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     Scottish CND     magazine

The Way ahead for Scottish CND

A number of contributions have been made by active members of SCND. They are presented here without comment and are hopefully part of a debate that will continue up to and after our Annual Conference. Our next edition will be published at the end of August and will happily carry other contributions.

Isabel Lindsay

Disarmament and non European international affairs were totally neglected in the election campaign. With a new Labour government supported by a landslide majority, will this change? My guess is that there will be modest changes unless we can create a strong public mood for major new initiatives.

The Labour Party policy guide states Conservative defence policy has been marked by intellectual inertia, incoherence and incompetence. Agreed. But what are the new Governmentís alternatives? There are a number of welcome manifesto commitments - prohibit the sale of armaments to regimes which might use them for internal repression or international aggression, to ban all anti personnel landmines, to establish a defence diversification agency, to tighten enforcement of the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions. But of course there is also a commitment to retain Trident. The only concession is when satisfied with verified progress towards our goal of the global elimination of nuclear weapons, we will ensure that British nuclear weapons are included in multilateral negotiations. There is also a proposal to conduct a strategic defence and security review to reassess our essential security interests and defence needs.

There are different levels at which we should develop our political strategy. The first is simple and has great potential for popular appeal. Resource issues will soon become a major issue with the new government. Although most of the capital costs of Trident have been spent, that is certainly not the case with operational costs. With vital services starved of resources, will the public be satisfied with hundreds of millions of pounds every year being wasted on a weapons system which has no defence logic. A survey of new Labour MPs (The Observer 11.5.97.) shows that the overwhelming majority want to see a cut in defence expenditure. Mothball Trident and put an extra £1,500 million a year into health care or education or housing. Every cutback in important services is a legitimate occasion to remind councillors, MPs and the public of the money squandered in keeping Trident operational.

But there are other approaches around which we need to develop a strategy, steps on which we can build a well argued case for incremental change as in CNDís Blueprint for a Nuclear Weapon-Free World:

Remove Trident submarines from 24 hour patrol; Remove warheads;
Support a treaty prohibiting the military and commercial production and reprocessing of all weapons-usable radioactive materials;
Include nuclear weapons as part of a genuine defence review;
Seek British Government agreement to host an international conference on the elimination of nuclear weapons around the work of the Canberra Commission.

This is a programme around which we can build alliances and develop a positive public opinion for change. The establishment of the Scottish Parliament as proposed by the government will not have powers over defence issue but this does not mean that it cannot play a role if it chooses. It can express an opinion which will have democratic legitimacy and it can contribute to developing public awareness of these vital issues. Politically some doors are creaking open. It will be up to us to push.

Isabel Lindsay, Vice-President, Scottish CND.

Brian Quail Hopefully, by the time you are reading this we will have become accustomed to the Alice in Wonderland world where the words like government and opposition have swapped meaning. Even at this early stage however it is clear there must be substantial adjustments in campaigning strategy by Scottish CND.

The scale of the Labour victory, and the appointment of the committed devolutionist Donald Dewar as Scottish Secretary make it reasonable to assume that there will be a Scottish parliament and that from now on we will be operating on two political fronts - the Scottish parliament and the UK government.

From this strengthened base there are a number of immediate practical responses we can make to the new UK government. Can I suggest three policies we can effectively start campaigning on right away, areas where we can approach our MPs and sympathetic groups for positive action.

Firstly, we must demand that the British government ratify the Geneva Conventions Act of 1995. This act has already been passed by parliament, but not yet come into force by Royal assent. (This was because it is clearly impossible to reconcile the Act with Trident.) Ratification would give the peace movement a legally invincible case: it would also give the government an opportunity of moving on from its blanket pro Trident stance without losing too much face, and with the added kudos of being seen to uphold international law.

Secondly, we should demand that the government make a positive and practical response to the World Court verdict of 8 July 96. In particular to its unanimous agreement that nuclear weapons states ďbring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all aspects under strict and effective international controlĒ. Here we can lobby our MPs for real action, and not yet more vague promises. Britain should initiate talks to implement this ruling, and British weapons - for the first time ever - be included in international disarmament negotiations.

Thirdly, we can urge an immediate stand-down of Trident as a demonstration of good faith to other countries. The submarines should come off full alert, and return to port. While these moves would not be unilateral nuclear disarmament as we know it, they would undoubtedly be a huge step forward.

Although it is true the new Scottish parliament will not have a defence remit, it will have an environmental area of responsibility, and here Trident has an obvious impact. The criminal waste of money it involves must also concern the Scottish parliament and local government, a matter which we should continue to emphasise. The fact that by next year all UK nuclear weapons will be in Scotland will also highlight the issue.

Half a loaf is undoubtedly preferable to no bread and, whatever the reservations they may have on its inadequacies, I believe that the SNP will utilise the Scottish parliament as a platform for their own political agenda, which of course includes ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons. In this aim they will have the support of the traditional elements in the Scottish Labour Party, which have also consistently opposed Trident. All of which is good news for us.

This broad based opposition to Trident in Scottish political life must be mobilised for future campaigning: in particular for our August 9 demonstration.

The most shameful aspect of the recent general election has been the way the unionist parties collaborated in making Trident a non issue. Considering the enormity of the issue involved, this was a shameful tactic.

Our case is now, as always, morally and logically irrefutable. Our task in the immediate future is to seize the possibilities of making it realisable.

Brian Quail Joint Secretary Scottish CND

Tony Southall

My political life began in 1959 by joining CND. Since then Iíve always been a supporter and most times an activist. This, along with experience in other movements (most notably that against the Vietnam war) and looking at history, convinces me that our anti nuclear cause will only be won when we build a substantial mass movement against the bomb.

Example exists even in the recent past. Please reflect on the success of the anti gun lobby, on how the Poll Tax was beaten, how school closures in Glasgow were countered; further away: how the Berlin Wall was demolished or apartheid defeated. In every case, even in Germany or South Africa, the overwhelmingly non violent action of large numbers clinched it.

I can just imagine readers thinking: ďthis is an old manís fantasy: we canít even find enough people to mount a regular presence in the middle of Scotlandís biggest city!Ē But we live in a changing world and our movement is affected by it. 12 Years ago I sat with 6 others in a Glasgow flat bemoaning that we were all that existed of Glasgow Anti Apartheid. 5 Years later 30,000 people heard Oliver Tambo speak on Glasgow Green organised by guess who?

That happened because the time was right. But it wouldnít have without the continuity that was guaranteed by the core of activists. That kind of example should give us all strength to continue with our activity. Its exactly at times like these that we need the inspiration and example provided by people like the Peace Campers. But weíll never stop Trident by our own physical direct action. That can and does provide valuable propaganda and inspiration but only big political movements will end nuclear weapons.

Iím convinced weíre entering a period when thatís more possible than ever. The new Government badly needs cash. The Scottish Assembly opens the door for our case. These are the twin pegs on which we can hang an upsurge in our campaign. Iím making no guarantees but Iím sure we need to seize the time and give it a try!

Tony Southall Joint Secretary SCND

Scottish CND      magazine