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Nuclear Free Scotland Ocotober 2005

DEFENCE DIVERSIFICATION NOW MORE THAN EVER!

Research into the potential for Defence Diversification has been carried out on the initiative of the Trade Unions, Academic Institutions and Nuclear Free Local Authorities. Most of this activity took place in the 1980s and 1990s and, as far as is known, there is no current activity around this question in Scotland. Bearing in mind the numerous military bases such as Faslane and Coulport1 and the numbers of jobs in defence related industries in Scotland there would appear to be a need to review the impact that, for example, the abolition of the UK’s nuclear deterrent would have on employment and measures which could be convincingly put into place to alleviate the negative effects this might have on the workforce.
On 17th September 2005 Scotland’s for Peace held a Forum which was addressed by David Moxham,

Dave Moxham, STUC, speaking at the Scotland’s For Peace forum

transferred to the non military sector then the workforce affected may need to be re-skilled. There may be technologies which would straightforwardly transfer across to the civilian sector and some facilities could be utilised such as the launch ramp at Rosyth which was used for the Pelamis wave power converter. On the downside Douglas pointed out that the military sector was not under the same commercial pressures compared to the civilian sector hence there is a palpable culture of inefficiency. Douglas suggested that the government could play a more proactive role in stimulating the sustainable energy sector by adjusting electricity prices to take into account environmental costs as in Portugal. In the ensuing discussion substantial questions were confronted and addressed:
l There are entrenched interests that have to be persuaded and that this could only be done via government policy.
l Retraining would have to be funded and this could be done by diverting some of the current defence budget.
l Some military personnel such as engineers, dentists and doctors could move seamlessly into the civilian sector where there is an existing shortage.
l The question of export guarantee credits provided via the DTI to underwrite armaments contracts should be examined3 .

l The government further provide further subsidies to defence companies by funding equipment for the armed forces which helps offset related research and development costs and therefore facilitates potential exports of the same or similar equipment.
l The moral and ethical aspects of diversification program should be emphasised when addressing the attitudes and concerns of the workforce.
l The mood of the population, especially young people, is broadly against war as a means of resolving issues and therefore defence diversification “chimes with the times”.
l Substantial economic changes have taken place recently such as automation in the offshore oil and gas extraction sector and decline of the telecoms sector.
l An education programme could be launched to demonstrate that sustainable industries are attractive and practical especially compared to the nuclear industry. This could be worked in with existing peace and anti-nuclear education initiatives.
l There must be a UK industrial capacity to fulfil a government stimulated demand for

Colin Fox MSP speaking at the closing plenary of the Forum

non-military products as well as a capacity on the part of existing companies to absorb former defence workers.
l There is a need for a wide ranging consultation with relevant organisations around all these questions.
If a revived defence diversification initiative is going to have any significant effect the Scottish Parliament must at least acknowledge the initiative and be prepared to debate and consider its proposals. Moreover, the project must be shaped to address the concerns of the workforces who will potentially be affected by moves to diversify away from defence into non-military areas of economic activity.
There was broad agreement for the proposal that a sympathetic MSP, such as Marlyn Glen, investigate the possibility of setting up a Scottish Parliamentary Committee examine how to transform the Scottish economy from having a high level of dependency on military related economic activity to an economy which depends on a high level of sustainable economic activity. An obvious priority would be the establishment of a Scottish Defence Diversification Research Unit.
Mike Martin


References
Ian Goudie “Defence Diversification or Dole?” June 2001 http://www.thecitizen.org.uk/articles/vol2/article16e.htm
Northern Friends Peace Group: http://nfpb.gn.apc.org/disarmr.htm


1 Faslane and Coulport are the bases where the Trident submarine fleet and their nuclear warheads are serviced. Altogether these bases employ in excess of 8,000 workers, 7,000 of whom are employed by Babcock’s at Faslane. Whilst the future replacement for Trident has not been decided it would appear that smaller tactical nuclear weapons are being developed and that the Trident fleet will be phased out in favour of a more militarily flexible submarine fleet. Thus, whatever policy the government pursue with respect to Trident replacement, the workforce at Faslane will most probably be reduced from current levels over the next two decades.
2 Socialist Environment Resources Association
3 It was suggested that the CAAT (Campaign Against the Arms Trade) may have already have done work in this area.

Police arresting a demonstrator at the G8 summit

 

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