On 6 August 1945, the United States’ Air Force dropped a nuclear bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Since then, 6 August has been commemorated as a time for reflection on the horrendous loss of life and the legacy of illness which was carried to future generations.
This year, the Scottish Parliament marked Hiroshima Day with a debate on the future of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system.
The debate was framed around the Scottish government’s long-standing commitment to end Scotland’s hosting of the British nuclear arsenal at Faslane and how its removal can, and I believe will, take place were Scotland to vote for independence on 18 September.
The sides lined up as expected. The ranks of the Scottish Government party (the Scottish National Party), two Green Party Members, my Highlands & Islands Independent colleague Jean Urquhart and I, against the madness that is nuclear weapons, supporting a positive and collaborative vision of an independent Scotland contributing to global disarmament.
‘Better to have it and not use it!’ cried the unionists. Two Labour Members who oppose the renewal of the Trident system cried foul at the issue being linked to the ongoing constitutional debate. However, given that Britain’s three main political parties are all committed to Trident being renewed, I believe it’s delusional to think that nuclear disarmament can be delivered by a British government.
Speaker after speaker on the unionist side talked of the ‘hypocrisy’ of supporting the removal of nuclear weapons from an independent Scotland, but accepting them being housed south of the border. Except, of course, that’s not what’s being proposed.
John Ainslie, from the Scottish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), rightly pointed out in his report that there is ‘Nowhere to Go’ for Trident. His report examines the original sites considered by Westminster prior to Trident being based at Faslane. All those locations, on France’s Brittany coast and the eastern US seaboard, have been ruled out for a whole range of reasons – so it’s Faslane or nowhere.
Of course, there were competing quotes about the number of jobs affected by a possible removal. Dave Moxham, Deputy General Secretary of the Scottish Trade Union Council, stated that renewing Trident puts public-service jobs at risk. It’s very simple economics: spend $165-210 billion on Trident and you can’t spend it on the quality public services voters tell politicians they want.
In my speech, I referred to the ‘great prize’ of an independent Scotland disarming Britain, and in so doing making a significant contribution to global disarmament. It all ended with a predictably comfortable win for those seeking the removal of Trident from Scotland.
Jean Urquhart and I left the Scottish National Party when the Party’s 2012 Annual Conference decided to overturn opposition to NATO membership and seek to have an independent Scotland join NATO. NATO, of course, is a ‘first strike’ nuclear alliance. Our view is that it was morally incorrect to seek membership of a nuclear military alliance while opposing nuclear weapons. I likened the change to having spent a lifetime campaigning against knife crime, only to seek to join the knife gang so long as you are no longer required to keep the knives in your house.
Political will is going to move disarmament forward and it’s this drive from the parties supporting independence which has seen the Scottish CND, celebrated campaigner and vice-president of CND UK Bruce Kent, and Tadatoshi Akiuba, former Mayor of Hiroshima, support Scotland’s quest for self-determination and a nuclear-free future.
Scotland is now just a month away from a possible bright new future, where its gift to the other citizens on our small planet is the removal of weapons of mass destruction.
The alternative is almost unbearable to consider. A ‘No’ vote guarantees that the élites, the bankers, the generals, the arms dealers and the public school boys who run Britain like their own personal cash cow will not only bring more austerity to the country (remember, 60 per cent of those cuts are still to come) – they will take it as a green light to dismantle our public services and sell out to the neoliberals’ corporate gods.
I don’t think there is any such thing as good weapons and bad weapons. However, there is no doubt that the Trident example is the easiest with which to illustrate the expenditure futility that underwrites the arms industry.
John Finnie is an Independent member of the Scottish Parliament for the Highlands and Islands.
This blog was commissioned as part of the 2014 Matters programme, a non-partisan group of Scottish organizations seeking to put global justice at the heart of the Independence debate. Visit 2014-matters.org to find out more.