Pariah Weapons – Hope in the Darkness for a Nuclear-free World


Want some good news in the darkness? There’s some things Scotland is really good at. Unfortunately resisting and leading the movement against nuclear weapons is one of them, for well known reasons. In your life you will lose many and win few political battles.

Here’s one we might win.

Yesterday, 24th October, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) reached the 50 ratifications needed for entry into force, giving fresh hope for complete global disarmament.

Honduras ratified the treaty one day after Jamaica and Nauru joined the 47 others including Ireland and New Zealand. In 90 days the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will become binding on all 50 ratifying states. The nuclear armed states are not signatories but the tide has turned against them.

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) prohibits the developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, otherwise acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, transferring, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, assisting other states with these prohibited activities, stationing, deployment or installation of nuclear weapons belonging to other states on a state party’s territory. It moves nuclear arsenals clearly into the category of inhumane, pariah weapons, as has happened with the conventions on chemical weapons and landmines. This norm shift is significant in a world in which even authoritarian states guard their global reputations as they attempt to expand or protect their spheres of influence.

Scottish CND chair Lynn Jamieson said: “A nuclear-weapons-free world is of obvious benefit to the whole planet. There is now a realistic mechanism for achieving it. It is no longer credible to claim that to threaten nuclear annihilation is a rational or moral act of self-defence. The sooner the nuclear states commit to the TPNW the better the chances are of international cooperation to moderate climate change, stop destroying all living species, address global inequalities and better manage the pandemic. The UK government should sign up now. If Scotland has to become an independent state before we can sign the treaty then let it be soon.”


Vice Chair Scottish CND Janet Fenton added:

So many people have worked for so long in so many places to have nuclear weapons banned. We were so happy when the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) them was adopted at the UN.  Now we have the 50th ratification, and the TPNW is irreversibly completed, and after prohibition is the first step towards elimination. Each of the states that have ratified will now have 90 days to set their country in order,after which they are all bound by its beautiful positive obligations and compelled by its unambiguous prohibitions. The world is a slightly safer place tonight.”

Image Credit: Ivon Barththolomew


Comments (16)

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  1. Duncan Hutchison says:

    Come on now is the time for independence let’s make this happen with a SCOTTISH vote and get rid of this WMD once and for all imagine what could be done with the money supporting this !! would go a long way to helping our country on the right road to recovery.Lets make it happen Now is the time

  2. Ewen A Morrison says:

    “Hope in the Darkness for a Nuclear-free World” is a fine, and hopeful sentiment; perhaps our world’s heading that way? We’ve no shortage of ‘CND’ supporters, providing a voice for millions of people wanting a world without nuclear weapons… perhaps like-minded people can match these numbers?
    My parents’ generation experienced “the War Years”, and relatives who’d experienced both the first and second World Wars! Thankfully, today’s youth can have a healthier world in which to mature, thanks to their predecessors!

  3. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

    Call me an auld pessimist if you like, but what are the chances of the nuclear states signing up to this? As with the conventions on chemical weapons and landmines, why can’t the currently armed states just exercise their national sovereignty and ignore it? It might bolster the moral argument against WMDs; but, to paraphrase Stalin, how many divisions does that moral argument have?

    1. John B Dick says:

      Independence will withdraw the Scottish Taxpayers’ contribution while adding the cost of relocation to the already huge and growing cost of replacement.

      If you can think of an almost credible reason why the UK should give up WMD that brings no credit to the SNP or CND, you should offer it to HMG in exchange for a peerage.

      1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

        There are many credible moral and ideological reasons why the UK should give up WMDs, but they are all trumped by the actualities of technology and power politics.

        (Can I be Lord Chaluim of Latharna? I’m partial to the sausage.)

    1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

      Well, we’ll see.

      If the non-nuclear states who have ratified the treaty choose to comply with their obligations under it (and why wouldn’t they?), then we can expect them to urge the nuclear powers to join the ban (and why wouldn’t they?).

      Moreover, international capital will divest from companies that produce nuclear weapons (and why wouldn’t it?), who wouldn’t then be able to produce those weapons (how could they?).

      All we need to do is tell our friends, our banks, our universities, our elected representatives that nuclear weapons are illegal, that it’s time they stand on the right side of history (why didn’t we think of telling them that before?).

      More bargain-basement offers from the merchants of hope, methinks.

      1. Alistair Taylor says:

        you’re an old pessimist. Surely we need to have a bit of hope and vision?
        Things evolve. Maybe for the better, maybe for the worse. Who is to say or judge?
        Anyway, regarding WMD; don’t we have enough other problems to be thinking on? Getting rid of them would be a fine thing. We’ll see, indeed.
        (My own personal hope is for a good sized asteroid, but never mind that…)
        In the meanwhile, onward to food on the table for everyone, pea<e, love, happiness.
        All the best, a

        1. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

          Getting rid of them would indeed be a fine thing. But that’s never going to happen. Our energies would be better spent on finding ways of living with them and managing the risk they pose to everyone’s health and safety.

          1. This seems like a counsel of despair and goes against the facts of international law.

            I’d love to know how you manage the risk of weapons of mass destruction.

            I’m never convinced by the argument that “nothing will ever change”. Our entire history says otherwise.

          2. Dr Michael Orgel says:

            Agree editor. The Treaty for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons will enter into force on
            22/01/21. The #nuclearban treaty is an important
            addition to international humanitarian law which is already having some impact
            and provides a clearly delineated path for greater disarmament. We must be the change
            we want. I only hope nuclear disarmament change happens at a pace which will allow some of
            the Hibakusha (survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki) to witness great changes toward elimination.

          3. Anndrais mac Chaluim says:

            I just fail to see how making weapons illegal will lead to nuclear states abandoning them, let alone to the abolition of their technology. How do you abolish a technology? One thing’s certain: you can’t just legislate it away.

            Re. managing the risk those weapons pose: since we can’t reduce the seriousness of the consequences their use would have, we have to concentrate on minimising the likelihood of their ever being used.

            Perhaps the United Nations would be more productively occupied in developing their capacity to facilitate conflict resolution rather than in producing spectacles of moral posturing like this treaty.

          4. Dr Michael Orgel says:

            Here are ways to minimise risk of use.
            Part of the treaty establishes pathways to develop verification. Works in process.
            Here’s how things progressed and will develop in bear future.
            Hopefully with Ireland now on UN Security Council conflict resolution processes can be reinvigorated.

  4. SleepingDog says:

    Do we have an idea of how many resources Police Scotland is preparing for the arrest of members of that come-January illegal terrorist organization NATO?

  5. John B Dick says:

    Nothing that the SNP has done or said in the last 70 years caused me to vote for independence in 2014. The false and unbelievable arguments of their Unionist opponents have been far more convincing.

    The worst of these is the proposition that we should eschew independence because of the ’Jobs’ argument relating to the loss of Trident.

    The Trident Job-Creation Scheme

    A legitimate reason for keeping Trident is that we need it for MAD.

    The overwhelming majority of the Scottish people, (including me), its religious and ethical organisations and Labour party members, do not accept the underlying premise that MAD is something we need or want.

    It is conceivable that opinion on that could be changed, but Labour, by presenting Trident as a job creation scheme, exposes itself to ridicule. Essentially this is the same argument as was used against legislation to stop small children being sent down mines and up chimneys.

    Even building the pyramids produced a tourist trade attraction, with ongoing benefits, millennia later.

    The funding for the pay component of Trident costs could be continued till all the employees retired or died, and the non-pay component could provide them each with a four bedroom holiday home (with pool) in Spain or Greece, such property being currently obtainable at a low point in the market.

    Nobody would expect any government to be as generous as that, but the money is there to be as generous as we see fit.

    Labour is always ready to criticise Conservatives for initiatives which appear to give financial benefit to corporations which fund the Conservative party, yet it is prepared to defend expenditure on WMD to fund their own corporate (trade union) partners by a comparably trivial amount.

    Can we hope to see the post-independence re-incarnation of “Scottish” Labour (lets call it for now, The Independence Labour Party or ILP) responding to the majority membership view on WMD, and reverting to their previous policy.

    Was the point when the change took place non-coincidentally around the time when the several policy making parts of the Labour party left off having freedom to develop their own policies.

    In the mid 1950’s, some part of the Labour party [Scotland?] had “an official policy for a Home Rule parliament for Scotland” …. “to be enacted by the next Labour government”

    I heard about Founding Principles, FM & PO, closed and open d’Hondt and other PR systems worldwide, what we now know as SPICe and even the seating arrangements in the chamber.

    Four decades later, my informant became the first FM in a parliament exactly as described.

    Please note that at the earlier part of the period when Donald was telling me about d’Hondt, Tony Blair had not yet been born. It follows that the myth which originates on p52 of Brian Taylor’s book, in a single word of assent by Jack McConnell, that d’Hondt was chosen in the ’90’s by senior Labour people to disadvantage the SNP is not only innumerate, but anachronistic and wrong on all three points.

    I have followed the devolution/independence/home rule debate since the result of the 1949/50 plebiscite signed by 2m people including Victoria Rex (sic) and Michael Mouse. From that perspective (and in consideration of tweets from Professor Sir John Curtice) there can only be one outcome in the next two or three years.

    In recent weeks I have been coming round to the view that the outcome is already assured and needs no help from me.

    Like Dr Pangloss, I need to dig my own 2 acre garden.

    I hope nobody in SNP/SGP thinks that a post independence constitution is “their turn” to gerrymander the new constitution.

  6. SleepingDog says:

    People will give several reasons as to why state elites want nuclear weapons: warmaking; ability to coerce other nations through terror; to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council; to fill the coffers of the military-industrial-securocrat complex; even to bring about Armageddon (and the Rapture). But a major reason is to erode and eliminate democracy. The highly-centralised and autocratic command-and-control systems bypass all customary democratic checks, and make foreign policy the prerogative of executives and military commanders. I note that the frustration UK voters long felt about being unable to influence foreign policy boiled over in the Brexit referendum.

    Elaine Scarry develops this argument in her book Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom, where she is particularly concerned with re-establishing the USAmerican constitutional breaks on Presidential warmaking (any President). Here is a closing section of a talk she gives that ends on the circularity problem: the democratic means to remove nuclear weapons have already been removed by the nuclear weapons (so you have to reinstall democracy first):
    Much of her argument applies to the UK, although with a messed-up theocratic-monarchist-militarist-conventional pseudo-constitution that puts a medieval+ (still got those psycho Henry VIII powers and much more) hereditary monarch in the firing seat.

    The various reasons why nuclear weapons were never a good idea are explored in Daniel Ellsberg’s The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner.

    The point is that states use nuclear weapons on their own people, locking them out of political decision-making, unable even to decide who their enemies are, baking in age-old enmities, and fixing foreign policy behind the scenes while even impacting severely on domestic policy. The existence of nuclear weapons in the UK disastrously undermines our disaster preparations, because governments don’t want to remind the populace that they would be nuked while our overlords scuttle off into royal yachts and official bunkers, and if we did emergency drills for pandemics and climate catastrophes, people will be bound to ask what happens in a nuclear war too. So, no effective emergency planning, and we die in droves when anything goes seriously wrong at scale.

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