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     Scottish CND      Magazine

Secretaries report Scottish CND 1997

Tony Southall and Brian Quail

Two things have dominated our work for the past year.

The Election which was discussed last year and continually in the media subsequently, finally took place on May 1st. As we predicted, CND was entirely disabled from making any serious impact. There was a conspiracy of silence by the two main British Parties who agreed on maintaining Trident. Even where opposition was part of the policy of a serious contender like the SNP, it gained little publicity in the face of other contentious issues. It would be worth our while analysing how in future we might try better to use election periods when political consciousness is heightened to try and get our case better publicised.

After the election Blair gave the crucial Ministry of Defence to long time Atlanticist and Hamilton MP, George Robertson, who could be trusted to continue a long tradition of the holder of that post acting as spokesperson for his Ministry. As promised a Defence Review was initiated. Robertson continued to insist that Trident would be ring fenced and not subject to debate. It was a welcome surprise that our British Chairperson, Dave Knight, was invited to the opening session and given three minutes to expand the argument against Trident. Scottish CND has also attempted to get invited, but so far with no success. One fears however that three minutes is all that Trident will get out of a process clearly designed to endorse Government policy and to soften up sections of the armed forces for inevitable cuts by creating an illusion of consultation. It will however be important to continue to insist on our right to make the case at this level and to be ready to comment when the finished article is available in the New Year.

More important was to continue to harass Government on developments like the purchase of new missiles for Trident. In this we have been fortunate to get assistance from such as Menzies Campbell, Liberal Democrat Defence Spokesperson, who is not a CND sympathiser, Roseanna Cunningham, SNP, and John McCallion, who is convening a grouping of Labour CND supporters in Parliament. Even when however an excellent article on this issue for which we had supplied the basic information appeared in the Glasgow Evening Times on August 15, it was not taken up by any other section of the media. This episode highlighted our desperate need to have a press officer who can monitor and develop work with the press.

More immediately pressing and potentially more productive for us is the now almost certain advent of a Scottish Parliament. This is of course subject of a full discussion at this AGM. For that reason we make no detailed recommendation here about tactics to make Trident an issue in an arena which is constitutionally not responsible for defence and foreign affairs. We are certain however that this meeting, which we are proposing mainly takes the form of workshop discussion, must come up with ideas to be urgently implemented.

The Scottish Peace Pledge launched at our last AGM, will be an important part of this work. It has been a feature of every public campaign since then and is obviously an immediately attractive means of cementing relationships with the wider public: it was a major part of the Trident on Tour initiative in early summer that saw activists taking our message into a number of town centres, mainly up the East Coast. The AGM should propose any additional ways this could be used and proposals for its ultimate destination as well as ways the example of the tour could be usefully imitated.

The World Court decisions on the legality of nuclear weapons which favoured our position have been used wherever possible: notably for instance in the one substantial mobilisation of the year, at Faslane on 9 August. SCND should continue this practice and AGM should make, where possible, further recommendations in this area.

Apart from the August demonstration,direct action against Trident has occurred almost monthly. The continuation of regular convoys of weapons has given an opportunity for actions that have often gained important publicity. The most effective was the border action in February which was perhaps our most important intervention into the then simmering election campaign.

The decision by the new Argyll and Bute Council to evict the 15 year old Peace Camp at Faslane has also given us additional publicity that looks likely to continue for a long time. In view of the early publicity around the issue it will however be very important to continually focus on our demand for the eviction of Trident and not allow the media to turn it into another Manchester Airport focusing on techniques of staying put and not the main issue. Schools work has been continued by Kenneth and Susan who are establishing ongoing relationships with many of the educators of a new generation. Consistent work with Trades Unions remains impossible without an organiser in this field although our continuing good relationship with the STUC enables us to feed in information regularly. Someone prepared to seriously campaign for increased affiliation and action in the unions could however make enormous gains in this area: any volunteers?

Working consistently in this area is also crucial to our attempts to maintain the heretofore support of the Scottish Labour Party for our aims. That organisation has suffered from a consolidation of its control by the London leadership and a massive reduction in its political life. Perhaps a resurgence of an independent Scottish Party could follow from events around the Assembly: only that will make it possible for CND to continue its previous influence.

Despite its continued support for scrapping Trident the SNP has remained relatively inactive in day to day support for us. Moving that Party from a passive to active role is a key task being addressed by SNP CND.

The Scottish churches have remained overwhelmingly onside. Our task remains however to find ways of resurrecting the sort of co-operation that created Hands Across Scotland 10 years ago: once again someone committed to organising in this area could make an enormous impact quite quickly. Unfortunately our regional and local organisation has remained a long way short of what's needed: certainly of what we had in the mid 1980s. Some centres have remained able to organise a regular public presence and to be a distinctive part of the local political scene. But in many places, and members will know if they live in one, we badly need individual members prepared to take on at the very least the role of local contact. We would appeal to anybody prepared to do this to urgently contact us and we can jointly work out ways, which Scottish CND will fully back, to extend a local presence. Don't worry ! If you do that we won't ask you to organise a branch unless you want to ! But we do think the near future is a time we can make big strides towards our goals: but only if you help !

We are fortunate, primarily because of inheritances and your subscriptions to own an office and employ an administrator. Unfortunately, because of a serious lack of officers, John Ainslie has had to cover roles like Press Officer, Treasurer, Membership Secretary not to speak of dealing with the Trades Unions and Churches. In a sentence we've named 5 positions urgently needing filled. Please consider volunteering for one of these: without this your organisation will be seriously deficient and your organiser seriously demented and that's not a joke!

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     Scottish CND      Magazine