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Nuclear Free Scotland Ocotober 2005

THE NUCLEAR TURNING POINT!

British politicians are approaching a key decision. Down one way lies the nuclear road. If they choose this direction then billions of pounds of taxpayers’ money will be squandered on nuclear weapons, rather than being invested in schools, hospitals, pensions or aid. The alternative path would see an end to British nuclear weapons within 15 years, and probably far sooner.

On 13th September the Guardian reported that John Reid was opening the debate on whether or not to replace Trident. A decision will be made in the lifetime of this parliament, ie before 2010. It is crucial that we engage in this discussion and force our elected representatives to recognise the absurd and dangerous waste of money that is Britain’s bomb.

Sophie Bolt - CND vice-chair at the Faslane Blockade in July

‘It is important that the argument moves beyond deciding which bomb is best and focuses on whether we need these weapons at all’

Within Whitehall officials are beginning to consider whether it would be better to upgrade Trident or to replace it with a new system. An upgrade could involve new submarines, new nuclear warheads or both. It is important that the argument moves beyond deciding which bomb is best and focuses on whether we need these weapons at all.

The only justification that John Reid can come up with is that the world is an uncertain place and that he does not know what threats Britain will face in 2020. But every nation in the world could say the same. This would lead to a nuclear free-for-all.

Many arguments can be used. Here are three key points:
1. It’s America’s bomb The notion of an independent British nuclear force is a myth. The 1958 Mutual Defence Agreement means that Trident can only be used in the mutual defence of both Britain and America. The computer software for targeting Trident is all American. It is only as independent as Washington wants it to be. The missiles could only be launched to support an American nuclear strike - to share the blame for an aggressive US onslaught.
2.The British bomb can serve no useful purpose Trident is a legacy from the Cold War. The new emphasis is on terrorism. But Osama bin Laden is more likely to provoke a US/UK nuclear strike than be deterred by the threat of one.

3. The bomb steals from our hospitals, our schools, our pensions and our aid budget. This year the government is spending 3 % of the defence budget on nuclear weapons. This is equivalent to £1 billion. Rebuilding Trident today would cost at least £15 billion. Just replacing the submarines would cost over £4 billion.

Scotland’s for Peace has sent letters to all Scottish MPs and MSPs asking “Do you agree that replacing Trident in the present international situation is a measure we don’t need and can’t afford?”. All the responses are available at www.banthebomb.org The following are some of examples.

There was a good response from the SNP. Alex Salmond wrote “we remain totally opposed to wasting billions on needless weapons of mass destruction like Trident”. Fiona Hyslop said “I want a Scotland which builds for

peace not war”. Scottish Green Party MSPs are opposed to nuclear weapons. Robin Harper wrote “who in their right mind could even for one minute consider releasing these weapons on innocent people ?”. Scottish Socialist Party MSPs continue to take a stand against Trident. Rosie Kane said “three quarters of Scots want nuclear weapons to be scrapped to make Scotland, and the rest of the world, a safer place”. Independent MSP Dennis Canavan wrote “ We should be spending more on Health and Education instead of weapons of war and mass destruction”.

Two Liberal Democrat MSPs spoke out against replacing Trident. Mike Rumbles said that Trident was “ineffective, useless and a complete waste of money”. Donald Gorrie said that the money should be spent on peace keeping and conflict prevention.

From the Labour Party, four MPs (Katy Clark, Brian Donohoe, Michael Connarty and David Hamilton) and four MSPs (Cathy Peattie, Marlyn Glen, Bill Butler and Elaine Smith) said they were opposed to replacing Trident.

Mike Rumbles MSP: Trident is ‘ineffective, useless and a complete waste of money’

Michael Connarty wrote “Nuclear proliferation can only end when countries like the UK stop replacing weapons of mass destruction like Trident”. Cathy Peattie said “I don’t think we need or should ever need Trident”.

Although there were many interesting replies, there were also a considerable number of elected politicians who did not respond. Please help to build this campaign by writing to your MP and MSPs asking for their views on the future of British nuclear weapons. Where they are personally opposed to Trident please encourage them. If they defend the government’s position ask them to justify their stand. Help us to find out what arguments are being used to justify the bomb. If they are trying to keep quiet then tactfully try to engage with them. If you are able to visit your MP/MSP at their surgery this is even more effective. Please let Scottish CND have copies of any replies you receive, so that we can build an effective political lobbying campaign.

Two bodies that will play an important role are the Defence and Foreign Affairs select committees in the House of Commons. Please urge both committees to hold a comprehensive and thorough inquiry. Write to James Arbuthnot MP, Chair of the Defence Select Committee, and Mike Gapes MP, Chair of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. (David Hamilton, MP for Midlothian, is on the Defence Committee and Sandra Osborne, MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, is on the Foreign Affairs Committee).

The address for all MPs is:
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
The address for all MSPs is:

Fiona Hyslop: ‘I want a Scotland which builds for peace not war’

(David Hamilton, MP for Midlothian, is on the Defence Committee and Sandra Osborne, MP for Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock, is on the Foreign Affairs Committee).

The address for all MPs is:
House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA
The address for all MSPs is: Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP

I have been working for some time on a report on “The Future of the British Bomb”. This includes an analysis of arguments used to justify British nuclear weapons plus new information on Trident. This will be published by the WMD Awareness Programme in Westminster on 25th October. Copies will be available from the Scottish CND office for £5, plus £1 postage.

John Ainslie

 

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