2007 - 2021

An independent Scotland is the key to a nuclear weapon free world

During November, leaders from around the world will arrive at COP 26 in Glasgow to accelerate global action on climate change. COP 26 is being held a mere 45 miles away from the storage facility for the UK’s nuclear warheads at Coulport. Just down the road at Faslane, the UK’s nuclear weapon submarines are based. Nuclear weapons pose a catastrophic threat to humanity and the environment. If less than 0.5% of nuclear weapons currently in existence were used, it would destroy the world’s climate, putting 2 billion people at risk of famine. 

For more than 50 years this placement of nuclear weapons has continued, despite the opposition of the Scottish people, and in recent years, the Scottish Parliament. Undeterred by clear resistance and the catastrophic threat nuclear weapons pose to our climate, the UK government has been increasing its stockpile of nuclear weapons. According to reports by Nukewatch, this expansion began long before the British public was even officially informed of the government’s intentions in the March 2021 Integrated Review. This move flies directly in the face of the Scottish public and the global fight against climate change seen at COP 26. 

As perilous as this situation is and despite the ambitions of the UK government, Scotland actually has the power to kickstart nuclear disarmament worldwide. By becoming an independent country, Scotland can force the UK to disarm.

In January 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) amongst many others, nuclear weapons are now illegal under international law. This treaty essentially bans all activity related to nuclear weapons and provides a framework for their elimination. Upon the Treaty’s entry, the UN Secretary General Antonio Gutteres commented,

“Today, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force. This is a major step toward a world free of nuclear weapons. I call on all countries to work together to realize this vision, for our common security and collective safety.”

 

Beatrice Fihn, ICAN Executive Director added,

“The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a victory for all people, made possible by the efforts of civil society and the international community.”

For decades, the UK government has argued that their possession of nuclear weapons is the norm on the world stage. Nothing could be further from the truth. Since the adoption of the TPNW in 2017, 86 countries have signed it, with most planning to meet in Vienna, Austria in March 2022 for the first Meeting of the States Parties (1MSP). Here, leaders will commit to concrete actions to implement obligations under the Treaty. Scottish representation in Vienna is an irreplaceable opportunity for global disarmament efforts. 

The UK is not a signatory to the TPNW. Along with all the other nuclear-armed states, the UK Government has made no agreements to destroy its weapons and shows no intention to do so anytime soon. But Scotland has a significant part to play. The Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens have both pledged their opposition to nuclear weapons. Parliamentarians’ support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Scotland extends beyond membership of these parties. With a new independence referendum on the agenda in Scotland, they have the power to disrupt the UK’s nuclear weapons policies. If Scots vote ‘YES ’to becoming an independent country, Scotland can sign the TPNW. And here’s the kicker: as Article 4.4 of the TPNW states,

“A State Party that has the nuclear weapons of another State on its territory (via stationing, installation or deployment) must ensure that such weapons are removed as soon as possible but not later than a deadline to be determined by the first meeting of States Parties” (Art. 4.4).

When Scotland signs or accedes to the TPNW, all nuclear weapons must be removed from Scotland. The SNP and Greens are committed to this. However, this means far more than shifting nuclear weapons from one place to another. The UK government has nowhere else to store their nuclear arsenal. English and Welsh sites have been deemed inadequate as they do not meet the necessary accessibility and storage criteria. Housing the UK’s nuclear weapons in other armed nations, like the US or France, are financially and politically unacceptable options.

All of this means that Scotland can effectively force the UK to disarm. Scotland, as an independent country, could start a domino effect amongst the nuclear-armed states. Not only could independence mean that nuclear weapons are no longer housed in Scotland, but Scots could also have a major impact on disarmament efforts worldwide. 

Scottish participation in the first Meeting of the States Parties is absolutely essential. As Scotland is not yet independent and the UK will not be attending, Scottish parliamentarians and members of Scottish civil society have a critical role. Relevant international organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross and entities of the United Nations system, like the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, as well as instrumental non-governmental organisations, are invited to the MSP as observers. ICAN, who won the Nobel peace prize for their work on the TPNW, will be coordinating civil society representation and is actively encouraging Scottish parliamentarians and civil society organisations to attend. 

With COP 26, the eyes of the world will be on Scotland. Our parliamentarians and civil society groups must take this opportunity to pledge that they will go to Vienna and assert Scotland’s support for global disarmament. 

Scotland can be on the right side of history. We can ensure that these morally bankrupt weapons owned by the UK government are removed and destroyed once and for all. Please get in touch with your MSP today to request that they travel to Vienna in March and pledge their support.

More information at www.nuclearban.scot or email [email protected] 

  • UN House Scotland is an ICAN Partner organisation.
  • UNHS, Acronym Institute and UNA-UK co-ordinate the ICAN partner organisations in the UK and can be contacted at [email protected]

 

 

 

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  1. Pontifex Minimus says:

    > All of this means that Scotland can effectively force the UK to disarm.

    I disagree. I think the UK would simply move its submarines to Devonport (which incidently is the largest naval base in Western Europe).

    As I’ve previously written (see https://pontifex.substack.com/p/how-scottish-independence-negotiations and https://pontifex.substack.com/p/no-scottish-independence-will-not ), I think that after a vote for independence Scotland should negotiate transitional arrangements with the UK, on things like trade, currency, and use of the Clyde naval
    base. This is because Scotland and rUK will share the same island and it will be in both countries interests that they co-operate. We do not gain anything by needlessly antagonising the UK (or any other country for that matter).

    Of course, if rUK is intransigent (which they might well be under Boris Johnson), then a no-deal independence means that the Clyde naval base becomes Scottish on day one of independence. But it should be up to rUK to be intransigent, not Scotland.

    >Scotland, as an independent country, could start a domino effect amongst the nuclear-armed states. Not only could independence mean that nuclear weapons are no longer housed in Scotland, but Scots could also have a major impact on disarmament efforts worldwide.

    Unlikely. The nations that have nuclear weapons do so because they feel it is in their interests to do so. They didn’t disarm when Ukraine did, they didn’t disarm when South Africa did, and they won’t if Britain does. Why should they? None of the other nuclear weapon states sees the UK as their main enemy. Looking at NWS and their enemies we have:

    USA: China, Russia
    Russia: USA
    France: China, Russia
    Israel: Iran, Arab and Muslim countries
    China: USA
    N Korea: USA
    Pakistan: India
    India: Pakistan

    1. Mons Meg says:

      Yep, I think you’re right here. A technology only disappears when it becomes redundant. The Scottish government becoming independent of the UK government won’t make nuclear technology redundant in the global struggle for power among nations.

    2. Chris Connolly* says:

      I agree with the article 100%. The Scottish government doesn’t want the missiles, the Scottish people don’t want them and I certainly don’t want them. It’s a moral issue, and the word “needlessly” is totally inappropriate to describe Scottish disarmament. If the UK doesn’t like it, tough. What are they going to do? Bomb us? I don’t think so!

      In response to Pontifex Maximus (what’s wrong with people using their real names, by the way? What are so many people so scared of) let’s list some of the countries that don’t possess nuclear weapons and yet whose people sleep soundly in their beds at night:

      Canada
      Australia
      South Africa
      Ireland
      Norway
      Sweden
      Denmark
      Finland
      Spain
      Portugal
      Greece
      Mexico
      Algeria
      Tunisia
      New Zealand
      Japan
      Switzerland
      Argentina
      Iceland
      etc etc etc etc.

      The people of Scotland, and of England, Wales & Northern Ireland, don’t have “enemies” in the form of other nations. There is no reason to go to war with anybody and certainly no reason why Armageddon should be rained down on anybody in any country. The only way to ensure that this doesn’t happen is to decommission the whole lot.

      It’s fallacious, as well as defeatist, to argue that because other countries didn’t disarm when South Africa and Ukraine opted out of the nuclear arms race that it can’t happen if Scotland does so. You might as well argue that there’s no point in any leader at COP26 promising to take action against climate change because it’s possible that nobody else will do likewise.

      1. Mons Meg says:

        But it’s not about defence, Chris; it’s about being higher in the pecking order than the countries you list and having a competitive edge over them. Regardless of whether or not NATO continues to base missiles in Scotland after the event or not, the Scottish government becoming independent of the UK government won’t make nuclear technology redundant in the global struggle for power among nations. An independent Scotland is not the key to a nuclear weapon-free world.

      2. Pontifex Minimus says:

        > let’s list some of the countries that don’t possess nuclear weapons and yet whose people sleep soundly in their beds at night: [list of countries]

        But this list is irrelevant to my argument, which is that if the UK got rid of its nuclear weapons, that would not cause any of the other nuclear weapon states to do the same.

        > The people of Scotland, and of England, Wales & Northern Ireland, don’t have “enemies” in the form of other nations.

        There’s a country called Russia which regularly sends its thugs to poison and murder people in Britain. You many not consider that an act of enmity, but the vast majority of people do.

        1. Chris Connolly* says:

          I hardly think that Russia attacks people in the UK “regularly,” in fact I can’t remember anybody in Scotland ever being killed or poisoned by the Russians, so having the capacity to destroy the planet seems to me like a disproportionate response to what is a minor threat.

          Georgi Markov 1978, apparently killed by Bulgarian agents.
          Alexander Litvinenko 2006
          Alexander Perepilichny 2012
          Boris Berezovsky 2013; the coroner recorded an open verdict
          Dawn Sturgess 2018

          That’s the lot. Far more people have been attacked and killed in the UK by drunken partners or in gang fights than by assassins from the East. There were 64 murders in Scotland in 2019/20, in England there were 689 and none of them were perpetrated by Russians.

          If you’d like to cut the number of deaths suffered by UK citizens, reducing the speed limit on the roads would be far cheaper and less dangerous than keeping nuclear missiles.

          In any case, your argument is illogical. Since the existence of the nuclear threat hasn’t stopped Russian spies coming here and poisoning people, it’s not much use, is it?

          If there is a need for a nuclear deterrent (and I don’t accept for a moment that there is) why isn’t one missile enough? Why does the country need 225 of them? How many potential holocausts are enough for you to be able to feel safe from those pesky Russians?

          You say “But this list is irrelevant to my argument, which is that if the UK got rid of its nuclear weapons, that would not cause any of the other nuclear weapon states to do the same.” There’s no evidence that this is the case but even if it were so it doesn’t mean that keeping them would be of the slightest benefit to Scotland. You also seem to be immune to the moral argument that blowing millions of innocent people and animals to smithereens and destroying the environment is not justifiable under any circumstances.

  2. Brian Keane says:

    Great Article. . Beats me how any politicians living on the Clyde could support these WMD’s on their doorstep – Tories, Labour, Libdems – then they lie to the rest of us about why we need them.

    P.s Catherine… It’ 25 miles from Glasgow.

  3. Tom Ultuous says:

    I’m all for getting shot of them but I worry that we’ll no longer have Gavin Williamson to keep the Russians in line. Probably the country we’d have most to fear from would be the English under a Johnson type fascist govt. Particularly when we start showing them up.

    1. Pontifex Minimus says:

      > Probably the country we’d have most to fear from would be the English under a Johnson type fascist govt.

      Twenty years ago, or even ten, if you suggested to me that independent Scotland would face a military threat from the UK, I would have said that’s fantasy. it would’ve been unthinkable under May, Cameron, Brown or Blair.

      I don’t think it’s fantasy now. One trend over the past few years s the rise of right-wing authoritarian leaders, including Boris Johnson.

      > Particularly when we start showing them up.

      When Scotland builds a society that works for everyone and not just the rich, it’ll make Westminster and the English establishment look bad, and lots of people in England will want to emulate it. Tory denials that such a thing is impossible will be seen to be the nonsense they are.

      In that environment, maybe Boris will want a foreign adventure, to divert people from his government’s failures.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        Exactly the way I see it Pontifex.

      2. Laurence Pocock says:

        Scotland may build a fair society but they won’t do it under the SNP.

  4. Dave Coull says:

    To Mairi Gougeon, MSP for Angus North & Mearns:

    Dear Mairi,

    COP26 is taking place in Glasgow. Within 35 miles of that city, there are enough nuclear weapons to destroy our global environment. The presence of these nuclear weapons in Scotland is opposed by a majority of Scots, and by the Scottish Parliament. Despite this, the UK government has pushed ahead with increasing nukes in Scotland.
    I’m 80 years old. I took part in my first demonstration against nuclear weapons 58 years ago, in 1963. At the time, I was still a member of the British armed forces, and I took part wearing my uniform, which was against regulations, but I didn’t get charged.Nuclear weapons were a threat to humanity then, and they are a threat to humanity and all life on Earth now.
    In January this year, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force.. This treaty bans all activity related to nuclear weapons and provides a framework for their elimination. In March 2022, there is to be a conference in Vienna, Austria, with representation from at least 86 governments, to agree concrete actions for implementing the Treaty.
    So far as nukes are concerned, the UK is a rogue state, and will not be represented at the international conference in Vienna in March 2022. But even if we’re not yet independent, Scotland can, and should, be represented at the Vienna conference in March 2022.
    International organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross, and bodies of the United Nations such as the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, as well as relevant non-governmental organisations, are invited to the conference as “observers”. ICAN, which won the Nobel peace prize for their work on the TPNW, will be coordinating civil society representation, and they are actively encouraging Scottish parliamentarians to attend.

    With COP 26, the eyes of the world will be on Scotland. Our parliamentarians and civil society groups should seize this opportunity to publicly pledge that they will go to Vienna and assert Scotland’s support for global nuclear disarmament.
    Specifically, I am asking you personally if you will attend the conference in Vienna in March 2022; and if you will announce, now, while the eyes of the world are on Scotland, that you want to be there, to help the cause of global nuclear disarmament.

    Yours Sincerely,

    Dave Coull
    Findowrie
    Near Brechin

    1. Chris Connolly* says:

      Lovely letter, Dave.

      All power to your pen.

  5. SleepingDog says:

    As far as I can see, removal under Article 4.4 of TPNW does not mandate return. So what would be the legal position on choosing to destroy such weapons instead of returning them (to the rump UK)? If they were another kind of internationally banned weapon (say anti-personnel mines, cluster bombs or blinding lasers; chemical or biological weapons; and so forth) then presumably stockpiles should be destroyed, in situ under United Nations weapons inspector monitoring I would guess.
    https://www.redcross.ca/how-we-help/international-humanitarian-law/what-is-international-humanitarian-law/weapons-and-international-humanitarian-law/ihl-treaties-and-the-regulation-of-weapons

    1. Mons Meg says:

      How do you destroy a technology?

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Mons Meg, since your question relates neither to any proposal I have made nor question I have raised, perhaps only you know the point of your rhetorical flourish.

        As you have previously agreed that human language is a technology, and such languages have been effectively eradicated in the past, a technology (or art) can be lost. However, as nuclear physics is an objective feature of the world, it can be rediscovered as eradicated human languages cannot be, and applied to make bombs.

        Would you oppose the banning, confiscation and destruction of knives and guns found carried in schools on the basis that their technologies cannot be effectively eradicated?

        1. Mons Meg says:

          Since you floated the idea of destroying the UK’s nuclear weapons rather than letting it remove them in the event of Scotland ceasing to be part of its jurisdiction, I was just wondering what good that would do.

          Certainly, it would remove those particular weapons from the arsenal. But, as I said above, ‘A technology only disappears when it becomes redundant. The Scottish government becoming independent of the UK government won’t make nuclear technology redundant in the struggle for power among the world’s nations.’

          Your analogy illustrates this. Yes, particular languages come and go, but the technology that is language as such remains. You can put as many particular weapons as you like beyond use, but the technology of nuclear weaponry as such would remain as a continuing threat to our survival since we could always build replacements. It’s not the particular weapons of which we need to be shot; it’s the technology that enables us to build them. And, as I said, a technology only disappears when it becomes redundant.

          I wouldn’t oppose the banning, confiscation, and destruction of knives and guns found carried in schools. I’d just point out that doing so wouldn’t solve the problem; kids would just go out and acquire replacement weapons and work out ways of better avoiding detection.

          Nuclear weapons will only disappear when there’s no longer any point in having them. And as I also said: the point isn’t defence; it’s about being higher in the pecking order than the countries that don’t have them and having a competitive edge over the same.

          1. Chris Connolly* says:

            But there is no point in having them now.

            The idea of a pecking order involving WMDs is anathema to millions of us. That doesn’t mean you’re not right in saying it exists, but does anybody really think that India, Pakistan and a few old Soviet republics are higher in any hypothetical order than Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the Scandinavian countries.

            It’s vital that somebody, somewhere, take the necessary steps to create a safer world. In my opinion, UNI-lateral nuclear disarmament carries no risk at all and might be a step towards MULTI-lateral nuclear disarmament.

            I don’t know whether there is anybody here who supports retaining nuclear missiles, but if so, I’d like to know this: in what circumstances would YOU press the button?

          2. Its also extremely weird in the terms that its does absolutely nothing to to stop the real actual threat of cyber attacks, poisoning, disinformation or anything – it does nothing at all, so its a sort of moral failure that is also practically useless.

          3. SleepingDog says:

            @Editor, one use of nuclear weapons, as expounded in detail by Elaine Scarry (in Thermonuclear Monarchy), is to concentrate and centralize political power within a very small executive, even for policies not directly related to military or foreign relations. Therefore nuclear weapons have great utility for hierarchical and anti-democratic forces (like monarchies past and present). The secrecy that goes along with nuclear weapons provides a cloak for crimes and incompetencies, along with the economic power of a vast budget, which can be distributed to cronies. So in a very real sense, nuclear weapons are used against executive power’s traditional enemy, its own public. Modern command-and-control in nuclear Presidencies takes the same form as royal prerogatives (for war etc) in theocratic monarchies. No public input is sought or allowed on even where the weapons are pointed (the nuclear executive defines the foreign and domestic enemies of the state).

          4. Mons Meg says:

            Yes, Mike; they are practically useless security-wise. Nuclear weapons serve only as an instrument by which dominant states can safeguard and legitimise their status in the international community; that is, as ‘fetish objects’.

            More importantly, limiting the acquisition of nuclear weapons by other states is how nuclear powers maintain that status. The UK won’t give up its nuclear weapons because it wants to continue to be a member of that exclusive club of global powers on which the fate of everyone is dependent.

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