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Trident and Scotland’s elections

Bruce Kent listening to the Rally in Glasgow on 24th February

Last month the people of Scotland voted for change. But the initial euphoria in the peace movement has been replaced by sober realism with the narrowness of the SNP victory and the failure to form a working coalition. Alex Salmond may have executive power but with a minority administration how much can he deliver?

It is certainly true that, like the old parliament, there is no clear anti-Trident majority. But there are around seven additional anti-Trident MSPs in the new parliament and the loss of executive power and patronage could free up several more Labour MSPs to join the 4-6 existing ‘rebels’. As in the last parliament, it is the Liberal Democrats who hold the key. Although hardly a principled position, their ‘not at this time’ offers the prospect of a majority vote against Trident replacement if the wording is carefully crafted.

How important would that be? Our elected parliament has the right and responsibility to speak for Scotland on any matter whether reserved or not. Alongside opinion polls, churches, trade unions and a clear majority of Scottish MPs (33 out of 59 voted against Trident replacement in March of this year) it adds up to a message Gordon Brown would be unwise to ignore. The people of Scotland do not want to play host to this dangerous and immoral weapon for another 50 years.

On Saturday 26th May Scottish CND held a conference to take stock of the new situation. Winning a majority vote against Trident replacement in the new parliament remains a key objective. But even if this proves elusive in the short term, many other proposals could be taken up in parliament or by the use of executive power.

Using executive power

Can we ensure that peace education features in every school curriculum in Scotland? Could the executive host an international disarmament conference in Scotland? Can we halt the transport of dangerous nuclear warheads on our busiest roads? Can the Scottish parliament pass a bill outlawing nuclear weapons in Scotland? Can the executive establish a Scottish Centre for Peace and Justice? And can the executive prepare a plan to diversify Trident-related jobs to peaceful and socially useful jobs in the civilian economy? All of these subjects were discussed in the workshops and this magazine has reports on each of these and some ideas of how we can move the issues forward.

Nuclear Free Local Authorities

But last month’s elections were not just about the Scottish parliament. Local authority elections also produced a sea-change with heavy defeats for New Labour, partly due to the introduction of PR and partly to the swing to the SNP. Labour now control only 2 or 3 local authorities. Many of these were previously Nuclear Free Zones and some continue to give support to the peace movement. How can we work with the new local authorities to ensure that they play an active role in the peace movement?

None of this will happen spontaneously. The new Scottish executive will be bombarded with proposals and new initiatives over the next few months and it will take some time to settle down. We need to establish new channels of communication to the executive and key ministers to get our proposals heard. But just as important will be to keep up the public pressure from the wider peace movement. What happens inside the new parliament will be shaped to a great extent by what happens outside the parliament and vice versa.

We must remember that we are the majority - no longer an ousider protest group banging to get in the door. The door is at least partly open, and we need to learn how to work effectively in this new situation which offers great new opportunity.

This issue of Nuclear Free Scotland takes up all these challenges. If the various short contributions seem speculative and incomplete it is because that is where we are. They represent work in progress rather than completed projects.

If you would like to help us in this new stage of our campaign, please contact us on 0141 423 1222 or scnd@banthebomb.org or visit our website on www.banthebomb.org.

Alan Mackinnon

Nuclear Free Scotland Magazine - June 2007

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