Westminster, the Bomb and the SNP

trident_genocideBy Bill Ramsay

The significance of the fact that the first outing of the new SNP Westminster parliamentary group was a set piece full frontal assault on the Trident fleet cannot be overestimated. The Westminster response was to try to do the next best thing to ignore it with a 500 statement, but with 56 MPs the adjournment debate around Able Seaman McNielly’s revelations of nuclear submarine safety was news after all.

Historians consider issues around the relationship of the public of a country and its military institutions as key determinants in assessing a country’s democratic health or otherwise. Obvious examples are France at the end of the 19th Century in relation to the Dreyfus Affair or the United States in the sixties and seventies in relation to the Vietnam war.

U.S. Secretary of State Dean Aitchison let slip, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, that the UK was America’s lieutenant. That although the British liked to call it a partnership it was actually something quite different. Post 9/11 interventions has stretched the UK’s armed forces almost to breaking point in terms of commitment and also professional humiliation in the eyes of the Americans. Mindful of French and American Experiences the last thing the MoD press officers need is an avowedly anti nuclear party as the third party in the commons.

During the referendum and GE 15 campaigns Trident was a key issue, the question is can it remain so? Can the Scottish bloc at Westminster, within the context of a Tory majority government rather than in a hung parliament situation, keep UK nuclear weapons and all they stand for high on the political agenda?

The impact of the McNeilly debate reinforces a distinctive aspect of the culture of the SNP as its anti nuclear position is almost as much part of its DNA as its support for independence so slippage on that aspect is not on.

Moreover, opposition to Trident was becoming a defining characteristic of Scottish political culture even before the transformative referendum and GE15 campaigns. The timing of William McNeilly’s whistleblowing could not have been more opportune. How then is the SNP to keep Trident and all that it stands for high up the agenda?

This will be achieved in my view by the new Westminster group developing the different dimensions of the Trident critique. The cost aspect has widespread support and understanding. Progress on issues around the actual dangers of nuclear weapons and proliferation has been made but not nearly enough. Work on Trident as a key totem of British culture requires to be done. One could argue that to end Trident into end Great Britain.

Another dimension of the anti Trident campaign needs also to be opened up, the constant expeditionary warfare mode of recent, current and if the preliminary work on the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review is to be believed, future UK defence policy.

Due mainly to a hostile Westminster consensus underpinned by a hostile mainstream media, the anti nuclear critique has at times been portrayed as so narrow that pro-nuclear response script has become formulaic. “Yes , pacifism is an honourable position, and yes, so to is opposition to nuclear weapons but there are issues around national security to consider”, indeed.

There needs to be a discourse around what national security actually is, rather than what the establishment and the mainstream media say it is.

The size of and the resources available to the Scottish Westminster bloc gives them the opportunity to develop a new alternative national security narrative. Moreover it is important that the Scottish bloc understand that they need not start from scratch in developing an alternative.

Over a number of years, important international institutions, notably the United Nations but also research institutes some of which are based in NATO countries, like Canada, have fleshed out in considerable detail, not only the theoretical but practical aspects around the concept of Human Security.

It is important to understand that Human Security is not some distant poor cousin of National Security. Human Security is actually an alternative way of looking at National Security. It does not begin and end in aid programs to the developing world, it develops the tools of conflict resolution and facilitates an analysis of the real security needs of a country, be it Scotland or the UK.

As we enter the summer of 2015 the SNP has never had so many cards to play. Now is the time to develop alternative political visions and narratives that are guaranteed to have profile. These alternatives will be contested of course, but that simple fact of a open discourse will be a defeat for the Westminster consensus , which bye the way , hardly received a ringing endorsement in the rest of the UK.

Here in Scotland the post referendum media in both print, but more importantly online, will expect the progressive values talked about during the last two years to underpin more detailed SNP policy development now that an additional 8 million in short money is available for that purpose.

Moreover in the context of the electoral politics around the proportional list seats in next years Scottish Parliamentary elections the Greens and elements of the left beyond the SNP will inevitably go even further.

Down in Westminster no action won’t be an option either though in this case the pressure as always be from the political right. The forthcoming 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review will be an exercise in justifying and covering up institutional dysfunction and incompetent decision making in the prosecution of recent UK defence and security policy. The Scottish bloc must challenge this as I have said there are credible , internationally recognised alternatives, even in the UK context. Moreover it’s a debate that the SNP is mandated by the Scottish people, to involve itself in.

However with the advent of the Scottish bloc the 2015 SDSR has, from the Westminster establishment perspective, another, in some ways even more important function. It will be used to invite the Scottish bloc to buy into the Westminster’s defence and security consensus. It will invite the SNP parliamentary group to become ” critical friends” in future UK foreign adventures.

The extent to which the Scottish bloc resists attempts by Westminster to assimilate them will be the measure of them. Every day and many times a day for the next five years they will be told that resistance to assimilation is futile. The bloc have the institutional strength that come with the numbers to resist this. They have a mandate from the people to proffer alternatives. Meanwhile Scotland will be watching, and given the tools of the post referendum media and social media, not be waiting.



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  1. Alastair McIntosh says:

    So, let’s be very clear. Scotland is now a politically unstable platform on which to host nuclear weapons. Let the political planners and their (oft-reluctant) military counterparts internalise that one: a politically unstable platform. Their presence on Scottish soil has imploded against the very political entity they were meant to protect. Would anything be gained for world peace were they merely to be moved south of the border, even if such a move found political acceptance by the English or Welsh? Yes, because a statement of compelling moral authority will have issued from the people of Scotland. It will send a current of hope on a gyre around the world. It will open the imagination to alternative policies based on true security. Keep up the pressure, dear friends. Think what nuclear weapons do to children and other living things. Feel what it says about us even to consider having, and therefore potentially using, such an unconscionable and genocidal weapon. A direct hit on a Trident-armed submarine sailing up the Clyde would knock quite a hole in central Scottish property prices for quite a time. But more than that: Trident quietly rots the soul. Such is the evil from which we must decolonise ourselves, our friends in England too. Only the dynamic gyre of love will slowly break the spiral of violence in which the world is gripped, and against which nuclear weapons are, in any case, militarily ineffective. Scotland seeks true security, not this diabolic chimera born of Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the ongoing shadow of imperial hubris.

    1. Kenneth Coutts says:

      The only lunatics that have used the Bomb are the yanks.
      I dare say the israeli’s would come a close second to this and we all know there Nuke’s are illegal .
      A ground swell of the majority of citizens behind the SNP is the only way to rid ourselves of this mad weapon and a de-escalation of Nato , we have nothing to fear except fear itself, when it comes to the neoliberal corporate fascist’s .
      We the citizens are already giving them a scare by moving towards progressive social democratic principles, do they think they have us contained , I do not think so !

  2. Lawrence Anderson Burley says:

    Excellent article. Thank you.
    I would be interested to learn more of work done by Canadian institute(s) on Human Security. Can you give us some pointers?

    1. Bill Ramsay says:

      As good a start as any is this article


      “A conceptual framework for human security” by Sabina Alkire

      It will point to various institutions.

      Also, it’s worth watching out for Westminster spokespersons conflating ” national interest” with national security. I’m not saying the pursuit of national interest goals are illegitimate, it’s using war fighting to secure these goals that are problematic. In a democratic society publics are entitled to at least the opportunity to consciously buy into putting the lives of our service personnel at risk for mere international commercial advantage.

  3. Jane Shallice says:

    Rest assured it will not just be those north of the border who will be watching but many of us who south of the border have been given such hope. This applies certainly to Trident but to many other issues where the SNP MPs will be speaking on our behalf.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      So good to have such solidarity and understanding from the south. Thank you.

      1. Valerie says:

        Great piece by Bill Ramsay, very thoughtful.

        Much has been made of whether the SNP bloc can make their presence felt, but as Lesley Riddoch pointed out on QT, this week, 3 weeks in, and there is a debate on Trident, possibly the first in Westminster for a decade. Salmond is more than useful, a supreme strategist, and I am hoping this debate will be the first of many, as so many down south just aren’t aware, or thinking about WMDs.
        I would like to see the Scottish govt. issue advice about a nuclear strike – radius of impact, targeting and the inevitable – just shelter under a table! I bet many Scots have no concept of these things, or perhaps rather not think on it.

        1. Neil says:

          I think the SNP need to open up their lines of communication to the other nations of the UK.
          I know many are totally appalled at the Tory election victory and their sickening rhetoric of having a mandate from the people. They don’t.
          I was quite active in my constituency during the election campaign and Trident came up in every local hustings event. All candidates rejected renewal.
          I hope we can join with our friends in the north to fight the implementation of many of the Tories manifesto pledges which are mandated by a mere 25% of the electorate.

  4. Jones says:

    And back on planet earth………. the Chinese have just this month significantly increased spending on both conventional and nuclear weapons, including intercontinental ballistic missiles that can deliver multiple strategic war heads. Russia has just been parading ballistic missiles a few hundred miles away from Poland and Sweden in Kaliningrad while the Polish reinforce defences possibly including US nuclear missiles being situated once again there or in Eastern Germany. India and Pakistan are still facing each other down; Isreal is turning even more rightwards with respect to Iran and their nuclear program and the good ole US of A a has also just this month announced increased spending on upgrading their nuclear systems to the tune of 1 trillion dollars. add to this the trend to devolved authority over battlefield nuclear weapons to military command….

    Does anyone really believe that if the UK doesn’t renew Trident it will make the slightest bit of difference, that China etc will follow suit? What niaivity and self regard the SNP has.

    Besides, the moral argument is ultilitarian, the over all reduction/ irradication of nuclear weapons globally that would maximize ‘human security’. The empirical evidence suggests that a minimal, strategic, non discriminate, second strike deterrent ‘by liberal democracies’ rationalises non proliferation in other countries and in authoritarian regimes. + there has been 70 years in which no two major states have gone to war. And finally let’s not forget how the Ukraine was persuaded to give up her Nuclear deterrent under the exact same logic as laid out in this article. That worked out well for them didn’t it.

    Add to this the absurd hypocrisy/ ethical inconsistency of getting rid of trident while remaining under NATO’s nuclear shield and the ethical considerations the UK/ Scotland has with regards to the security of our allies in the Baltics and Poland…

    Also the cost argument is weak. Trident costs 100 million over its life time, but there would be no saving in the short or medium term due to decommissioning and the simple fact that to be a part of NATO countries are obliged to spend 2% of GDP on defense which in both Scottish and UK terms, given the % would mean no difference. That money would be targeted elsewhere by the MOD. (there may be an argument for that).

    And finally, it would be appropriate (as it is vital and important) to use terms of international law appropriately, as this way a framework to prosecute and prevent can be established in tradition and precedent (globally) Genocide is not an amorphous concept to be used for any great loss of life, but is specific to the systematic attempt to wipe out a single targeted ethnicity (Jews, Armenians, first nation Americans, Tutsis, Bosnian Muslims). language in constructing law is key. Do not dilute the terminology.

    Also Trident is strategic, not indiscriminate; it is targeted (with minimal force) towards infrastructure that prevents any further escalation of attack – why it is second strike. It is not aimed at Moscow etc but at Russia’s nuclear and military command systems in Siberia etc. It would cause mass loss of life but it is not a weapon of Genocide as it is both far too discriminate in target and indiscriminate in effect to be used against a specific human population.

    We live in a world where nuclear weapons exist and can’t be uninvented and more over we live in a world where conventional war is now very indiscriminate, all consuming and causes mass destruction of population centers. We also live in a world where stable ‘liberal democracies’ are under attack, internally through fragmentation and material decline, and externally through the historic shift of power to new authoritarian empires/ super powers in the East. China specifically.

    The world will no be made safe through unilateral gestures but through the mutual rational self interest of all ‘rational nations’. UK is a force for good in the world (despite mistakes) and needs to keep Trident in order to protect the threatened interests of the liberal world order.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      “It would cause mass loss of life but it is not a weapon of Genocide” – I’m interested that you know how to make the distinction. Do you have any proposal how to break the inexorable spiral of violence, how to open, as the late Adam Curle put it, “the clenched fist around the human heart”? Any hope, or just an endless arms race and corruption of the human race?

      1. Jones says:

        Through the creation of international law (using terms correctly) and universal bodies under a cooperative rationally self interested framework. Since the end of the Cold war the world has reduced Nuclear stockpiles by 40%. This is down to trading and ‘game theory’ reduction Unilateral gestures, like getting rid of Trident proposed by SNP is pointless and in fact could destabilize future global non proliferation.

        1. Alastair McIntosh says:

          Thank you, Jones, but such “game theory” still leaves us game for 60% of what would destroy much of life many times over. You are a rational optimist, including optimism as to where our nukes are targeted (do you know that, or is it a guess?). I am not coming from a rational position such as “just war” theory on this matter. That is because I believe that if we follow reason alone, the logical conclusion is nukes and MAD. That is why the early Quakers (I am one, both a Quaker, and early) that the Devil (metaphorically speaking) is “the great reasoner”. I am coming from a place that is about transformation of the heart, one that many would say is irrational, though I would suggest a-rational, which is very different because it suggests a realm of being human to which reason on its own is subordinate. My position is one of the spirituality of nonviolence, not the rationality of game theory. But thank you for replying and I understand and respect our differences.

          1. Jones says:

            Fair enough Alistair. Have enormous regard for Quakers and principled non violence. Is to be lauded. perhaps you’re right and I hope you are. I have part of my family history where the argument for just retaliation and self defense against Genocide is less clear? My discomfort in this instance is more the way the debate around Trident has been politicised for other ends, rather than in of itself.

    2. Unchained says:

      Mutually Assured Destruction. It’s supposedly the reason no great powers have gone to war. I think this tears a whole in your argument that “non indescriminate ” “prevent escalation” will somehow save us.
      Once some of these missiles are used, M.A.D will kick in and I’m pretty sure that the planet that will be left afterwards will be no place to live (even if life were possible)

    3. rentaghost says:

      You are absolutely right that Trident is a second strike weapon, for that reason it is definitely aimed at enemy population centres as hitting their C&C systems and attempting to hit some of their silos after they’ve dropped 300 MT on Britain is closing the gate after the horse bolted. Besides, you can’t effectively neutralise a diversified triad of delivery systems.

      The real kicker is that our arsenal is too small to enforce MAD on any likely near peer agressor. China and Russia, we’re they intent on doing so could destroy Britain as a habitable landmass while absorbing everything we could throw at them and remain viable as a nation, that’s the cold hearted calculations they would make.

      Our system is a last desperate resort in case the Americans leave us to burn, it doesn’t guarentee our safety as we can not build a big enough arsenal on our own to make MAD viable. It’s only use is as a diplomatic cod piece to make UK foreign secretaries feel important.

    4. Bill Ramsay says:

      Even applying the term “weapon” to nuclear weapons is problematic in my view.
      At best , and I use the word best in this context advisedly ,
      At best nuclear “weapons” have no more military utility than a poker or a kitchen knife in a domestic murder.

      The only thing coherent in the following sentence

      “rational use of nuclear weapons” is the grammar.

    5. James Coleman says:

      “Does anyone really believe that if the UK doesn’t renew Trident it will make the slightest bit of difference, that China etc will follow suit? What niaivity and self regard the SNP has.”

      Rather what naivety and self regard YOU have. No-one has suggested that giving up Trident will prevent nuclear proliferation. The fact is that Trident is a very expensive white elephant which will never be used. Also, its contribution to Western defence is according to the Americans is irrelevant. They would prefer that the UK dump Trident and invest in lower level military resources which would be much more useful.

      1. Neil says:

        ‘no 2 major powers have engaged’
        No, but they have fought plenty of proxy battles and wars in non nuclear countries at will and with impunity as they are ‘the major powers’ and they have earned much bitterness and hatred from many countries, governments and peoples as a result.
        Trident is pointless and irrelevant. It only serves to make our puny, small minded, self serving politicians feel like major players when the real powers are sniggering and we are left in international limbo, deluding ourselves into thinking we are a major player.
        We can set a new agenda and make friends with many former opponents by stopping the madness of running around the globe, throwing our proxy weight around and drowning under an occean of debt.

        1. Jones says:

          Renewing Trident is not Proliferation. In fact the new system will contain less warheads. If the argument is ‘human security’ all the the empirical evidence suggests that liberal dems with ‘minimal deterrent i.e) Trident have resulted in wider diplomatic bargaining and over all reduction of nulear weapons. Uk is in fact reducing warhead capability, but other countries, especially China, where they are actually quite smart but have an internal battle between Hawks and Doves require leverage. By keeping UK deterrent we are helping the Doves in China as they can rationalise their own reduction. This is behind the scenes diplomacy!

          1. Jones says:

            In fact it is unspoken but China is on a turning point. The ‘Doves’ need something to bargain with i.e) Trident and UK, to justify their own non proliferation. Without this the ‘Hawks’ will simply not give a shit. We are helping the decent politicians in China by renewing. It is counter intuitive but it is real. Behind the scenes. We are supporting he Chinese liberals who want to engage and non proliferate!

          2. Neil says:

            Do you have any actual proof of your claims about China?

          3. Jones says:

            Yes, long time family relationship with the place.

    6. Bob in the Whuns says:

      Take off your foggy glasses of confusion and refocus with Geo Political scrutiny and you will see the FACTS show that Ukraine’s current civil war situation was precipitated by an American financed coup de tat in the style of Pinochet with Senator McCain and Victoria Nuwland initiating the demise of the elected president. That’s why the Vice President of America’s son is now sitting on the board of two of the largest Ukrainian companies and was placed there days after the collapse of the elected government. The FBI and American troops are now in there to protect their business investment and good old Britain has also taken sides in this civil war, which is a proxy war against Russia. Russia has legitimate interests in all the Russian speaking blood tie family links with East Ukrainians. Should Britain and the USA help smash the eastern Ukrainians heads in to beat the Russian Cultural traditions out of them? The media tripe fed to us about the situation in Ukraine is like an endless hose pipe of slurry (fluid faeces for those who dont know what slurry is) and it is nothing but arrogant warmongering Right wing fascist supporting diatribe that any intelligent person would be ashamed to repeat. But with no other narrative what can we expect from the lackies of the new Right? Scotland needs rid of Nukes before these maniacs drag us into another massive war where Nukes might even be considered……….think very carefully about the lack of HUMANITY among some political leaders. The sickening demonisation of President Putin and moronic repetition of this line in the British establishment media is madhouse chicken feed that is slowly taking us closer and closer to war in Europe, all just to put up a propaganda smoke for American geo-political imperialism. Here’s the truth – failed states like Ukraine are easy picking for the Vultures of Imperialist venture capitalism.
      Scotland needs rid of Nuclear weapons NOW. They are nothing but a phallic symbol of the pathetic dumbo Cameron and hios Neo Feudal crew who are big shots in the world cos they are a nuclear power. Political weapons. Britain’s prick in the world of megalomaniacs!

  5. Redgauntlet says:

    The idea of nuclear arms as a deterrent is premised on the notion that a) human beings are rational, when often they are not and b) irrational people never get into power, when the evidence shows that very often the psychopathic personality is an aid to blind ambition and the thirst for power: Hitler, Nero, Tony Blair, MacBeth,. Bin Laden..

    Remember how we used to think that all airline pilots were rational and would never fly an airplane into the Swiss Alps? Or the Twin Towers? Oh, how young we were, how naive…

    So, nobody can argue that a) all people are always rational and b) irrational people never get into office. Look at History.

    The only people for whom Trident would work as a deterrent, who would be dissuaded from war because of Trident, are rational people, hence, people who would never fire a nuclear bomb in the first place. The deterrent does not deter the criminally insane. How could it?

    It´s a matter of time before some completely irrational person, religious almost certainly, fires a nuclear weapon, moved by God or the Devil or, maybe, both at the same time. Probably somewhere in the Middle East.

    So the ethical question cannot be brushed aside by realpolitik, because the reapolitik doesn’t stack up. It is based on a naive view of human beings, one embedded on capitalism, which is that people only act out of self gain and never self harm or, in fact, lunacy.

    Ask yourself if it is ethical that the UK is spending billions of pounds for a weapon designed to kill millions of people indiscriminately at the touch of a button, 1000 Hiroshimas. Why would anybody want that responsibility? Why be a target?

    This is an ethical question, not a political question. The world does not become safer if we get rid of Trident, true, but that does not mean it ceases to be the right thing to do. Of course it is the right thing to do. Scotland should unilaterally disarm and encourage other countries to do so too.

    The rest is madness…

    1. Jones says:

      The individual may not be rational but the wider framework usually is, all systems require (known) multiple decision centres. Not just one guy. And the deterrent is designed to prevent further attack. Trident is discriminate and intended to specifically target hostile capability of a further attack. To prevent further strike. Even the most irrational cannot attack if the framework for action is nutralized. And it’s an is and ought question. We know Putin and the other states with Nuclear weapons ‘are rational’ if not very nice.

      1. Redgauntlet says:

        You’re an optimist Jones….Hitler was democratically elected. So was Vlad. Anyway, the danger of a nuclear strike, for me, comes from some crazy in a rogue State. We can do nothing about that, but it is fantasy to think we are deterring ISIS, say, or somebody like Hitler. We’re doing the opposite, we’re offering ourselves as a target…

        1. Jones says:

          Fair point, a nuclear deterrent won’t protect from ‘nut jobs’ (which is why no other country should hsve WMD. But it does protect in the realpolitik westphalian ‘competing states’ world we live in. Multilateral dissarmement, the extension of mutually advantageous reduction in hostility is dependent on power balance.

  6. David McCann says:

    It is quite clear that Trident was from the beginning, a First Strike weapon, aimed at Russia and as such designed to ‘take out’ millions of innocent civilians. The deployment of the full compliment of warheads would result in the deaths of 3 million people, 750,000 of whom would be children, and to quote US General Butler would “render Moscow uninhabitable for generations.”
    The overall effect of the total destruction of property, physical injuries, radiation exposure and psychological damage are beyond comprehension.
    Too often the discussion is an abstract one and revolves around the cost of renewal, but surely the question to our politicians is a moral one, and that is if you believe in having these weapons, you have to say which countries or cities are your preferred targets, remembering also that the fallout downwind of any detonation is up to 84k.
    And on a personal note, I happen to live within distance of one of the largest concentrations of warheads on the planet, should an airline pilot decide to crash in to a silo, or should a terrorist manage to get aboard our of submarines.

    1. Alastair McIntosh says:

      I once raised that question, David, with General Sir Hugh Beach in a public debate in Glasgow City Chambers. His reply was that an airliner crashing into the high level waste store at Sellafield would make even more of a mess. I asked another general on a different occassion about the risk to Trident on the Clyde. He said, “Don’t assume it’s not been thought about, and that measures aren’t in place.”

      Stornoway airport, from which I sometimes fly, is notorious for its pernickity security. Nowhere else in the world have I met with such rigour, and other travellers frequently comment on it, including the odd letter in the local press. Locally, some speculate that it’s because Flybe overflies Faslane. Probably just speculation, and of course, if there was to be a hit on a Vanguard class sub it would be very unlikely to go critical. Rather, it would “merely” be a dirty bomb effect.

      Mind you, if the wind was coming from the west, a hit on Faslane could knock quite a dent in Central Scottish property prices. (Sorry to be so prosaic, but that’s reality and that’s the level that gets some folks thinking – be interesting to try and quantify using Chernobyl as a proxy.)

      Which is the greater risk in today’s world? Nuclear war, with us setting off a second strike just to teach them a lesson from the grave; or a terrorist attack when the wind is in the west? Just a thought. Just a question of wherein lies true security. Just for those who might not understand the concern of some Scottish political parties about the matter.

      1. Jones says:

        The principle of second strike is to prevent first strike, not to teach a lesson from the grave. Any action would lead to mutually assured destruction. And it has worked for 70 years. It’s depressing but that is reality and that is the motivation of all states behind the non proliferation treaty. take that away and there is nothing to stop less humanitarian countries from pursuing aggressive nuclear escalation. Unilateral disarmement of liberal democracies will not lead to greater reduction over all and would not aid ‘human security’.

      2. Gordon says:

        Agree Alistair. No need of a nuclear explosion. If AB William McNeilly’s allegations re-security are even remotely accurate, a rogue attack by conventional weapons would wreak havoc on large parts of Britain. We would have no culprit state to blame in order to retaliate and no nukes left to do it. We have seen what devastation even remote Chernobyl caused to agriculture in Wales and Scotland and what Fukushima has done in Japan. An incendiary attack on either Coulport or the muzzle-loaded Vanguard submarines at Faslane would release a load of radio-isotopes into the atmosphere sufficient to extinguish agriculture in a large part of Britain and Ireland, leaving us dependent on food imports for hundreds of years, never mind the radiation sickness and cancers that would follow.

    2. kailyard rules says:

      I,and my family,live in close proximity to Trident subs and a stockpile of bunkered nukes. All the academic discussion of geopolitical first strike/second strike etc. etc. is definitely secondary to the truth that nuclear accidents happen with horrific aftermath. The issue is topical at the moment, with the usual placebo PR response from Whitehall and the Admiralty.

      Anchor and stockile the muck on the Thames closer to the minds that need keener concentration on the subject.

  7. Redgauntlet says:

    Capitalism cannot compute the irrational, or the mad. The mad and the insane have no place in the capitalist schema, which is why the rise of the lunatic asylum came about at the same time as the rise of capitalism. According to a French philosopher. Who died of AIDS.

    Madness, the irrational, is the blind spot of capitalism. Which is why nobody really know what to say about that German pilot. Or yon Italian skipper who inadvertently sank a cruise liner off the coast of Italy so he could wave at his lover on the shore. Or the psychopathic serial killer.

    These things are an embarrassment to capitalism. Nobody knows what to say. Words are coined – depression, troubled past, etc….but futile words which explain nothing really, empty words… the fact is that rational man is a very recent development in the history of humankind and by no means uniform or the only version of man out there, as capitalism will have us believe, because capitalism needs us to believe it.

    For the same reasons, capitalism cannot handle the artist, who has a lot in common with the madman, because he is not moved by money or materialism. For that same reason, to counter the artist and the madman, capitalism invented the art market and the bestseller and the psychiatrist´s couch and kistch movies. Always to make us all into the perfect fodder for the capitalists schema of born-live-procreate-consume-die… understanding as little as possible and asking the fewest number of questions, anaesthetized by consumerism and technology and the media.

    So, as can only be the case in a capitalist world, the ultimate defence system, nuclear deterrent, is based on the view of man as a rational agent. It will all end in tears. Man is not a rational agent, at least not all men, and certainly not all of the time. That is the founding myth of capitalism.

    Whether we have Trident or not changes nothing in the general scheme of things. But getting rid of Trident is all that we can do, we don’t have the means to get rid of anybody else´s nuclear weapons.

  8. Redgauntlet says:

    PS: Gunpowder was invented in China in the 9th century AD. It took another eleven centuries before we got to the European slaughter which was the Battle of the Somme.

    Those who say that nuclear weapons have made peace more, not less, likely, are basing their belief in an eyeblink of history. Fifty years roughly. That is nothing. Give it a few centuries, and then we´ll see who was right about nuclear weapons….

  9. Redgauntlet says:

    Here’s what I would do if I was the President of the Republic of Scotland. I´d organize a peace conference in Scotland, in the Highlands, maybe on an island – a long weekend.

    I´d invite, Putin, Obama, Xi-Ping, Pranab Mukherjee, Mamnoon Hussain, Netanyahu, Ban Ki-Moon and their advisers, cronies and hangers-on, and anybody else with nuclear bombs in the garage.

    I´d serve them cullen skink and haggis and prawns from Loch Fyne and fresh lamb chops or newly caught salmon and lots of whisky (an island whisky to keep them perky) and porridge for breakfast. I´d take them sailing and scuba diving and maybe bird watching and maybe get them to cuddle a dolphin or pet a seal. Maybe Putin could fight a shark.

    I´d take them walking in the bens and the glens and crack lots of jokes about David Cameron and the English way of life. At night, we would sit by the fire and sing Jacobite Songs and the pipes would be played. Maybe a cigar or two smoked and some arm-wrestling or, a game of blind man´s bluff (very apt).

    After a week of this debauch, I would address the international press corps and tell them we were unilaterally disarming. The skirl of the pipes would see off the Great World Leaders: Will Ye No Come Back Again.

    I´d tell them Scotland was the new small peace broker of international affairs, the new number one exporter of Soft Power; and if they ever got the itch, to call before pressing the big red button.

    Or something like that….

    1. douglas clark says:

      Something like that for sure.

      1. Jones says:

        Think the Norwegians have already tried that, except with moose meat, aquavite and dog sleds. Wasn’t overly successful.

        1. Redgauntlet says:

          Jones, the whole nuclear scenario is so macabre and so insane you can only laugh at it, like Stanley Kubrick did. But maybe I’m not making my point too clearly. You gain Soft Power if you willingly relinquish Hard Power. You are setting an example to the world if you banish Trident. You are much safer without it than with it. And an indie Scotland, for linguistic reasons, could develop into a diplomatic powerhouse. We wouldn´t be giving it up for nothing. We would stand to win something from it.

          By your logic, Jones, which is the logic of all of the nuclear States, everybody will want a nuclear bomb soon and with the advances in technology, probably they will be able to make one too almost anywhere in the world – I mean, within, say, 50 years.

          Possibly there will even be a downloadable app which you can use from your cellphone to make a nuclear strike…

          As for those who are saying that Russia is a threat…can we just look at the history books for a minute? How many times have western States invaded Russia, and how many times has Russian invaded the West? Not once is the answer to the latter, with the exception of the Soviet-Nazi carve up of Poland in 1941, and as for Western intervention in Russia, and I am talking off the top of my head, we have 1) The Crimean War, 2) The Allied forces sent to support the Whites during the Civil War, 3) We have Napoleon Bonaparte, 5) We have Adolph Hitler.

          So, five invasions of Russia by Western powers in 200 years. One every 40 years or every two generations.

          Kind of explains why the Russians got so pissed off after the West sponsored a coup against a democratically elected, albeit very corrupt, government in Ukraine. No, not a fan of Putin at all, but just saying…

          1. Jones says:

            I was being sarcastic also. Thinking about the Oslo accords which worked so well for the Palestinians.

            Sorry but I find this kind of self regard and self importance cringe worthy. If you think an Indy Scotland would be a ‘diplomatic power house’ then you really need to travel a bit more. No one would give a monkeys about an Indy Scotland, most Chinese/ Russians can’t even pin point it on the map. The UK on the other hand, due to size + central membership of EU, has considerable ‘soft power’ exercised through organisations like the British Council and a network of long, well respected established diplomatic channels/ missions. This could never be replicated by an Indy Scotland anymore than Slovenia or Croatia has ‘significant diplomatic power’. Ironically it is ‘because’ of the UK’s history of Empire and colonial past that their is mutual influence. See Indian governments response to the possible break up of the UK. But even then it is limited so you also need a stick, i.e) hard power economic mainly, membership of the UN security council and the ability to and willingness to influence things at a geo strategic level. If the UK backs the creation of Chinese regional development bank against the will of the USA then it is news and chalks up a point for the progressives. How could an indy Scotland do similar? This incidently Putin fully supported Scottish independence, happy to see a keystone of western liberal democracy undermined.

            One of the more conceited aspects of the Independence campaign was this glib assumption that Scotland would be welcomed with open arms by the rest of the world. It wouldn’t. Almost all modern states are constructs of older ‘countries’, nations or states. Almost all modern states have similar cecessionist movements within their borders.

            For this reason China blocked out all news reporting on the indyref and state media barley mentioned it. It is highly likely also that Scotland would have been frozen out diplomatically and economically had there been a Yes vote by many countries. China (the second largest econ with 1.4 billion,) tends to be a bit touchy with upstart wee countries (This happened to Norway after the Lu Xioabo incident. Visa’s were restricted causing big trouble with their marine construction industry.). Given the proxy war in Xin jian province, Tibet, Taiwan and most significantly the pro democracy movement in Hong Kong with it’s Scottish history, do you really think Beijing would throw open the doors and say here a nice building for an embassy, how about a chamber of commerce is Kowloon? No they would have said piss off, you have nothing we want and we don’t want your example upsetting our apple cart. Scot who???

            But you are right in part about Russia and the failure of NATO/ US foreign policy after the cold war (British foreign policy was more nuanced.) Surrounding Russia and stepping into their sphere of interest rather than bringing them in also. Behaving as though the west had ‘won’ the cold war, and extending NATO membership to the former soviet satellites was provocative.

            However I think you’re a bit dewy eyed about Putins Russia and worse what happens after Putin and the direction Russia could take. The kind of nationalism on display is not ‘civic’ in any way what so ever and there are worse people waiting in the wings to step in to Putin’s shoes, the Zhurinovsky element. Also Putin has been bank rolling many of the far right parties in Europe, Le Pen in France, golden Dawn in Greece and the pan slavic national alliance etc.

            Sorry but without the UK the world would be a much less safer place and as a Scot I think it is our duty to defend the liberal traditions of the Enlightenment as best we can. That does not mean fragmentation or unilateral disarmament.

  10. David S Briggs says:

    Second time recently I’ve seen the word ‘assimilate’ used in the context of the SNP being subsumed into obedience by the British State, as represented in Westminster. Bercow was being far too pally and thus suspect.

    Is any one else put in mind of a huge cube with twinkly lights sailing through the ether in Star Trek? The ‘Borg Collective’ were always trying to ‘assimilate’ other sentient species.

    There certainly seems to be a Borg mentality flourishing in the Palace of Westminster. Our contingent had better remember not to be subsumed by it.

    OK I’m a ‘Trekkie’.

    1. JBS says:

      If Westminster is a Borg cube, David, then it may well turn out to be the case that the SNP contingent are all members of Species 8472 in disguise… 😀

  11. Wilma says:

    Not everyone who votes SNP is against Trident. Putin is building *NEW* nuclear weapons today on top of refurbishing his own ones. North Korea is building nuclear missile carrying submarines and eventually Islamic State is bound to capture territory with a bomb. This is no time for the idealistic nonsesne of the peaceniks. We need strong and overwhelming defence more than ever. So Scotland must keep Trident – in the name of world peace.

    1. Neil says:

      So Kim Sung Il or Sung Kim Un or whoever in North Korea will definitely never fire a nuke as long as there are nukes in Scotland??
      What planet are you living on??
      Same for Putin. Sat at the desk with his finger on the button…. Oh hang on, what about Scotland??… aarrgghhh better not.
      Delusion doesn’t begin to describe it. A lie down in a drkened room maybe.

      1. douglas clark says:

        What point is it that you wish to make? It is not at all clear.

        1. Neil says:

          Perhaps you have lost your glasses?

      2. Jones says:

        Multiple independent deterrents are key to NATO shield strategy. Reason is it provides greater unpredictability in terms of response to aggression. e.g) US isolationism and poss lack of will in Europe. So yes, Scotland/ UK having a deterrent provides greater security for Europe as a whole against poss nuclear blackmail.

    2. Gordon says:

      So, Wilma, you think that the partial destruction of Russia is worth the complete destruction of Scotland? And that’s a fair trade. The Russians lose Moscow and Scotland, and a good part of Britain and Ireland are obliterated.
      Forget about the MAD concept. There would be no such thing. With a country of our minuscule land mass it would be complete destruction contrasted to fractional destruction in the likes of China or Russia. A nuclear-armed adversary would make Faslane and Coulport their first targets. ‘Strategic’ may be the intention, but mass murder in the west of Scotland would be the result. I understand that previous governments have already placed a store of body bags here in readiness.
      Our strategic reduction in the power of our nukes has made no difference to the Chinese or Russians. It only remains a danger to ourselves, with the Scots first in line. Our nukes are just a danger to ourselves.

  12. stewartb says:

    The public debate here in the UK about Trident renewal and its critical place in the UK’s national security appears to lack certain key features of the ongoing policy debate in the USA.

    A major report prepared in 2014 by the Rand Corporation entitled ‘Strategy-Policy Mismatch: how the U.S. Army can help close gaps in countering Weapons of Mass Destruction’ makes for interesting reading. The study was commissioned by the US Army. The Rand report points to (i) the top US defence priority now being the ability to counter WMDs, rather than (just) deter their use; (2) the major challenge this is placing on US defence expenditure and capability development; and (iii) concerns about the ability of NATO allies, including the UK, to contribute effectively. The Rand report notes:

    ‘Official statements (in the US) have even suggested that the countering WMD mission set has eclipsed the traditional nuclear deterrence and warfighting mission. For example, the April 2010 NPRR (Nuclear Posture Review Report) placed the prevention of nuclear terrorism and proliferation at the top of the U.S. policy agenda, and in testimony in January 2012, General Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testified that “the threat posed by WMD in the hands of violent extremists transcends all of USSTRATCOM’s (US Strategic Command) priorities and encompasses every geographic area of responsibility (AOR).”

    On the role of NATO and other allies, the Rand report notes:

    ‘Forces of coalition partner nations could be employed to reduce the requirement for U.S. forces. However, the degree to which partner nation forces can substitute for U.S. forces will depend upon the size of these forces and how they would be employed. Traditional U.S. allies—including North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies and non-NATO allies and partners operating under the UN flag—may be able to provide important capabilities that augment or substitute for U.S. forces. However, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and other allies are dramatically reducing their ground forces—making their future availability uncertain.’

    So why does the UK still place such priority on Trident, its renewal and significance as a (disputed) independent deterrent given the above context? The question is also relevant given: (i) NATO’s cooperative security guarantee, and (ii) the supremacy of the US nuclear arsenal alone that is aimed at deterrence. Furthermore, it is relevant to recall that the NATO document entitled ‘Strategic Concept for the Defence and Security of the Members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’ which was adopted by Heads of State and Government at the NATO Summit in Lisbon 19-20 November 2010 states that on Arms Control, Disarmament, and Non- Proliferation “NATO seeks its security at the lowest possible level of forces”. So how much ‘deterrence’ capability does NATO need?

    This all seems to reinforce the view of some sceptics that the UK government’s position on Trident renewal is more about maintaining a perceived status in the world rather that investing scarce resources to ensure a force contribution to NATO that is best fitted to maintaining security.

  13. Julian Smith says:

    Great article, Bill. Spot on!

  14. bringiton says:

    All that Trident means for Scotland is that we are on a high priority target list for foreign military planners.
    In terms of jobs (as claimed by British Labour in Scotland) it is insignificant and in terms of “defence” entirely meaningless.
    As with fracking, we are expected to bear all the risks without any significant benefits in order that Very Important People outwith Scotland can strut the world stage.
    We are expendable is the message.

    1. douglas clark says:

      We are, how do we say it, existentially fucked. We have been since US Polaris missiles were based on the Clyde, we have been ever since. This is a completely ludicrous position for Scotland to find itself in.

      It behoves us to stick it up them. By which I mean, take all of your nuclear capability and put it in a Shire close to your good selves. It woud, probably not, save us from nuclear devestation, the nuclear winter is a – coming, but, at the very least we would have tried to avert it.

      1. Jones says:

        Fine then Scotland should have the courage of convictions and ethical consistency to leave NATOs sheild and accept responsibility for Russia walking into the Baltics.

        1. Redgauntlet says:

          Why should Scotland accept responsibility for the failure of Europe to organize their own European defence force? What power does Scotland have in these matters again, Jones? None, or next to none.

          As for Russia walking into the Baltic States, if they were to do so, what would that say about your fetishistic nuclear deterrent? Maybe that it doesn’t actually deter?

          1. Jones says:

            If Scotland indulges in NIMBYism and refuses to play a vital part in the strategic defense of Europe, thus resulting in an emboldened Russia then we shall bare some responsibility. Scotland has considerable ‘soft power’ and is still a middle sized military country as part of the UK.

            And the logic of your argument could be extended to the appeasement of the 1930s. Dissarment is a noble and correct cause but not if it is at the expense of emboldening despots.

          2. Redgauntlet says:

            Jones, I don’t need “to travel” a bit more as you condescendingly put it further up the page – why get personal, Jones? I don’t understand the need, I make no personal comments about you, do I? – nor do I have an inflated view of Scotland’s importance in the world. I am talking about the future, not the present.

            Obviously an independent Scotland would have to carve out a role for itself, a modest role Jones, and I think the Scots are well placed to act as a peace-broker and to countervail 40 years of UK disastrous foreign policy which has been a copy of American foreign policy since Wilson refused to go to war in Vietnam, and which has seen us involved in illegal foreign wars and undermining democratically elected regimes all over the world and torturing people and extraordinary rendition – so much for the principles of the Enlightenment you claim as yours.

            As for the news blackout in China re the referendum, maybe so. But the central plank of Chinese foreign policy has always been the non-interference in the domestic affairs of foreign States. That is the one principle which the Chinese always uphold. Given that China is not a democracy and has a history of crushing any opposition to the rule of the CP, I hardly think what Scotland does is of much importance over there at all either way.

            As for being “dewy-eyed” about Putin….where am I remotely dewy-eyed about the man? You just make a series of assertions with no foundation. Putin is a tyrant, but that does not mean that the policy of the EU, NATO and the US has not been stupid, short-sighted and naive, and that if Russian public opinion still supports him, it is no small measure due to American/EU/NATO bungling or cynicism, given a specific promise was give to the Russians than NATO would not expand to the East.

            The best defence for Scotland and Europe is a well equipped, highly trained and properly funded conventional army, not nuclear weapons.

  15. Jones says:

    Fair point. Apologies for the faceacous comments, was uncalled for. You don’t have to be an apologist for Tony Blair and the Iraq war or neo con foreign policy to understand that things are very unstable, more so than since the collapse of the Hapsburg and Ottoman empires.

    As for China’s non intervention that depends on interpretation. If you think Tibet is Chinese, Mongolia, Taiwan, Northern Vietnam and most of the surrounding waters in the South china sea. The Philipines and Vietnamese see it differently. Just last week, Chinese state media was shaking it’s fist at the US using ‘fruity’ language about war if they continued to support vietnam and Philipines. This is old school spheres of influence stuff and I agree with you that it is very complicated and I certainly don’t assume to have the answers.

    And I agree there is a strong case for nuclear disarmament in favour of conventional spending, but that is not how the debate is framed in Scotland. The debate is reduced ton bashing the British state as immoral for maintaining a deterrent, where as Scotland is morally superior because it is anti Trident. I find this a tad simplistic and frustrating when you consider the real world problems of national security. Trident is discussed for it’s own sake but as a plebicite on the UK state and as a tool to justify other ends, namely independence.

    Also, the Scottish govt were complicit in rendition, they must have known about Prestwick so a fairly irrelevant point with regards to independence.

    Also, a lot of this is moral luck. Remember that Norway, Iceland and Denmark also were part of the coalition in Iraq. Given the size of Scotland, the fact that we would be more beholden to the US as Ireland in with FDI and US investment then the notion we could forge our own path is fanciful, unless it is simply one of complete neutrality. Which I think is a tad cowardly, passing the buck to others.

    And at least the UK when it illegally invades another country the politicians get voted out of power. This doesn’t happen in many other places, certainly not Russia or China.

    And finally I think it is a tad disrespectful to Kosovans and Sierra Leoneans to say that UK foreign policy has been 40 years of disaster. The most common name for boys in Pristina born in mid nineties was Tony. Complicated isn’t it.

    1. Redgauntlet says:

      Fair enough, Jones, a lot of that I agree with, especially that not having nukes makes you virtuous, it doesn´t, it just mean you don’t have nukes, and that can hardly be categorized as a virtue in itself.

      The problem is Europe. We have the biggest integrated economy in the world, the EU is the richest economic area of the world. And our European leaders do not have the wit or the will to come up with a mobile and effective European defence force which could deploy quickly. Instead, we have 27 underfunded armies.

      Europe continues with the Cold War mentality, which is to say, reliant on America. The Europeans are so pathetic, so ineffective, they couldn’t even sort out the war in the former Yugoslavia without the US. No, in fact, they don’t even have a common immigration policy worth the name as I write. Pathetic!!!

      And Trident, in my view, is part of that syndrome. Just keep holding a deterrent and relying on the Yanks when something happens – the Cold War mentality. But we are no longer in the Cold War. The nature of the threats facing us have changed completely.

      The world has changed, and Europe has not. We are stuck in the mire and there is no sign of any leadership either here or on the continent.

      You would have to create a strong European parliament in every European State, which elects delegates to send to the parliament of Europe, which would in turn vote in a European government to govern pan European institutions like a European Defence Army. The Council of Ministers should be abolished, the member States who make it up are not Europeans, they are national politicians wasting everybody’s time and exhausting the patience of pro Europeans.

      There is no common European defence policy to speak of, and if Russia were to invade one of the Baltic States tomorrow – after “clashes” between ethic Russians and indigenous whoever, you can imagine how easy that would be for Putin – what would Europe do, what could it do? Nothing….


      1. Jones says:

        All of which is very cogent. In agreement.

  16. Westminster CA hill says:

    so strangely hot

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