Today, 7th July, is the the third anniversary of the adoption by overwhelming vote at the United Nations of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). The initiative to seek a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons was an outcome of the discourse centred on promoting greater awareness and understanding of the humanitarian consequences that would result from any use of nuclear weapons.
As the conference to negotiate the Treaty progressed Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, sent a message of hope and support to Ambassador Elaine Whyte Gomez of Costa Rica who chaired the conference. Her emissary was Bill Kidd MSP, Convenor of the Scottish Parliament Nuclear Disarmament Cross Party Group. Pointing out that nuclear weapons were an issue of existential concern to all of the peoples of the world, Nicola said: .
“Scotland, as host to the base for the entirety of the nuclear arsenal of the United Kingdom, has a particular interest in the outcomes of the conference in working towards the achievement of effective legal measures to attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.”
She quoted Sir Walter Scott in support of her “heartfelt wish” for a process that would rid the globe of nuclear warheads: ‘Dare to say and have the soul to believe’, reflecting the fact that in Scotland there is clear popular and parliamentary rejection of the UK’s weapons of mass destruction An independent Scotland can cause the disarming the whole UK due to the near impossibility of moving the submarine berths and atomic weapon store to any other location. There is widespread international recognition of Scotland’s unique potential to progress nuclear disarmament.
Regarding today’s anniversary, Bill added
“I send my very best wishes to those celebrating the third anniversary of the TPNW. I remember this significant day three years ago. Let us continue moving forward in this daring manner, particularly as we approach ratification of the treaty in the coming months.”
Meanwhile the 75th anniverary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki approaches. Setsuko Thurlow is a survivor of the attack on Hiroshima on 6th August 1945 and she has devoted her life to telling her story and calling attention to the horrific nature of nuclear weapons. In 2017 she was chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of ICAN, the international organisation that has worked to make the TPNW a reality. As the anniversary approaches, Setsuko has written to all the leaders of all the nuclear weapon states, pleading with them to reconsider their opposition to the Treaty., but she has also written to Nicola Sturgeon in recognition of Scotland’s strong support for disarmament.
“I wish to take this opportunity to thank you for your vocal support for this treaty and your
continued opposition to the deployment of nuclear weapons in Scotland. I met many ScottishNational Party MPs in 2017 when I shared my testimony in Parliament in Westminster. Your colleagues revealed to me their earnest desires to remove the Trident submarines stationed at Faslane. I have written to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom to urge him to sign and ratify the prohibition treaty without delay. Even in this time of a global pandemic, the Tory government continues to prioritize nuclear weapons spending over support for human needs. I have no doubt that Scotland can play a pivotal role in dismantling these most murderous weapons and lead the world in the planet-saving work of nuclear abolition.”
This resonates with opinon across Scottish civil society and political parties as we await the First Minister’s response to Setsuko’s letter, which is anticipated around the 6th August and the 75th anniversary.
From the Scottish Labour Party, MSP Neil Finlay said
“This anniversary reminds us that there are many in the world who share our vision of a planet free of nuclear weapons, a world of peace and justice where people live without the fear and where we can cooperate and thrive in a spirt of hope. At these very difficult times for humanity these ideals seem more appropriate than ever,”
and Elaine Smith MSP remembred her 2015 speech in the Scottish Parliament where she named nuclear weapons possession as:
“ Wrong, replacing them is wrong, and using them would be not only wrong, but reckless, despicable and immoral” and added that her present position on this is “even more clear as we see the devastating worldwide impact of having to use so many resources to fight a global pandemic.”
Scottish Greens John Finnie MSP added:
“The continued existence of nuclear weapons shames the human race. As we approach the 75th anniversary of the atrocities at Hiroshima and Nagasaki the last use of nuclear arms against civilian targets fades further into history but these abominable weapons still cast a dark shadow over our planet today. Across the world silos and arsenals are still filled with bombs capable of dealing death and suffering on an unimaginable scale. The Scottish Greens believe in an independent Scotland, free of nuclear weapons, participating in the global community with a spirit of friendship not aggression. On the 3rd anniversary of the United Nations adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons I commend the efforts of the countless campaigners in Scotland and across the world who have helped bring about progress. There is much work to be done but the reality of a world free of nuclear weapons is closer now than it has been at any time since that dark day in 1945.”
A giant mock postcard has been prepared to symbolise Scottish the Scottish aspiration to play its part towards a world free of nuclear weapons. The postcard reads:
Dear UN, Please keep our seat warm – it won’t be long now! Our first stroke of the pen will be to sign the Nuke Ban Treaty! Yours aye, Scotland.
Meanwhile the TPNW is making good progress. 81 UN states have signed the Treaty and 39 have ratified it, so that it now requires only 11 further ratifications to enter in force as a legally binding instrument. And it is already having an effect. A number of large financial institutions across the globe have already sussed the way the wind is blowing and are ceasing to invest in nuclear weapon production. The most recent example is the Japanese mega bank Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. which said that the decision had been taken in the light of “broad perceptions in the international community about the inhumane nature of nuclear weapons.”
Civil Society organisations which are making ready for the 75th anniversary include Northern Friends Peace Board (Quakers) whose statement reads:
‘It is encouraging to see the progress that has been made with the signing and ratification by countries around the world to the Treaty. But we remember with deep sadness the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki nearly 75 years ago, the harm done to people in the continued development and production of nuclear weapons, and the resources committed to this wreckless and wasteful approach to security. Our current crisis highlights how vulnerable human societies are; to develop new nuclear weapons, with that knowledge, is as wrong now as it was to drop them on Japanese cities 75 years ago.’
and Dr Michael Orgel from MEDACT (Scotland) said:
“The threat of a nuclear weapons existential crisis compares only to the threat from the climate emergency which these weapons excaerbate. A public health response is that prevention is the only possible way forward in dealing with either.”
Further info on action for the 75th anniversary in Scotland from Scottish CND banthebomb/org
For action and resources relating to the world wide commemorations see rise.icanw.org
Elaine Whyte Gomez will be speaking at a webinar in New Zealand to mark the thir anniversary, join at zoom link at 9 pm (Scottish time) today or catch up afterwards.
Zoom Link https://zoom.us/wc/join/82141008734