ICAN Scottish Partner

Latest Events

Donate to SCND

Amount to donate:
£  GBP  


Smith Commission submission


Submission to the Smith Commission from Scottish CND



The Scottish Parliament should be given the power to prohibit the deployment of nuclear weapons in Scotland.


In 1996 the International Court of Justice gave an advisory opinion which said,


“the threat or use of nuclear weapons would generally be contrary to the rules of international law applicable in armed conflict, and in particular the principles and rules of humanitarian law”.[1]




At the time the President of the Court was judge Bedjaoui.  In 2009 Judge Bedjaoui was asked to comment on the legality of the British Trident nuclear weapon system.  He wrote


“I have been asked to give a personal opinion on the legality of a nuclear weapons system that deploys over 100 nuclear weapons with an approximate yield of 100 kt per warhead.  Bearing in mind that warheads of this size constitute around eight times the explosive power of the bomb that flattened Hiroshima in 1945 and killed over 100,000 civilians, it follows that the use of even a single such warhead in any circumstances, whether a first or second use and whether intended to be targeted against civilian populations or military objectives, would inevitably violate the prohibitions on the infliction of unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate harm as well as the rule of proportionality including with respect to the environment.  In my opinion, such a system deployed and ready for action would be unlawful.”


“.. even in an extreme circumstance of self-defence, in which the very survival of a State would be at stake, the use of a 100 kt nuclear warhead – regardless of whether it was targeted to land accurately on or above a military target – would always fail the tests of controllability, discrimination, civilian immunity, and neutral rights and would thus be unlawful.”[2]


Since the ICJ opinion was issued, the UK government has continued to deploy the Trident nuclear weapon system from Scotland, despite the fact that the use of Trident in any conceivable circumstance would be a breach of international law.


In February 2014 representatives of 146 nations gathered in Nayarit, Mexico to discuss the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons.  Following this initiative, 155 nations supported a statement which was read out at the United Nations General Assembly on 22 October 2014 saying,


“A key message from experts and international organisations was that no State or international body could address the immediate humanitarian emergency caused by a nuclear weapon detonation or provide adequate assistance to victims ....


“It is in the interest of the very survival of humanity that nuclear weapons are never used again, under any circumstances. The catastrophic effects of a nuclear weapon detonation, whether by accident, miscalculation or design, cannot be adequately addressed. All efforts must be exerted to eliminate the threat of these weapons of mass destruction.


“The only way to guarantee that nuclear weapons will never be used again is through their total elimination. “[3]


The Scottish Parliament has power over air guns and has introduced legislation to use this power to introduce a licensing regime in order to protect communities in Scotland.


It is an unacceptable anomaly that the Parliament can regulate air guns but can do nothing about the deployment of 200 nuclear weapons in Scotland.


Regardless of whether or not power over Defence and Foreign Affairs is reserved to Westminster, the Scottish Parliament should be given the power to prohibit the deployment of nuclear weapons and in doing so to uphold international law.



[1] http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/95/7495.pdf

[2] http://www.luath.co.uk/trident-and-international-law-scotland-s-obligations.html

[3] http://reachingcriticalwill.org/images/documents/Disarmament-fora/1com/1com14/statements/20Oct_NewZealand.pdf

Add comment

Security code