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     Scottish CND      Magazine

Trident and the Scottish Parliament

Five new MSPs give their views


Tommy Sheridan MSP
Dennis Canavan MSP
Cathy Jamieson MSP
Dorothy Grace Elder MSP
Robin Harper MSP

Also a contribution from Isobel Lindsay
and a report on the survey of views on Trident

Tommy Sheridan MSP

(Scottish Socialist Party, Glasgow)

The Scottish Socialist Party condemns and rejects the obscene priorities of the capitalist society we live in, which puts profits before people, cash before kids, bombs before homes and hospitals.

The mainstream parties tell us we haven't got enough money to build publicly-funded NHS hospitals - so they privatise our NHS. They say we cannot afford the SSP demands for maximum school class sizes of 20; a living grant for students of at least 6,000 pounds a year; free fuel for pensioners; a minimum wage at the European Decency Threshold of 7 pounds an hour. Yet the government squanders 1.5 billion pounds a year on the administration of Trident. And they have turned Scotland into the nuclear dump of Europe.

The Scottish Socialist Party ultimately stands for an independent socialist Scotland, which would have the powers to scrap nuclear weapons and plough the resources into homes, schools and hospitals.

Unfortunately the Scottish parliament conceded by New Labour does not have the powers to scrap Trident, but the Scottish Socialist Party will demand action that can obstruct it.

We call on Holyrood to prohibit the use of Scotland's roads and railway system to any vehicles involved in transporting nuclear weapons and waste.

We will demand total non-cooperation by the Scottish parliament with the UK government over the administration of nuclear bases.

We also demand a new department of defence diversification to ensure that the skills and workforce employed in nuclear bases can be re-employed for the benefit of society, not for weapons of mass destruction.

Dennis Canavan MSP

(Falkirk West)

The Scottish Parliament should campaign against nuclear weapons

Although Defence is a reserved matter for Westminster, there should nevertheless be opportunities for the Scottish Parliament to make a positive contribution to the campaign for nuclear disarmament

The presence of nuclear weapons on Scottish soil or Scottish territorial waters is an obscenity and should not be tolerated by the elected representatives of the people of Scotland. The Scottish Parliament does not have direct responsibility for Defence but it does have direct responsibility for the environment and the health of the nation. Nuclear weapons are a threat to both and this should therefore be emphasised in the debates of the Scottish Parliament and its committees. There should also be opportunities for introducing appropriate legislation and bringing pressure to bear on the UK Government to help achieve a nuclear-free Scotland, a nuclear-free Britain and a nuclear-free world.

In the longer term, the relationship between the Scottish Parliament and the Westminster Parliament will be dynamic rather than static and the dynamics may lead to more powers for the Scottish Parliament, including the power to implement a non-nuclear defence strategy, thereby releasing more of our national resources for essential services such as housing, health and education.

Cathy Jamieson MSP

(Labour, Carrick, Cumnock & Doone Valley)

As a new MSP, one of the first things I was asked to do was fill in a "Security Questionnaire". A series of questions on links with known dissident groups and controversial campaigns ended by asking if I had " any other concerns related to personal safety or security"

I was sorely tempted to reply " Yes - the continued presence of Trident In Scotland ". But the issue of the continued presence of nuclear weapons is too serious for a frivolous response or for gesture politics. As a CND member, I have campaigned within the Labour Party against nuclear weapons, and have been delighted when the Scottish Labour Party has reaffirmed its commitment to disarmament.

As we all know, Defence is one of the areas reserved to Westminster, and as such, the Scottish Parliament technically has no locus in a straightforward defence debate. It is arguable, however, that the Parliament could take a view on any matter affecting Scotland, even where it has no powers to directly legislate. It is also the case that the Parliament will have a number of Committees where matters related to Trident could be debated. Safety surrounding the movement of nuclear weapons would be a legitimate matter for any committee dealing with transport. Problems associated with nuclear waste and the eventual de-commissioning of nuclear weapons is clearly an environmental issue. Defence diversification and alternative employment for those currently working in the defence industry are absolutely relevant to any committee dealing with industry and employment.

The Scottish Parliament is supposed to offer new ways of working, to better reflect the views of the Scottish people. For me, and many others in the Parliament, the continued production of nuclear weapons and the potential dangers, is a moral issue. A challenge for the Parliament, and the political Parties would be to have a genuinely open consultation with the people of Scotland on the question of Trident, and allow MSPs to vote according to their conscience.

Dorothy Grace Elder MSP

(SNP, Glasgow)

The single most powerful leaflet of the Scottish election was put out by the CND. It said simply "ALL British nuclear weapons are now based in Scotland." (Yes, people need reminding of that) It detailed the punch points:

* A total of 144 nuclear warheads at Faslane.
* That's the equivalent of over 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.

Trident is the greatest single obscenity in these islands. I'm SNP. But even people who aren't share my view on one weakness of CND which was obvious over previous elections: Labour links which we believe kept CND pretty silent in 97. Also they clung to the myth put around by Scottish Labour that they were different within. What a con that was ! We all realise true Labour is no more. The STUC's anti-Trident stance is thumbed by Dewar and Blair. New Labour MSP's will sit silent as rolls of loft insulation when Trident is raised in our Parliament. Blair has drawn the line. And they'll toe it.

The alliance with the Lib Dems -"Wallace and Vomit" as the News of the World put it - will be used as the hammer of the Scots who protest.

But protest we will ! It is now upon the 35 SNP members and the three independents that all hope rests. We can work Trident into debates about almost anything.

The annual running cost of Trident - 1.5 billion - is precisely the sum Alisdair Darling wants to cut from benefits. Nothing could be clearer evidence that nuclear weapons now come before the poor for this strange new alien lifeform, New Labour.

But I and others will thrust the fearsome obscenity of Trident onto the floor of our Parliament at every opportunity. Defence not being devolved won't shut us up. These islands are ruled by a trigger happy prime minister who bombs first, thinks later. This is the man who says he would press the nuclear button. He has made Scotland the most endangered place in Europe. And the public who elected MSP's have the right to expect we put their safety first.

Robin Harper MSP

(Scottish Green Party, Lothians)

The Scottish Parliament has no remit in defence matters. However, there are many MSPs, like myself, with a long history of campaigning against nuclear weapons. I was among the many at the Aldermaston marches, and two years ago, flew to Paris in September to join the successful campaign against nuclear testing at Muroroa.

We could:
* form a cross party anti-nuclear group;
* attend anti-nuclear rallies whenever possible;
* try to find a place in the parliamentary timetable for motions that simply express a parliamentary opinion;

* use the Scottish powers over the environment to restrict or even expel nuclear weapons from Scottish lochs. To sum up, if we can bury our other political differences and form this parliamentary group, we could be the first group at this level to exert significant influence in pursuance of the aims of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

Isobel Lindsay is a Vice President of Scottish CND and played a key role in creating the Scottish Parliament. She offers her views on what the Parliament can do -

A Parliament decides and a Parliament represents. We should be clear about these two roles. Of course Defence and Foreign Affairs are powers reserved to Westminster. On these Holyrood cannot decide but it can represent. Making Scotland's voice heard, contributing to the wider debate, encouraging new thinking - all of these are legitimate and desirable activities. And since they do not involve government programmes in the Holyrood context, it would be refreshing if parties accepted that debates of this kind were free of the dead hand of the whip.

Had the Parliament been firmly established at the start of the Balkans war, we could have expected a serious debate. We should now expect a serious debate about Scotland's key nuclear role. We should also expect a serious debate about debt cancellation for poor countries. We should expect a serious debate about international infrastructure for conflict resolution and protection of human rights. This is all part of the Parliament's representative role.

There are, of course, some areas in which Scotland has power to act. If we are to prepare for the removal of Trident, we should initiate an employment diversification programme. This is within the Holyrood powers. We must also have an environmental impact study which includes all aspects of Faslane / Coulport.

Will the character of the Parliament be open and radical enough to take these issues on board ? There are enough radical voices in the Parliament to initiate debate and investigation on these and similar questions. There has, of course, to be time for Holyrood to establish its procedures and initiate its programmes. We do not expect instant action. But a key test of the Parliament will be whether MSPs feel free to voice their views honestly or whether the culture of control and conformity will prevail. Hopefully, once the patronage is dispensed and people gain in confidence, there will be much more free-thinking than in Westminster.

One of the factors which will determine that culture of the Parliament will be the wider political scene in Scotland. If organisations like Scottish CND can keep issues on the public agenda, the pressure on the politicians to respond is correspondingly greater. Creating an informed climate of concern is our task.

In doing this, it is important that we build alliances with the many groups who have similar views. This is a particularly appropriate time to strengthen these networks. The Kosovo disaster has focused attention on the problems of conflict resolution and the instability in a world still full of weapons of mass destruction. The complacency of recent years has gone by.

Scottish CND survey of election candidates During the election campaign Scottish CND wrote to all the main party candidates asking how they would vote if there was a motion before the Scottish Parliament saying that Trident should be decommissioned. The figures below are only for those who were subsequently elected:

Of the 35 SNP candidates elected - 31 replied saying they would support the motion, many expressed strong support for CND. 4 did not reply.

Dennis Canavan, Tommy Sheridan (SSP) and Robin Harper (Greens) were all opposed to Trident.

Of the 56 Labour candidates elected - 6 replied saying they would support a motion saying Trident should be decommissioned (Jackie Baillie, Patricia Godman, Cathy Jamieson, Johann Lamont, John McAllion and Michael McMahon). Jackie Ballie and Michael McMahon both made comments qualifying their support for this line. 46 Labour candidates elected did not reply and a further 4 replied without answering the question directly.

Of the Lib Dem candidates elected - 2 gave qualified support for a motion against Trident (Robert Brown and Tavish Scott); 6 said they would oppose the motion (Keith Raffan, Euan Robson, Mike Rumbles, Margaret Smith, David Steel and Jamie Stone); 1 said "dont know", 2 did not answer the question and 6 did not reply.

6 of the Conservative candidates elected said they would oppose the motion and 11 did not reply.

If you want details of how your MSPs replied please write to the Scottish CND office. The responses are also on our internet site at:
http://ds.dial.pipex.com/cndscot/parl/

What do you think ?
What do you think the Parliament should do about Trident ? This is supposed to be an era of new politics where our MSPs will listen to what the public say. Write to your new representatives to let them know. Remember that you have several representatives in the Parliament. As well as your constituency MSP there are also 7 additional MSPs who represent your region. You can write to all of them and expect them all to reply.

All MSPs can be contacted at:
The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP. Tel 0131 348 5000

We will be compiling lists of MSPs email addresses, so contact us if you would like to know details for your representatives:
cndscot@dial.pipex.com

The Scottish Parliament website has information on MSPs and reports of debates at http://www.scottish.parliament.uk

Also write to Nuclear Free Scotland, Scottish CND, 15 Barrland St, Glasgow G41 1QH, to let us know your views.

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     Scottish CND      Magazine