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An open letter to John Swinney - nuclear convoys

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

An open letter to John Swinney, Deputy First Minister with responsibility for Resilience Dear Mr Swinney

I am writing on behalf of Scottish CND to share our concern about the continuing and regular transport of the UK's nuclear weapons on Scottish roads. Our objection to this traffic is twofold. The movement by road of nuclear warheads is a key part of the UK's horrifying and illegal Trident nuclear weapon system. The transport also presents immediate and unacceptable risks to the communities through which the nuclear weapon convoys pass, risks which the UK Ministry of Defence itself acknowledges and attempts to justify as acceptable in order to maintain the Trident system. Our concern has been heightened by the publication of the Nukewatch report “Unready Scotland” and the disappointing response of the Scottish government to its findings (REPORT link). The report has highlighted a general unreadiness on the part of Scottish local authorities on convoy routes to respond effectively to a serious incident, in terms of their duties under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004). The report noted in particular a general failure to conduct appropriate risk assessments of the threat posed by the traffic and a complete failure to make and keep their public informed, both of which are statutory duties under the Act. While accepting that defence is reserved to Westminster and that the conduct of the convoys is a UK government responsibility, the report has recommended that the Scottish government conducts a review into the readiness of the relevant civil authorities in Scotland to effectively fulfil their statutory part following any serious incident. To date the Scottish government has not acceded to this request. Scottish CND supports the Nukewatch request for a review as a sensible and appropriate step forward. Meanwhile there are strong indications that the new UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is already having a significant impact in advance of its entry into force. Since the adoption of the Treaty, 30 financial institutions have ceased investing in nuclear weapon producers. At UN level ICAN is reliably advised that the nuclear-armed states, including the United Kingdom, are feeling the challenge that the Treaty poses to their nuclear weapon status. The treaties banning chemical weapons, cluster munitions and landmines have led the way in changing the norm around these inhumane weapons, and there are signs that the nuclear ban treaty is beginning to have the same effect.

We are delighted that a majority of Scottish parliamentarians, including the entire Scottish government, have signed the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge to work for the advancement of the TPNW. Scotland has a unique position as a significant section of a nuclear-armed state which at both popular and parliamentary level rejects that state's possession of these WMD. This is recognised worldwide. In that context it is vital that all reasonable and constitutionally viable steps be taken to align with the Treaty.

One such step is the modest one recommended by Nukewatch. Scottish CND commends it to you.

Yours sincerely,

Jean Anderson

Scottish CND Secretary

On behalf of the Executive Committee