In the last couple of weeks several events; some small, some international in scale; occurred which all pointed in a single direction. Right now, anyone seeking clear omens of the way the wind is blowing in global and Scottish politics surely can’t have missed the growing consensus that there is no longer a place for nuclear weapons – either in Scotland or in the wider world.
The one huge event, which received world-wide publicity, was the Vienna Conference on nuclear weapons on the 8th and 9th of December. This conference, attended by delegates from more the 160 countries, saw the international diplomatic community, experts and campaigners all gathered to specifically discuss the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons – the risk that they pose to all human life.
This is not an abstract risk. Although the number of nuclear weapons in global stockpiles is declining, the risk of their use, by accident or design appears to be growing. Any such use would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences as nuclear weapons are unlike any other weapons. Due to the sheer scale of the indiscriminate devastation they cause, and in their uniquely damaging radioactive fallout, which kills and damages those not yet born in countries not even involved in conflict, nuclear weapons are calamitous in their destruction.
A single nuclear bomb detonated over a large city could kill millions of people in an instant and have grave consequences for the environment. The use of tens or hundreds of nuclear bombs would disrupt the global climate, causing widespread famine. Nuclear weapons, therefore, continue to bear an unacceptable risk to humanity and to all life on earth.
In the past few years, a growing number of non-nuclear states have recognised this, and in the vast majority of countries there is a new sense of urgency for negotiations to begin on a global nuclear disarmament treaty that will finally see the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The nine nuclear weapons possessing states are becoming increasingly isolated, and the UK government was rightfully criticised for having to be “dragged kicking and screaming” to the conference and found themselves pilloried in the press, with the Sunday Herald providing the striking headline, “Westminster caves in to Scots pressure to attend conference on nuclear weapons”. It was when we shared this story on the Scrap Trident facebook page that the global became satisfyingly local, and vice versa, when we received the following comment from someone in Vancouver “Keep the pressure up, you Scots. Keep it up. Keep our world safe”. It was a nice moment, a little bit of recognition, and a realisation too – this isn’t just our battle. This isn’t just about removing, once and for all, the ugly and sinister base at Faslane. This is far bigger than that and the world is watching us and willing us to win, for all our sakes.
The other sign of the burgeoning movement of intolerance to our continuation as a pariah nuclear state, which we surely have to mention, was our own demonstration at Faslane on 30 November . Veteran peace campaigners were astounded by the sheer volume of new young activists who turned out for this event, making it the biggest demonstration against Trident at Faslane in a decade. That day it was made clear; something has stirred in our shared political consciousness, it’s happening all over the world and Scotland is right at the heart of it. To borrow a phrase, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows“.
So, who could possibly be so out-of-touch with Scottish and global political opinion that they could, this same week, elect a leader infamous for his support of nuclear weapons? Which political party could spurn two alternative candidates, each of whom had given a clear commitment of intention to scrap Trident, in favour of one who is so oblivious to the frustration of the non-nuclear states to the nuclear states continued intransigence that he could say “Maintaining the UK independent deterrent must be part our continuing to lead global multilateral disarmament efforts”?
Who, as we approach the 2015 UK general election in which we choose the MPs who will vote on the £100 billion “Main Gate” Trident renewal decision in 2016, could choose to fight that election headed by a man who voted for Trident replacement in the House of Commons in March 2007 and, as Shadow Defence Secretary, actively promoted nuclear weapons and argued against disarmament campaigners within the party? Who, at a time when even those decidedly non-radical bodies the Institute of Fiscal Studies and BBC are criticising George Osborne’s continuing austerity plans as a return to the Britain of the 1930s, could elect a man who has said, “There are others who say that we should not spend this money on nuclear weapons when we could invest in healthcare or in tackling climate change. It is a false choice to argue that the money would be better spent elsewhere”?
The answer is, of course, the Scottish Labour party. What can they possibly be thinking? While you ponder the absurdity of their leadership choice, I’ll provide another of those omens I mentioned earlier. Last week the Labour-supporting New Statesman magazine carried a piece entitled “Scotland and Trident: two words Ed Miliband can’t afford to ignore”. The article convincingly argued that unless Labour changes course on Trident replacement, they risk losing not only the general election, but losing their Scottish heartland for good.
Have Scottish Labour chosen to bury their heads in the sand in the hope that the issue of Trident will go away? If so, they are wrong, very wrong. Nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane and indiscriminate instruments of mass murder ever created. The Scottish electorate are more aware of this now than they have been for 30 years. They are not prepared to listen to any further hypocrisy and disingenuity from Westminster. Jim Murphy, with his ludicrous pro-nuclear establishment view that the best way to have a world free of nuclear weapons is to replace Trident, surely marks the end of the Labour party in Scotland. So be it. The world is changing – we are changing it, and we are changing it for the better.
Scottish CND, On behalf of the Scrap Trident Coalition