Scottish CND      Magazine
Mock Trident missile outside the Royal High School in Edinburgh, the proposed site for the Scottish Parliament.
We are now operating in a new political situation both because of the change in Government but, perhaps more significantly, because of the prospect of a Scottish Parliament. That Parliament will not have responsibility for Defence or Foreign Affairs but this does not mean that it will not have a legitimate interest and a role in these areas. There will be no restriction on what the Parliament can discuss and it can develop an important and well informed voice in the disarmament debate and on other issues which have an international direction.
The key word is "well-informed". At this stage there is an important argument to be developed and won. There is widespread complacency around nuclear and other defence policy issues. Apart from the valuable and high profile work which has been done on landmines and some opening up of discussion on arms sales, there is little political or media interest. It would be reasonable to expect political parties to lead opinion and to initiate debate but all our experience suggests that most politicians respond only after others have created some significant public interest.
We are in a period which should have been a great window of opportunity to go for an international nuclear free strategy. Long-standing enemies ceased to be enemies yet the nuclear powers still have huge capacity and Britain continues to upgrade its nuclear capacity with Trident. A nuclear free target with substantial and rapid denuclearisation of the nuclear states coupled with a rigorous non proliferation strategy could be viable now but might be more difficult in 5 or 10 years time. Ironically there seems now to be more support for this amongst the retired military as the Canberra Commission demonstrates than among politicians, public and the media. Nor are the genuine defence issues being debated with any vision. How do we develop effective conflict resolution and peace keeping strategies? How do we strengthen the role of the UN and other bodies like the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe?
This is where a Scottish Parliament could develop a useful role. It could encourage non governmental organizations to explore and promote new approaches to defence policy. It could directly initiate-this would be within its powers-job creation projects to assist defence diversification. It could make representation to Westminster on nuclear weapons in Scotland and related issues. In this capacity it could speak with authority and credibility. It could link up with others to express views in a wider international context.
This illustrates some of the potential of the Parliament if we approach it constructively and creatively but it should also remind us of the importance of campaigning and policy organizations in setting agendas and developing strong and coherent arguments for change. It is going to be crucial that there are many groups geared up to feeding in the vision. The work on that cannot start too soon.
Scottish CND      Magazine