What’s Occurring?

  • Nuclear war, Scotland and the general election

    My sister has been watching a Cold War series on TV and we were reminiscing about these days. She was 10 during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and I was in sixth year at Aberdeen Grammar. Jeannie remembers that our parents were in a state of fear, but at the time she did not know what was going on. She was hardly alone. I am astonished to realise on reflection that I myself knew only a little. There was a radio in our Bedford Road flat but the news usually got switched off by our father after the headlines and it may indeed have been deliberately left quiet in those days. My awakening came on during a school games session at Rubislaw, probably on Wednesday 17th October. On that day pal Willie Burt cheerfully predicted that this was the day the bombs would fall and then he filled me in. I blanked it out as much as possible but the terror was threaded through my dreams.

    Then the insane stand-off of the early eighties when parenthood forced me to face the reality of the threat more squarely, though the response was largely limited to middle-of-the night half-arsed planning for emergency evacuation, sleeping bags, rations etc., tied to a kind of paralysis. Fortunately there were others who responded actively and responsibly, in the large demonstrations in the US and Europe, at Greenham Common, and in small grass-roots groups all over. Their good work did have its effect, not least in provoking films like The Day After and Threads which did so much in spreading awareness of the potential horror, even nudging Ronald Reagan towards a measure of reality so that he and Gorbachev could reach a (tragically temporary) realisation that nuclear weapons not only had to be gotten rid of, but that it could be done. And so, by a modest margin, we edged away from the brink.

    And now they tell us, very plausibly, that the present risk of nuclear war is as grave as in 1962 and the early eighties. We have an escalating threat and counter-threat pattern, which has now gone as far as first-stage preparations for resurrecting live nuclear weapon testing by Russia, China and the US, plus the virtual collapse of arms control measures, the modernisation of weapon systems and the emergence of ever more unhinged leaders with access to doomsday arsenals. And there can be no doubt about the horrific and catastrophic reality of nuclear conflict. Annie Jacobsen, author of Nuclear War – A Scenario said “ . . it doesn’t take but one weapon to set off a chain reaction to unleash the current (US) arsenal, which is forward deployed in launch-on-warning positions and could be fired in as little as a minute—15 minutes for the submarines. There are enough weapons in those positions right now to bring on a nuclear winter that would kill an estimated 5 billion people.” There is only a single target for nuclear weapons – humanity itself.

    Existential threats are threats to the future of the human race and nuclear war is right up there with climate and bio-diversity collapse. These twin horrors should be high on the election agenda. There is talk about “managing” the risks of nuclear war, but that is a very dodgy word in its implication of a process in some kind of rational control. Moving the petrol can a little bit further away from the open fire is not managing the risk, it’s at best a temporary emergency step that might give us a breathing space. Getting rid of nuclear weapons is ultimately the only rational response to the risk they pose.

    This is why all candidates in this election should be asked whether they will, if elected, sign the ICAN Parliamentary Pledge in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

    This is a red line issue for progressing nuclear disarmament, for in Scotland at least, we will have the choice of a candidate who is unambiguous about the route to nuclear weapons elimination.

    Go to our People and Parliament page to see all the candidates. More information and model letter at this link.


    NATO and NUKES

    In recent days there has been a flurry of attacks on the Scottish National Party about a mismatch between its No Nuclear Weapons stance and the proposed membership of NATO if and when Scotland achieves independence.

    Let’s begin with NATO itself. An independent Scotland which joined the North Atlantic Treaty would be taking its policy cues from Washington and from European NATO hawks, as part of the Euro-Atlantic bloc in the continuing Cold War. It should instead be genuinely independent and adopt a neutral stance, registering its solidarity with other non-aligned states. The Scotland’s For Peace Covenant has put it well; “We desire that Scotland should be known for its contribution to peace and justice rather than being a launch pad for waging war.” With this perspective, and taking into account how nuclear weapons are core to NATO’s strategic concept, membership for a new nation looks incompatible with a genuine rejection of nuclear weapons.

    The US proudly describes its “nuclear umbrella” as its “extended deterrence” – so its nukes (and the threat of them) are not just to defend the US but are ready to “protect” others states. Among the US “umbrella ” states are the members of NATO, South Korea, and Japan. What makes this umbrella poisonous? One toxin is the real uncertainty that the umbrella would in fact be in place if there was real danger, an actual attack, conventional or nuclear. How much trust can reasonably be placed in a world power which puts its own interests first? The second toxin is based on how the umbrella offer is used to keep client states in line – a sort of protection racket. But it is the third element in the venom that is most deadly. A nation that welcomes the proffered umbrella accepts that nuclear weapons may be used on its behalf and thus could become party to mass murder and, potentially, a global catastrophe.

    The accepted position is that being a NATO state puts you under this umbrella. Two weeks ago the PM of new NATO state Finland confirmed the concept: “I would start from the premise that we in Finland must have a real nuclear deterrent, and that’s what we have, because NATO practically gives us three deterrences through our membership. The first is military, i.e. soldiers, the second is missiles, i.e. ammunition, and the third is a nuclear deterrent, which comes from the United States, “.

    There is however another strand. People advocating for the TPNW in some European NATO states are regularly told that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) cannot be signed by the state since it is a NATO state. They counter that the current nuclear NATO Strategic Doctrine is not intrinsic to the North Atlantic Treaty and there are no basic legal barriers to NATO states signing and ratifying the TPNW, though it would mean the end of any “nuclear sharing” and a renunciation by the state in question of any dependence on the nuclear arsenal of another state for their security. Scottish disarmament campaigners acknowledge that this is a reasonable tactic in European NATO states.

    In Scotland – and with a general election looming – the challenge to the SNP must be as follows: “If your rejection of nuclear weapons is genuine then your first priority for an independent Scotland must be accession to the TPNW with a full understanding of its radical nature, including rejection of the nuclear umbrella and recognition that States Parties to the Treaty must not: ‘Assist, encourage or induce, in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Treaty.’” (Article 1:e).

    This is why Scottish disarmament campaigners will be asking all Westminster election candidates whether they will commit to signing the ICAN Parliamentarians’ Pledge in Support of the TPNW. We also need to point out that if Scotland accedes to the TPNW the removal of nuclear weapons from our land and seas is not primarily to be negotiated with the remnant UK. It will be a matter for the UN and the other States Parties to the TPNW all around the world. This puts us in a very strong position to face down the inevitable dirty tricks, bribery and squalid dealing. Further, an early accession to the Treaty will significantly determine our relations with other nations and alliances. It is essential that we give the Treaty predominance within the independence process.

  • Happy Anniversary TPNW!

    International humanitarian law looks threadbare at the moment, not least because the cynicism behind much of the “rule-based international order” rhetoric from major world players has been further exposed by Gaza. Yet our very survival, in the face of existential threats, depends on the sincerity, agreement and co-operation which is its very basis, so it is not a time to give up, but a time to repair, restore and renew. It is precisely in this scenario that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) has its place. The Treaty entered into force three years ago. It prohibits nations which have acceded to it from developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, transferring, possessing, stockpiling, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, or allowing nuclear weapons to be stationed on their territory. It also prohibits them from assisting, encouraging or inducing anyone to engage in any of these activities.

    As of this month 70 UN states have formally bound themselves to its provisions and 93 have taken the initial step of signing. Whenever the Treaty is on the agenda of the UN General Assembly is regularly has the support of around 130 states. Year by year it is growing in strength and credibility. Its emergence has led major financial institutions across the globe to cease investing in nuclear weapons. It has effected significant changes in the public and political discourse around nuclear weapons. It has acquired popular assent even with nuclear-armed states. It is regarded as a possible model for responding to the climate crisis, since it has mobilised those at the sharp end of a particular threat to challenge the behaviour of those powerful nations that present it.

    The Treaty is founded on the long-standing principles of humanitarian law (from the 7th century Adomnan of Iona’s Law of Innocents onward) which are so blatantly disregarded right now.

    From the Preamble:

    Basing themselves on the principles and rules of international humanitarian law, in particular the principle that the right of parties to an armed conflict to choose methods or means of warfare is not unlimited, the rule of distinction, the prohibition against indiscriminate attacks, the rules on proportionality and precautions in attack, the prohibition on the use of weapons of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering, and the rules for the protection of the natural environment,”

    For us in Scotland the TPNW is an opportunity to contribute again to the repair and rebuilding of the basic laws of humanity, whether as an independent state able to banish nuclear weapons from our shores and cause the UK to disarm, or by showing our readiness right now to join the majority world in its aspiration for a world free of that catastrophic scourge. There are ample opportunities in 2024 for people, institutions and government to express our complete intolerance of the risks and shame of what is being prepared at Faslane and Coulport.

  • International Day of Action – Sunday 26th November

    The 2nd Meeting of States Parties (2MSP) to the TPNW takes place at the UN in New York from 27 November-1 December. There will be civil society participation, including a number of campaigners from the UK.

    Against a grim background of unbridled and destructive violence the TPNW is strengthening and growing in credibility. There are now 93 signatories, 69 states parties and 4 accessed countries and whenever it is on the agenda of the UN General Assembly it has the support of around 130 states. 2MSP will continue the patient and constructive work begun at 1MSP in Vienna last year and civil society will play its part.

    As governments, experts and campaigners get ready for a week of building on the treaty banning nuclear weapons, there will be an International Day of Action on Sunday 26 November to call for an end to nuclear weapons and bring attention to the TPNW. All around the world, people will be taking action to show the delegations in New York that we expect them to be bold, courageous and use the TPNW to dismantle nuclear deterrence, and make sure the rest of the world is paying attention to this crucial opportunity.

    We want to co-ordinate UK-wide events and share news, pictures and videos on social media and the website nuclearban.scot. We expect there will be the usual mix of imaginative stunts, gatherings and small photo-ops, as for the day the TPNW entered into force.

    The process for sharing is simple. Just send your images to ICANdayofaction@gmail.com on the day. It would also be helpful if you can let me know beforehand if you are planning an event.

    David Mackenzie

    Trident Ploughshares

    From Lucero of ICAN International:

    Global Day of Action on November 26th
    On Sunday 26th, right before the MSP kicks off, we want to show the delegations meeting in New York – and those watching from afar – that the world is watching and we expect them to be bold, courageous and use the TPNW to dismantle nuclear deterrence. We know from experience that you, our incredible ICAN partners around the world, truly shine on moments like these. So we have put together some resources like social media templates and banners to facilitate and here: https://www.icanw.org/2msp_global_day_of_action and will be adding more in the coming weeks. And of course, I wanted to remind you that the ICAN Rapid Action Fund is still available to help elevate any actions you may have in mind with up to $2000. So if you’re planning any events, please do apply! We have seen some truly inspiring actions this year, and already heard from a few of you about some exciting ideas for the 26th, but we would love to hear from all of you how you plan to join the Global Day of Action!

    Listing your local or online events on the calendar.
    Whether it’s a stunt for the global day of action, a webinar, or a get-together with local campaigners to discuss the MSP, we would love to fill the Nuclear Ban Week calendar with all kinds of events from all over the world! So could you please make sure to add your events here?”


    Second Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW in New York in November (2MSP)

    See full information at https://www.icanw.org/tpnw_meeting_of_states_parties.The nuclearban.scot website (re-launched) will be regularly updated. Campaigners committed to public meetings, writing blogs and generally spreading the message after returning to Scotland will be very useful! There will be an ICAN Campaigners Meeting on the 26th of November in New York

    Registration dates are on the ICAN website at the link above.

    • Everyone attending needs to be registered by a UN-accredited organisation
    • Registration by a civil society group does not commit the group to paying costs incurred
    • Anyone attending should commit to UN expectations of conduct
    • Scottish ICAN Partners can all be seen on this website (not all of them will register)

    Bill Kidd MSP, chair of the Scottish Parliament Nuclear Disarmament and Maggie Chapman MSP will attend and other MSPs or Scottish MPs can be encouraged to join them. It is really important that the international community get to see that Scotland really does want bairns, not bombs, and the UK has no mandate for the weapons they deploy here!

    There will be an informal online meeting on Friday 6th October at 2:00 for anyone in Scotland who has expressed interest in attending or promoting from home what happens in Nw York. Please help keep tabs on who is attending from Scotland to ensure that they are informed, connected and registered, by emailing hello@nuclearban.scot

  • Oppenheimer and Disarmament

    As we move towards autumn the Ukraine War continues to make the public more and more aware of the reality of the nuclear weapon threat. Even Hollywood has got in on the act with Oppenheimer, a movie that has engaged a new audience with the reality of the catastrophe that nuclear weapons threaten. But there is more to the story… 

    TPNW – The Only Game In Town

    In early August members of ICAN Scottish partner organisations attended the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Preparatory Conference in Vienna and were able there to strengthen their international networking and collaboration. The formal conference itself had next to nothing to offer and merely underlined the fact that the nuclear states, including those which are signatories to the NPT, are not willing to take positive steps towards disarmament and indeed with the modernisation and expansion of their arsenals they are travelling in the opposite direction. Not only a lively programme of positive side events, but statement after statement from Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW ) supporting states, academics and civil society gave the lie to the NAS assertion that this time is not conducive to disarmament. Against the dark background of failed outcome documents, the (TPNW), with its emphasis on the hideous reality of these weapons and the consequent need for their elimination, is the only real disarmament game in town.

    Meeting In New York

    Now signed by 92 UN states and ratified by 68 (with more in the immediate pipeline) the TPNW has been moving forward on the 50 point Action plan developed at the First Meeting of States Parties (MSP1) in June 2022 and preparing for MSP2 taking place from 27th November to 1st December this year in New York. Parliamentarians and members of Scottish partner organisations will be there to make our contribution in solidarity to the progress of the TPNW, to share our frustration at being undemocratically saddled with nuclear weapons that we utterly reject, and to re-kindle our hope for an independent Scotland free from nuclear weapons.

    Festival and Film

    Back home, two Scottish ICAN partner organisations, Peace and Justice and Secure Scotland, have set up shop in Words and Actions for Peace, their shared premises in 58 Ratcliffe Terrace Edinburgh EH9 1ST. This new space offers scope for meetings, film screenings, resource display and distribution, a shop window on the world, working desks with WIFI, and much else besides. It would be great to see you there – we are usually open from 10 to 4 on weekdays. For more info email contact@wordsandactions.scot.

    On Saturday 4th November Scottish CND is hosting a “Festival For Survival”, a gathering exploring the link between nuclear weapons & climate change, with an impressive list of Scottish and international speakers. Secure Scotland will support groups with arranging screenings of a Guided Tour of the Unacceptable over the months leading up to the Festival.


News & Views

This website is coordinated by the Scottish ICAN Partner Organisations and also includes links to, and information from other UK Partners and International Partners.