Trident – Nowhere to Go
In the first of our #IndyMax series exploring how independence could mean essential transformation not abject continuity Brian Quail explores why an independent Scotland means the end of Trident in the UK.
This is the title of a detailed analysis of government archives published by John Ainslie of Scottish CND in Jan 2012. This timely report analyses, using the MoD’s own assessments, why alternative locations to Faslane and Coulport in Scotland are simply not tenable.
With locations including the 2012 Olympics sailing venue, National Trust land and densely populated residential areas, there is simply nowhere for Trident to go. An independent Scotland means the end of Trident in the UK.
For more than half a century people have campaigned against nuclear weapons. The basic tactic was always “convert the opposition, then get it elected”. Now all that is changed. Utterly. In Scotland, we have won. Game, set, and match. We have a government in power which shares our goal.
But it is not enough for the Scottish government to be opposed to Trident politically. It must also find the courage to recognise and affirm the manifest illegality of Trident.
Schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998 reserves to Westminster *“control over nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and other weapons of mass destruction”*. Thus, by its own words the British state recognises that Trident is a WMD. As such, it violates the Geneva and
Hague Conventions, and the other acts of International and Domestic Law, which uphold the sacrosanct principle of civilian immunity.
On 21st October 1999 Sheriff Margaret Gimblett instructed the jury at Greenock Sheriff Court to acquit Angie Zelter, Ellen Moxley and Ulla Rode, who had been charged with causing £80,000 damage to a Trident related barge. The jury did so, and Trident was – ipso facto –
recognised as being illegal. Thus was a noble and honest decision.
On 30th March 2001, in the Lord Advocates Referral (LAR) Lords Prosser, Kirkwood, and Penrose overturned this decision, and in a perverse and shameful display of toadying to the imagined interests of the British state, ruled that Trident was legal. They claimed the rules of war do not apply in peace time. (We were, in fact, at war in Kosovo at the time of the LAR, as we are now at war in Afghanistan.)
Since then, courts in Scotland have used this LAR ruling as a precedent, and all those who seek by peaceful, non-violent, direct action to uphold the law and frustrate the deployment ot Trident, have been found guilty. This farce simply cannot go on. The new Scottish government must find the courage to challenge the LAR, to admit that this was – quite simply – wrong, and to confront the UK government directly on the illegality of Trident.
The fact remains that all the Unionist parties support the UK’s government’s present deployment of Trident, and its replacement in 2025 with an even more advanced nuclear WMD.
Their is a perverse rationality in this. Since the nuclear fetish lies at the very heart of the (British) nationalism that all the Unionist parties share, they are logically obliged to kow-tow to this great British national idol.
The current political debate in Britain is not internationalism versus nationalism, as the ultra-left fondly imagines. What we have in the UK is a conflict between two opposing nationalisms. British (which is imperialistic and conservative), and Scottish, which is (generally) more social democratic and internationalist in character. One cannot
be a genuine internationalist, without first recognising the cogency and validity of nationalism. The British ultra-left is very keen on supporting anti-imperialist movements and nationalist aspirations in foreign lands, but perversely opposed to this same phenomenon when it
is a question of Scotland’s future. Their much-vaunted internationalism is in fact a mask concealing the face of good old-fashioned British imperialism. Who was it said we are destined to become what we are afraid of?
The British left has not yet made the connection between nuclearism and Britishness, and, in Scotland, has paid the price in its self-indulgent road to oblivion. They fail to see the innate
imperialism of the British state. All talk about “the British road to socialism” is as contradictory and irrational as talking about “the Zionist road to socialism”
The British state is historically, congenitally and irredeemably an imperialist construct, as is Zionism. To try to build socialism – or any progressive political structures – on this basis of the continued existence of the British state, is building castles in the air.
The problem for SCND is that some of our members are long time activists in the Labour Party, and resolutely opposed to independence (“separatism”). So, what do they do? My message to these people is this. You must decide which you hate the most, Independence or
If it is independence, then you can vote for a pro-Trident Unionist party, and the UK will be stuck with Trident (and its replacement in 2025) indefinitely. If it is Trident, then swallow hard, and vote for independence. This does not necessarily mean voting SNP – the Green Party also support independence. And that’s an end to Trident.
Also remember that the new independent Scottish Parliament will inevitably reflect the political culture of Scotland. It will contain members of the Conservative Party, the SNP, the Green Party – and the Labour Party. In an independent Scotland this party will hopefully
return to its historical support for independence (“home rule”) as well as other radical political ideals. Like anti-nuclearism.