2007 - 2022

Cop Outs and Cuts

With all the brouhaha about Kinloss and Lossiemouth and the need to make cuts in Defence as much as elsewhere, the spotlight is turned away from the one place where it should be relentlessly focused on – the £100 billion earmarked for Trident. And don’t be fooled. The Coalition Government’s decision to postpone the final vote on a replacement, is a mere body swerve, and a cop-out. A cynical piece of posturing.

If I may explain: MoD projects go through two hurdles, the Initial Gate and the Main Gate. For Trident replacement the Initial Gate (due 2010) will authorise billions of pounds on design work and the procurement of long-lead items over the next 4-5 years. The Main Gate ( 2015) will authorise the full contracts for submarine construction.

There is a every likelihood that in 2015 the Government will argue that so much money has already been spent that it would be foolish not to continue with the new submarines – just as they recently did with the two new Aircraft Carriers being built on the Clyde. And so we will have Son of Trident.

The recent Defence deal between President Sarkozy and Cameron promises inter alia, nuclear co-operation between the UK and France over the next 50 years. It is simply taken for granted that we will remain a nuclear armed-state in perpetuity. But both countries are signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1968, Article VI of which commits the states to “negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament”. This UK/France agreement is a clear violation of this Article.

At Aldermaston, in Berkshire, where all the UKs atom bombs are made, the work for Trident replacement is going full steam ahead. The planned ‘Project Hydrus’ is the latest development in an ongoing £1 billion-a-year modernisation programme there, which includes the Orion laser, an enriched uranium handling facility, and three new supercomputers. This will enable the UK to develop a new generation of nuclear warheads, circumventing its obligations under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and undermining its disarmament commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The fact that Aldermaston is working flat out shows that essentially, the Trident replacement project is a done deal. For all the parliamentary manoeuvring, the real decision makers are committed to producing a replacement for Trident, when it reaches its ‘use by’ date in 2025. And of course, they will end up here in Scotland, where the UK keeps all its nuclear WMD.

Stopping Trident is one cut the British state is not prepared to make. We will forever cling blindly to our nuclear juju. Our sacrosanct national fetish will remain eternally inviolable. However, to make this act of faith, we must first stifle our own sense of human sympathy or compassion. Only when we have killed the humanity in ourselves, can we then countenance the mass killing of other human beings. Thus, in essence, we are our first nuclear victims.

The moral nihilism of this fact speaks volumes. No consideration of the utter immorality of our WMD (the so-called ‘independent British deterrent’) is taken. There is no awareness of what it actually does, when it does the one and only thing it was designed to do.

The prestigious Canberra Commission affirmed in 1996: “The proposition that nuclear weapons can be retained in perpetuity and never used – accidentally or by decision – defies credibility. The only complete defence is the elimination of nuclear weapons and assurance that they will never be used.”

But we in Britain ignore these words. We continue to delude ourselves that the Atom bomb is our ‘White Man’s burden’, an Ark of the Covenant entrusted to us us but forever denied lesser breeds. So we press on with our nuclear fantasies, as if we can forever say to the rest of the world ‘Don’t do as I do, do as I say’.

Nuclear Deterrence is a contradictory and self-destructive delusion. In order that an enemy should be deterred, he must perceive our threat as being real, actual, and imminent. In order to create this fear in the enemy, we must therefore develop these characteristics in our weaponry; they must be made real and usable, with a stealth delivery system. So ultimately, the never-to-be-used Bomb becomes usable. And if it is usable, then we are more and more likely to use it.

This is the huge fallacy behind the Lb.Dems talk of replacing Trident with a smaller, cheaper Cruise-launched nuclear missile. It makes nuclear war more likely, not less.

This blurring of the distinction between nuclear and so-called ‘conventional’ weapons is a perennial danger with potentially disastrous consequences. Back in the good old days of the Cold War we had tactical or ‘battlefield’ nuclear weapons designed to be used in a ‘limited engagement’ on the European ‘theatre’. The theory was that there would be a small nuclear war, which would then stop, and everyone would go home, with us as victors. The Lib. Dem’s ill-considered proposals take us back to that lunatic scenario.

Those who attack the SNP for advocating independence, while at the same time attempting to save the bases, are assuming that only the British state needs or can provides military bas:es. They are ignoring the fact that an independent Scotland would still require facilities for a Scottish Defence Force.

As local MP Angus Robertson points out, while Scotland would host less than 40 aircraft in one air-base, Norway, Denmark and Sweden operate three times as many military aircraft and bases.

The Norwegian Air force currently operates more than 110 aircraft from seven air bases, the Danish Air force more than 111 aircraft from three air bases, and the Swedish Air force more than 187 aircraft from seven air bases.

As he said: “While taxpayers north of the border subsidise defence over-concentration in the South of England, neighbouring independent Scandinavian nations have more bases and aircraft than the UK has in Scotland”.

But then, they don’t have Trident, do they?

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  1. Alan Clayton says:

    Excellent piece as ever Brian.I feel it is worth reflectiong though the permanent seat on the UN Security Council which ‘Great’ Britain has had since the UN was founded after WW2.That consisted of the victors of that war. They reflected geopolitical realities then, but not now.As long as it can have a nuclear ‘deterrent ‘ GB will hang on to that and can stand against ‘the enemies within’,the various nationalisms and dissenters. Without great power status,depite its burgeoning intelligence apparatus, the British state will implode.

  2. bellacaledonia says:

    Submarine accidents:

    October 2010 HMS Astute grounded off the Isle of Skye

    April 2009 HMS Torbay grounded in the Eastern Mediterranean * (not previously reported)

    February 2009 HMS Vanguard collided with the French submarine Le Triomphant in the Atlantic

    May 2008 HMS Superb grounded in the Red Sea

    May 2003 HMS Tireless struck an iceberg while on Arctic Patrol

    November 2002 HMS Trafalgar grounded on Fladda-Chuain, north of Skye

    November 2000 HMS Triumph grounded west of Scotland

    November 2000 HMS Victorious grounded on Skelmorlie Bank in the Firth of Clyde

    July 1997 HMS Trenchant grounded off the coast of Australia

    July 1996 HMS Repulse grounded in the North Channel off south-west Scotland

    July 1996 HMS Trafalgar grounded off the Isle of Skye

    March 1991 HMS Valiant grounded in the North Norwegian Sea

    November 1990 HMS Trenchant snagged the fishing vessel Antares off Arran

    October 1989 HMS Spartan grounded west of Scotland

    November 1989 HMS Sceptre snagged the fishing vessel Scotia near Lewis

    July 1988 HMS Conqueror collided with the yacht Dalriada off the coast of Northern Ireland

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