the third largest party in another hung parliament, Nicola Sturgeon has made clear that the price of their support after the election on May 7 would be scrapping Trident.
"Nicola Sturgeon could not be clearer. She has told Ed Miliband that scrapping Trident - our country's vital nuclear deterrent - is a red line she will not cross,'' Mr Fallon will say.
"If he wants the keys to Number 10, he must abandon any plans to renew our current Vanguard ballistic missile submarines.''
After Ms Sturgeon used the first of the televised Scottish leaders' debates to offer to put Mr Miliband in Downing Street, Mr Fallon will say it is a "sign of weakness'' on the part of the Labour leader that he has failed to rule out such a deal.
"Voters can only conclude that he would be prepared to trade Britain's national security just to get his hands on the keys to Downing Street,'' he will say.
"The future of our country's security will be on the ballot paper. There will be a clear choice between a Conservative government that will put our national security first. Or Ed Miliband, a man so desperate for power he is ready to barter away our nuclear deterrent in a backroom deal with the SNP.''
Mr Fallon will liken the SNP's approach to defence to a "student protest group'', warning that it would put the security of the whole country at risk.
"The SNP's childlike world view would sacrifice the long-term security of the UK and play into the hands of our enemies. The nuclear deterrent protects all of Britain and the SNP represents a separatist threat that would dangerously weaken our collective defence,'' he will say.
"When Britain faces nuclear blackmail by rogue states, this self-indulgent approach is more suited to a student protest group than a party of government. Britain doesn't pay ransoms and the Conservatives would never bow to demands from Scottish separatists.''