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Scottish CND & The Conflict in Ukraine

As a campaign for nuclear disarmament, Scottish CND are particularly attuned to the nuclear issues in the Ukraine conflict, Putin’s veiled threats of using nuclear weapons, and the potential catastrophe of damage to a nuclear power plant. 

Not to mention the risk of conflict escalating into a situation in which Russia or NATO uses nuclear weapons.

As Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary General, puts it,

 “We are one mistake, one miscalculation, one misunderstanding
away from blundering into oblivion.”

(December 10th 2022)

The only remaining treaty in which nuclear states agree limits on the number of their nuclear weapons – the New Strategic Arms Control Agreement between the Russian Federation and the USA  – has stalled.

Instead of negotiations proceeding, the conflict is being used to justify expansion of nuclear weapons in all nuclear states including the UK. It’s ironic that this is happening at a time when the non-nuclear states are signing up to the
UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) which offers a fresh opportunity to step back from the nuclear brink.

Across Europe, Putin’s conduct towards Ukraine has heightened public awareness of the existential threat of nuclear annihilation. It has also distracted purposeful attention away from the other existential threat of climate change and mass extinctions. Antonio Guterres recently described this as humanity destroying nature and “committing suicide by proxy” (December 6th 2022).

In Scotland, the site of the UK nuclear weapons, Scottish CND has a responsibility to make people aware of every horrific aspect of the UK’s own nuclear weapon system – the submarine launched nuclear armed Trident missiles. 

For example, our article detailing what a nuclear war would be like. 

The horror also includes the historical part that the UK has played in making nuclear weapons an existential threat for the rest of the world. 

The missed early opportunities for banning them. The secrecy, myths and collaborative delusions around them. The failure to advocate for a push towards nuclear disarmament at the end of the cold war. 

And, more recently, when a new opportunity has been created by the TPNW. 

This history is one in which institutions of war making have always been given priority over peace making.

Scottish CND is part of the broader peace movement that believes humanity can and should always find better ways to resolve conflict than to wage war. 

Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) for example, has strong links with the Movement for the Abolition of War (MAW)Bruce Kent, an immeasurably respected leader of CND and the broader peace movement, was its founding chair. MAW is not a pacifist organisation but an international campaign to end the scourge of war. It was formed in 2001, inspired by the Hague Appeal for Peace and guided by the preamble of the UN charter.

The current president is Professor Paul Rogers, a key figure in the development of peace studies and conflict resolution as topics researched and taught at universities in the UK.

Sadly, the UK remains institutionally and culturally implicated in prioritising preparation for war over peace building. The Campaign against the Arms Trade are currently mounting a legal challenge to the UK’s supply of arms to Saudi Arabia that are being used in the conflict in Yemen. 


As for investment in nuclear weapons, Don’t Bank on the Bomb are calling out the many Scottish and UK based institutions implicated in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. 

Yet willingness to press the nuclear button is still treated as a mark of mature leadership rather than insanity. ‘Security’ and ‘foreign policy’ are almost reduced to weapons and their sale. A truly ethical foreign policy and support for a transition from arms industries to more ethical and socially useful work remain off the agenda.

In Scotland we have a Scottish and UK government moving in different directions on the nuclear issue. The current Scottish government wants nuclear weapons removed from Scotland and is expected to sign the TPNW should Scotland become an independent state. They recognise that there can never be any security for Scotland or the world in advocating for and promoting the capacity to end all life on earth. 

The UK government, on the other hand, advocate the nuclear doctrine of NATO. Like Russia, NATO do not rule out first use of nuclear weapons and both NATO and Russia have military- doctrines that consider it legitimate to use nuclear weapons if they fear losing a war. 

For survival, such doctrines must be opposed but will only be securely removed when nuclear weapons are banned.

A resolution passed at the Scottish CND AGM last month with specific reference to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine suggested that ‘the world needs to put much more effort into negotiated settlements and International Agreements’ and asked SCND to encourage this by:

  • Discussion with key politicians in Scotland both at Westminster and Scotland
  • Organising public meetings and rallies either ourselves or in conjunction with Stop the War, UK CND etc.
  • Producing information and leaflets promoting peaceful solutions

Of course the future of Ukraine should be decided by the people and government of Ukraine. This includes decisions about when to negotiate in the current conflict. 

Our conversation with the Ukrainian pacifist Yurii Sheilazhenko hosted on our website has attracted criticism from some in Ukraine as unrepresentative of majority opinion and ‘misinformation’. Scottish CND is not a pacifist
organisation but it would be odd for any peace movement organisation to ignore this perspective. 

As a Scotland-based peace movement organisation, our focus has to be on encouraging the Scottish and UK governments to play constructive roles that give peace a chance, as well as encouraging people in Scotland to find ways of providing humanitarian support to the people of Ukraine and/or enhancing dialogue with and between people in Ukraine and Russia.