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.
- 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]