An Open Letter to John Swinney

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

An open letter to John Swinney, Deputy First Minister with responsibility for Resilience Dear Mr Swinney

I am writing on behalf of Scottish CND to share our concern about the continuing and regular transport of the UK’s nuclear weapons on Scottish roads. Our objection to this traffic is twofold. The movement by road of nuclear warheads is a key part of the UK’s horrifying and illegal Trident nuclear weapon system. The transport also presents immediate and unacceptable risks to the communities through which the nuclear weapon convoys pass, risks which the UK Ministry of Defence itself acknowledges and attempts to justify as acceptable in order to maintain the Trident system. Our concern has been heightened by the publication of the Nukewatch report “Unready Scotland” and the disappointing response of the Scottish government to its findings .

The report has highlighted a general unreadiness on the part of Scottish local authorities on convoy routes to respond effectively to a serious incident, in terms of their duties under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004). The report noted in particular a general failure to conduct appropriate risk assessments of the threat posed by the traffic and a complete failure to make and keep their public informed, both of which are statutory duties under the Act. While accepting that defence is reserved to Westminster and that the conduct of the convoys is a UK government responsibility, the report has recommended that the Scottish government conducts a review into the readiness of the relevant civil authorities in Scotland to effectively fulfil their statutory part following any serious incident. To date the Scottish government has not acceded to this request. Scottish CND supports the Nukewatch request for a review as a sensible and appropriate step forward. Meanwhile there are strong indications that the new UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is already having a significant impact in advance of its entry into force. Since the adoption of the Treaty, 30 financial institutions have ceased investing in nuclear weapon producers. At UN level ICAN is reliably advised that the nuclear-armed states, including the United Kingdom, are feeling the challenge that the Treaty poses to their nuclear weapon status. The treaties banning chemical weapons, cluster munitions and landmines have led the way in changing the norm around these inhumane weapons, and there are signs that the nuclear ban treaty is beginning to have the same effect.

We are delighted that a majority of Scottish parliamentarians, including the entire Scottish government, have signed the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge to work for the advancement of the TPNW. Scotland has a unique position as a significant section of a nuclear-armed state which at both popular and parliamentary level rejects that state’s possession of these WMD. This is recognised worldwide. In that context it is vital that all reasonable and constitutionally viable steps be taken to align with the Treaty.

One such step is the modest one recommended by Nukewatch. Scottish CND commends it to you.

Yours sincerely,

Jean Anderson

Scottish CND Secretary

On behalf of the Executive Committee

Comments (18)

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  1. Iain McIntosh says:

    Jean – you are pushing at an open door!

    Work with the Scottish Government, they are the only party in Scotland that has, is and will remove WMD from the Clyde or any where else in Scotland!

    1. Jo says:

      I think the letter is excellent and I’m not sure if your own comment is a criticism of it. It raises many highly valid concerns about this laid-back practice we have towards transporting dangerous materials on our roads. Those concerns should be shared across Party lines in Holyrood. I welcome the publication of the letter.

      1. Iain McIntosh says:


        I do not see the logic for this particular approach at this time. Suggestion of even the smallest disagreement with the SNP on trident / WMD feeds the long established mantra of the press and opposition promoting SNP BAD. This approach gives them the opportunity to exploit perceived division, very damaging to the public view and detracts from our long-term goal, an independent Scotland free from WMD.

        I’d advocate the approach of requesting a meeting with John Swinney. Stating that in Scottish CND’s view there has been unacceptable delay in responding to a report.

        Sell the concept to John Swinney that acting on the report would further all our joint interests in independence, halting transsport of WMD by road and getting rid of WMD in Scotland. It raises public awareness not only of the futility of WMD but the very real danger of transporting it past people’s front doors. This is a win – win situation!

        The open letter approach put’s backs up, makes people defensive and runs counter to gaining our goals.

        Jean is pushing at an open door with the SNP, if Jean engages labour she will find a thousand inconsistent stances. If Jean engages tories, the door is shut and would Jean trust them on anything anyway?

        My view is there are better approaches to securing what we all want, no WMD transported by road, but ultimately no WMD in Scotland!

        1. Jo says:

          Thanks for clarifying. I understand better now the earlier post.

    2. DaveM says:

      Looks like you didn’t bother to read the text… And since you’ve made the claim, how many WMDs “has” the SNP removed from Scotland? I’d be astonished if you can provide evidence of a number above zero since they have no, and never have had any, responsibility for defence/war.

      1. Jo says:

        I think your response to Iain is unfair. We’re pretty much all aware that no Scottish Government has responsibility for defence matters and therefore could not remove these missiles. We do know, however, that the SNP is against Trident.

        The concerns around the transportation of dangerous materials throughout Scotland have been around for decades…even since Dounraey. They have never been addressed.

        While Jean Anderson and her colleagues will be aware of the SNP policy on Trident and the Scottish Government’s inability to influence any Westminster government, they also know that the SG does have responsibility for Transport. And that’s where influence does indeed exist and authority too – at Holyrood.

    3. David Mackenzie says:

      I think most folk realise that the best chance of getting nuclear weapons out of Scotland (and the UK too) is independence and the SNP stance on this is fantastic. However SCOTGOV does have devolved oversight responsibility for community safety and should be paying attention to the problem of unpreparedness on the part of the civil authorities here. It’s worth checking out the Nukewatch report (

    4. Janet Fenton says:

      I hope so! Will the Scottish Government order a review?

  2. Del says:

    The problem with Labour is narrow self interest in Dumbarton and Helensburgh. Jackie Baillie sees nuclear armaments in terms of jobs for locals. It would be a shame if they all lost their jobs because some nasty Rusky dropped a bomb on them, but in the meantime …

    1. Jo says:

      The problem highlighted here isn’t addressed in your post Del. For now at least we’re living with materials going by road, materials which, in the event of an accident, could have catastrophic consequences. Ms Anderson’s letter to John Swinney deserves serious consideration. Having a go at Jackie Bailey and Labour isn’t the way to do that.

  3. Willie says:

    The Scottish Government and the SNP would remove nuclear weapons the very instant they could.

    There is no doubt about that. No doubt whatsoever.

    Better may I suggest Jean that you send your open letter to representatives of HM government.

    1. Jo says:

      No Willie. Why are so many on this thread going out of their way to ignore all the points being made by Jean Anderson? The Scottish Government along with our Councils can and should be involved in the risk assessing and planning for the convoys Jean describes, in accordance with the legislation she refers to.

      It is one thing to bemoan the limits of devolution for Scotland. It’s quite another to play down or even ignore altogether the powers we do have!

  4. Jim Taggart says:

    What’s new pussy cat? Nuclear weapons are prohibited by rules of war going back at least to the the the eighteen hundreds and much publicised at Nurenberg. The key proposition is that civilian populations must not be targeted. The detonation of any nuclear warhead on or near the surface of the earth will inevitably target civilians due to the inevitable the spread 0f radioactive particulates throughout the atmosphere.
    Deployment of trident is a criminal act of the imperial state. Should we not demand that the Crown have it dismantled?

  5. Somerled says:

    Well, firstly, I agree with the central aim of the letter and I agree that it’s correct to exert pressure on the SNP — who I have voted for regularly over the last 20 years —on this issue. So far, so good.

    What annoys me and is very much getting more annoying as the years pass, is the SNP’s lack of verve on stuff like this; outside of the genuine safety concerns evinced in the letter, which ought to matter in their own right, you’d think the SNP would jump at the chance to draw negative attention towards these ghastly weapons.

    Introducing some sort of emergency plan for an accident, then, would serve several purposes and on the whole reflect well on the SNP. It would possibly save lives, it would draw attention to the risks and costs associated with these things, and it would put the SNP in a good light vis a vis the other pro-nuke parties up here.

    Another opportunity lost or ignored.

    1. Willie says:

      Yes Somerled it’s an outright disgrace that the SNP have not tied our country of nuclear weapons.

      Failing to deliver independent I agree that their behavior in not removing these WMD is reprehensible.

      SNP baad, SNP very baad. Time they got the finger out.

      1. Somerled says:

        Did you read the letter? It’s premised on the continuing existence of them and concerns over how they are managed and serviced. Based on them continuing to be here, for the time being, I agree that the SNP should weaponise the weapons and make a political stance against the way they are transported on our roads.

      2. Jo says:

        Read the letter!

  6. Janet Fenton says:

    Private Eye interesting comment
    Specialist firefighters protecting military bases, including airfields and naval docyards in the UK and overseas, have long faced the threat of transfer to the private sector. Bids for the latest attempt at outsourcing have been under consideration since September, but a decision has been postponed yet again.
    Firefighters reps at the Unite union seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place: they have been told that the two remaining options being considered by the Ministry of Defence are two of the Eye’s favourite outsourcing giants, Capita and Serco.
    As long ago as 2003, Eye 1081 reported plans to put the Defence Fire Service (DFS) out to tender under a PFI scheme, just as a contingent of firefighters returned from the Gulf, where they had been dealing with major oil fires. The Serco-led consortium LogicAir was one of the bidders. The Airfield Support Services Project was abandonned in 2004.
    In 2006 DFS became part of the Defence Fire Risk Management Organisation (DFRMO), remaining within the MoD for the time being. DFRMO controls more than 80 fire stations and 2,000 military and civilian staff worldwide, in order to protect MoD staff, building and other assets, many of which are high risk due to the presence of munitions, fuel and nuclear materials.
    However, the MoD has had people working on outsourcing DFRMO since 2009, with a specific team for the “Defence Fire and Rescue Project” in place since 2011. A document released under freedom of information in 2015 shows the cost of the project team, and the work on the project by the MoD’s value for money benchmark beancounters between 2011 and 2015, had already reached £2.3m. Last October, defence minister Tobias Ellwood gave a written answer indicating that the bid deadline had passed in September and that bids were being assessed. A decision was due this month [March] but it has been postponed without explanation until May.
    Last year Capita was stripped of one £400m MoD contract to manage defence estates; and struggled badly with another, producing a recruitment system that was riddled with problems. Meanwhile Serco’s former contract to provide HR and security vetting for the MoD was taken back in house. What could possibly go wrong?

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