Taken from a report by Brian Larkin on Scraptrident given at Abolition 2000 AGM today in Edinburgh.
As in many countries peace groups in Scotland have been working away for nuclear disarmament for many years. But the situation in Scotland is unique. Unique because Scotland has had nuclear weapons imposed on it against the will of its people for over 60 years. But, as Krista van Velzen told thousands gathered for the Scrap Trident Demonstration in George Square Saturday, for the first time since the birth of the bomb a European country has the opportunity to vote, in the referendum on independence in a little more than a year, on whether it wants nuclear weapons.
The referendum is certainly a vote on nuclear weapons because 80% of the people of Scotland do not want them. Last month the Scottish Parliament passed an historic resolution confirming its opposition to nuclear weapons. And the Greens, Independents and the SNP favour a constitutional ban on nuclear weapons. Thus if we get independence it is pretty certain that Trident will go and Scotland will become nuclear free.
However, whilst independence will almost certainly mean nuclear disarmament for Scotland independence is by no means certain. At present only 33% favour independence according to the polls. Thus getting rid of Trident is the strongest argument for independence. And at the same time the independence debate is an opportunity to make the case for nuclear disarmament.
But there is of course another aspect to the present situation in the UK. That of course is the huge cost of Trident while the government is cutting welfare, pensions, disability benefits, and even proposing a Bedroom Tax on benefits to households with spare bedrooms. The government cannot easily justify spending £100 Billion on a weapons system that has no purpose while it is slashing funding real basic human needs like Education.
Thus the present period offers an opportunity to raise the issue of nuclear disarmament for Scotland whether we achieve independence or not. And an opportunity to tap into the broad anti-austerity sentiment of the people.
And so a number of groups came together to form a coalition to campaign around two themes both linked by the idea of Scrapping Trident. First to Let Scotland Lead the Way to a World Free of Nuclear Weapons. And at the same to to call on the present government to use the resources to Fund Human Needs.
But our campaign goes beyond calling for ridding the UK of nuclear weapons and using those funds for human needs. As a part of the Global Day of Action on Military Spending our blockade of Faslane Monday was a call for a real change of course for the UK and for a future Scotland to take a different tack from the UK. The UK is the fourth largest spender on the military. We will push for an independent Scotland to implement a different set of priorities because its people have always wanted security based on taking care of human needs not vast arsenals of high tech weaponry.
Nor is our campaign only about ridding Scotland of nuclear weapons. We are campaigning in the hope that Scotland will be, as one person arrested this weekend put it, a beacon for the world.. That’s why we called our weekend of action: Scrap Trident: Let Scotland Lead the Way to a Nuclear Free World. How exactly Scotland’s transition to a nuclear weapons free status will do that is probably more up to you than to us. Let’s hope our campaigning will give you that tool to work with.
The Scrap Trident Coalition, which includes SCND and several other peace groups including Stop the War, Trident Ploughshares, the Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre and Scottish WILPF as well as several political parties, the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Socialist Party and the newly formed Radical Independence Campaign. These groups had coalesced last autumn when it emerged that the SNP would vote at its October conference on changing its policy to embrace membership in the nuclear armed NATO alliance for a future Scotland. None of these groups were willing to abandon the principle of opposition to nuclear weapons in order to get independence. We came together to form a No to NATO Coalition because we want Scotland to be true to itself and lead the way to a nuclear free world not just a nuclear free Scotland. We don’t want Scotland to hide its light under a bushel. The Scrap Trident Coalition grew out of that. It opposes NATO, though, perhaps incongruously, it has been backed by 28 MSPs including the First Minister himself.