In March this year we reacted with distress and anger at the news that the UK had decided to increase the number of nuclear bombs it deploys and stockpiles by 40%.
By 2010 the UK had gradually reduced the number of warheads to around 180, claiming the reduction as a sign of a good intention to fulfil its obligation under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to take genuine steps towards disarmament. Critics have, of course, pointed out that reducing the number of nuclear bombs to a point where you are still able to inflict devastation at over a thousand times that unleashed on Hiroshima 75 years ago, and at the same time modernising the system, is not a genuine step towards disarmament.
Analysis by Nukewatch, which monitors the transport of nuclear warheads within the UK, shows that the increase in warhead numbers began much earlier, perhaps as early as 2015 and without informing parliament or people. Nukewatch estimates that the current number of warheads is 250.
Perhaps more worrying than the increase itself is the decision in the Defence Review to widen the circumstances in which the UK could use nuclear weapons, against “emerging technologies” and against states preparing to acquire nuclear weapons.
When the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force as international law on the 22nd of January Scotland’s First Minister said: “While the Scottish Government is unable to become a Party to the Treaty, as First Minister I strongly support the principles of the Treaty and the work of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. An independent Scotland would be a keen signatory and I hope the day we can do that is not far off.” The UK, in its refusal to engage with the new Treaty and enhancing its potential for nuclear aggression is showing complete contempt for Scotland’s parliament, government and people.
For an excellent study of the current UK nuclear posture see Tighter Lips and Looser Controls: UK Nuclear Posture in the 2020s