There are three main arguments against Trident. One is the growing acceptance among senior ex-military types that it has no strategic relevance to Britain’s war machine and that its retention and likely renewal is more about having some spectacular macho bling to dazzle on the world stage. While that argument has significance and cogency among the political elites, it does not have huge popular force in a Scotland largely and rightly alienated from the whole of the UK war-making adventure.
We are paying around one-and-a-half £billion per annum to keep the current system going. Many millions have already been spent in upgrades at Aldermaston towards Son of Trident and Westminster is ready to sign off in excess of £35 billion for the new boats and related facilities. At a time when the Coalition is using the on-going financial crisis as a god-given opportunity to dismantle welfare provision strip by strip and impose its repulsive and insane market ideology, Trident grows more and more obviously grotesque. There are the opportunity costs – the wholesome and essential things we could do with these billions. But there is also the deeper connection – Trident as the iconic representation of all the hatefulness that goes into austerity programmes, the aggressive flaunting of wealth and privilege in the face of poverty, the callous bureaucratic mistreatment of people with disabilities, the abject failure to invest in a sustainable future. To all those directly affected or saddened by all this, Trident is a gratuitous insult, a visible reminder that they do not matter.
Bill Bicksell, the veteran US campaigner who spent recently spent time in prison for trespassing at the Y-12 nuclear weapons factory in the US, said, in a conversation a few years ago about global nuclear disarmament, “Scotland is the key”. How we respond to the Trident challenge is not just about Scotland or just about getting something horrible out of our country. It is something we can do for the world. The removal of Trident from Scotland will have the knock-on bonus of disabling the UK’s nuclear weapon system for lack of a suitable location, plus the hope that the nuclear disarmament of Britain will kick-start the stalled engine of global abolition.
That perspective immediately registers just how high the stakes are. Sticking to a timely Trident rejection position is a highly confrontational stance which will put us up against very powerful interests. Although the present Scottish government has commendably adhered to a “no Trident” position it has carefully avoided confronting Westminster directly on the issue. For the last two years peace activists have been urging the Scottish Ministers to base their stance on the fact that, as an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction actively deployed, Trident is illegal under international humanitarian law. But it is that argument and the ethical case that underpins it which provides the basis both for the essential confrontation and the moral courage to take it on.
Scottish political leaders who want Trident scrapped will be under huge and varied pressure to wobble from their principles. Delays, compromising and shady backroom deals are very possible. They will need courage to face the likely threats and intimidation. They will need the encouragement and backing of people who will make popular Scottish rejection on these hideous weapons visible.
That popular rejection of Trident is the reason for the Scrap Trident April weekend of protest. The weekend will begin with a national demonstration in Glasgow on April 13th followed by a mass peaceful blockade of the Trident base at Faslane on Monday 15th. Sunday 14th will be devoted to workshops, meetings and direct action training.
We will be marching through Glasgow on Saturday 13th as a reminder that these weapons keep our cities under constant threat of a nuclear accident. On Sunday we will hold meetings on the issues connecting to Trident with anti-cuts, human rights, anti -NATO and independence campaigners, along with direct action training. On Monday 14, we will solidify our message by taking non-violent direct action to shut down the Faslane naval base, where the daily business is preparing for nuclear war.
There is scope for everyone to take part. More information can be found at Scrap Trident Coalition website.
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The Scrap Trident Coalition are: