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On 22 January, the states that have ratified the TPNW will be bound by its prohibitions and also its obligations – including universalisation – which means urging all the world’s governments to join. Already, the norm is starting to shift as the Canadian Government, a strong opposer, took an opportunity at the UN to state that while they still were not ready to support it, Canada could see that there was merit in the Treaty and its aims. The occasion was a UN review of the adoption of the Treaty, where it was supported by over 100 member states. The UN has also postponed the (already postponed from last May) NPT Review Conference from January to August 2021. The discussions will now be set to include reference to how the NPT and the TPNW relate, so the Review has been put off until the latest possible date (within 5 years of the last Review Conference) – and certainly the nuclear armed states will not want it to take place in the glare of publicity that will surround Entry into Force of the TPNW. Divestment continues to advance, and we must ensure that Scotland’s commitment to the TPNW is firmly on the agenda during the Holyrood election debate. Watch this space for actions that you can take to achieve this. Meanwhile, this article about the good news of the nuclear weapons ban treaty’s imminent entry into force has been published by the International Law Association (Australian Branch):
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With Honduras’ ratification on 24th October 2020 the TPNW has now acquired the necessary 50 ratifications to enter into force as international law.

The TPNW 1 was adopted at the UN in July 2017 with the support of 122 member states.. When the 50th state ratifies, there remains only the 90 day period allowed by the UN for all states that are members of the treaty to prepare their practical and or legislative arrangements before the Treaty finally enters completely into force.

Terms of the Treaty

The TPNW prohibits the developing, testing, producing, manufacturing, otherwise acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, transferring, using or threatening to use nuclear weapons, assisting other states with these prohibited activities, stationing, deployment or installation of nuclear weapons belonging to other states on a state party’s territory. As well as prohibitions, the Treaty carries positive obligations, which include suppression of violations of the prohibitions on its territory and the requirement to urge non member states to join.

Scope of the Treaty

All of the treaties prohibiting inhumane weapons have an effect on global understanding and the interpretation of International Humanitarian Law. They have created stigma and they change the global perception of what is acceptable. Each of these treaties is binding on its state parties – the states which have ratified or acceded to it. It does not add any formal obligations to states which are not parties. For example, the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Anti-Personnel Landmines Convention have been ratified by a large majority of UN states but have not been ratified by the US, China, Russia and Israel, among others. To date, none of the nine nuclear-armed states have ratified or indeed signed the TPNW. The use of a nuclear weapon, as an indiscriminate weapon of mass destruction, has always been illegal under the basic principles of international humanitarian law. The TPNW, as a specific and targeted legal instrument, builds on that legal basis.2

General Impact of the Treaty

Major treaties on prohibition have all impacted hugely on states that haven’t ratified them. 3They have created stigma and they change the global perception of what is acceptable. This norm shift is significant in a world in which even authoritarian states guard their global reputations as they attempt to expand or protect their spheres of influence.

There are also significant practical factors. In a globalised economy physical resources and capital for investment in production are cross-border factors and the production of nuclear weapon systems and delivery platforms requires enormous sums. A number of significant international investment corporations, being risk adverse, have noted the emergence of the Treaty and have already decided to cease investment in nuclear weapons4. The most recent example is the giant Japanese finance company MUFG which now classes nuclear weapons along with other inhumane weapons5. The Treaty will also affect nuclear-related transit through territorial airspace or seas. Crucially, the US is fully aware of these impacts and has applied pressure6, particularly on NATO states, to prevent them from engaging with the Treaty, on the basis that it will hamper their ability to maintain what they call their “extended deterrence” – the nuclear “umbrella”. In recent days the US has written to state parties to the Treaty, urging them to withdraw7.

Support for the Treaty

Through the legislative processes available, Parliamentarians and legislators have pledged and passed resolutions supporting the treaty globally rather than nationally, Already, over 1,600 elected representatives have called on their governments to join the TPNW, as have capitals in nuclear-armed states like Paris and Washington D.C. – this includes legislators in Scotland and in the rest of the UK.

Impact on the UK and on Scotland

Internationally, the UK is seen as the most likely of the nuclear-armed states to be brought to the table.. There is the pressure arising from the distinctive Scottish public, parliamentarian and government stance which undermines any claim to a mandate. There is the serious fiscal and managerial disorder in the project to renew the nuclear weapon system and the growing likelihood that a fully equipped Dreadnought platform will not be ready in time to take over the from the ageing ISBN submarine fleet8. There is also a looming crisis in overall government expenditure. States which are not party to the Treaty, as well as relevant institutions and non-governmental organisations, can observe the meetings of the TPNW after it enters into force and pressure will be put on the UK government to seek observer status at the Treaty’s first Meeting of States Parties.

The Treaty’s Entry into Force will provide a strong boost to the already strong Scottish public, parliamentarian and government opposition to the UK’s nuclear weapons. It will also be a key factor should Scotland achieve independence, persist with that opposition, and ratify the TPNW.

The following Treaty Articles are especially pertinent:

Article 1. g) Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.

Article 4. para 4. A State Party that has any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or in any place under its jurisdiction or control that are owned, possessed or controlled by another State shall ensure the prompt removal of such weapons, as soon as possible but not later than a deadline to be determined by the first meeting of States Parties . . .

Scotland would then have the specific and unqualified backing of international law, (as well as huge international support) to have the weapons removed and to resist any pressure to give the UK a long lease of the Clyde nuclear weapon bases. Without a feasible UK re-location option9 the remnant Westminster government would be faced with no credible alternative to disarmament.

1 See also for description and analysis. ICAN was 2017 Nobel Peace Prize winner on account of its work on the TPNW.

2From the Preamble of the Treaty: “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,”

3 The US has not ratified the CBTC, nor the Convention on Cluster Munitions but the US Government is affected by media condemnation and seeks to be seen as complying; chemical weapons are prohibited, and are strongly condemned by the US but the US only ratified that treaty two days before it entered into force; the treaty prohibiting biological weapons was only ratified by the US (and the UK) the day after it entered into force – three years after it opened for signature; the US still has not signed or ratified the Landmine treaty, but no longer manufacture or use landmines because 80% of UN member states have, and the treaty makes them completely unacceptable to the international community.


5 release/2020/pdf/news-20200513-002_en.pdf






Scotland and the Nuclear Weapon Red Line

This article was first published in the Scottish Socialist Party’s Newspaper “Voice”

Right now I guess that the diverse collective of those who have an investment in a Scottish status quo has accepted that formal independence is pretty well inevitable, sooner or later. Their focus will now be mainly on ensuring that conditions favourable to their interests remain firmly in place even after the divorce. Why worry about Scotland having its own seat at the UN if it still can be irradiated with brutal capitalism and still contains an entire nexus of military platforms for global power games? The collective will hope to continue to have nod-and-wink access to Prestwick for dubious military transits, airfields for NATO surveillance ops, deregulated trade arrangements with destructive environmental, health and worker welfare effects, factories engaged in arms manufacture and complicit in war on civilians, vast tracts of land still under the control of a transnational elite, continuing generous scope for corruption and money laundering, and yes, of course, a Green Zone at Faslane/Coulport guaranteeing for undefined decades ahead a very Scottish launch-pad for genocidal weapons.

If you want specific evidence that their hopes are not unrealistic have a look at the Sutherland Space Hub project, which the Scottish government has spinelessly allowed to go ahead. We now learn that it will be open to military use. To give an additional foothold to global arms manufacturers at this critical stage in Scotland’s story is at the least incredibly stupid. These things are much harder to uproot when fully embedded. Now’s the time to rip them out.

The UK’s nuclear weapons have to go as soon as is safely and practically possible. That’s a red line – a key indicator of whether we really want a new start. Bill Kidd MSP and others have done their bit in re-iterating the SNP’s commitment to exactly that. These bombs are deadly, even in their unarmed state and it will require people who know what they are doing to remove them from the missiles on the subs, store them temporarily in Coulport until they are all taken south, a small number at a time, probably using the same convoy system that is currently operates to maintain and refurbish them. This can be done in an orderly way within two years.

We will not be doing this on our own. The ability of an independent Scotland to effect a removal has been enormously strengthened by the arrival of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). By the time we gain independence the TPNW will have entered into force (that could happen in early 2021). We immediately ratify it so as to be legally bound by all its prohibitive articles. The following Treaty Articles are especially pertinent:

Article 1. g) Each State Party undertakes never under any circumstances allow any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or at any place under its jurisdiction or control.

Article 4. para 4. A State Party that has any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices in its territory or in any place under its jurisdiction or control that are owned, possessed or controlled by another State shall ensure the prompt removal of such weapons, as soon as possible but not later than a deadline to be determined by the first meeting of States Parties . . .

We then have full legal backing for an eviction order, as well as huge international support. Indeed the Treaty’s Article 7 outlines in some detail what practical form that support may take. Like a genuine response to the climate crisis and the management and mitigation of pandemics the end of nuclear weapons requires a coherent worldwide response. We are accustomed to thinking that the power triangle is wee Scotland against the intransigence of Westminster with the US Godfather in the background. Not on this one. The world will be watching and cheering us on.

What is vital is what we do about this now. With a Holyrood election impending we must do what we can to ensure that candidates and voters fully get the linkage between the end of nukes in Scotland and the TPNW. Scottish CND’s open working group on the Treaty is developing a Candidates Pledge to back the TPNW for the use of local groups, individuals and political parties, and is also preparing material for online meetings and street work. Contact us at for more information and read the Treaty for yourself at

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Huge Boost for the TPNW from 56 former National and NATO Leaders

As the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) edges ever closer to becoming international law, it has just received a huge and significant endorsement. Fifty-six former presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers and defence ministers from 20 NATO member states, as well as from Japan and South Korea, have just issued an open letter calling on their current governments to join the Treaty. All of these states are so-called “umbrella states” that currently claim protection from US nuclear weapons and have not yet joined the Treaty – so the letter does not involve the actual nuclear-weapon states like the UK. The letter will be sent to the current leaders of these 20 states. The co-signers include the former UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and two former NATO Secretaries-General, Javier Solana and Willy Claes.

In their letter the former leaders say:

It is not difficult to foresee how the bellicose rhetoric and poor judgment of leaders in nuclear-armed nations might result in a calamity affecting all nations and peoples. As past leaders, foreign ministers and defence ministers of Albania, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain and Turkey — all countries that claim protection from an ally’s nuclear weapons — we appeal to current leaders to advance disarmament before it is too late. . .

By claiming protection from nuclear weapons, we are promoting the dangerous and misguided belief that nuclear weapons enhance security. Rather than enabling progress towards a world free of nuclear weapons, we are impeding it and perpetuating nuclear dangers — all for fear of upsetting our allies who cling to these weapons of mass destruction.”

Janet Fenton, ICAN liaison in Scotland said:

Signing the TPNW does not hinder or prevent any UN member state from entering or remaining in any military co operation or alliance that alliance they wish, it just prohibits them from participating in nuclear weapons preparations assistance or activities. NATO and the nuclear armed states are very aware that the TPNW, far from conflicting with the NPT as they suggest, is already changing the norm around nuclear weapons through divestment and increased understanding of the global humanitarian consequences of their use. Thus the TPNW provides the much-needed legal instrument that will ensure that the nuclear-armed states comply with its disarmament obligations. That is why the US, France, the UK and NATO are exerting so much pressure to maintain control of these governments, their last remaining supporters.“

Huge credit is due to ICAN Australia’s Gem Romuld for her work behind the scenes on this project.

Full text of letter here

Article in New York Times here

The 56 co-signers of the open letter in support of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons are:

Lloyd Axworthy, former foreign minister of Canada

Ban Ki-moon, former UN secretary-general and foreign minister of South Korea

Jean-Jacques Blais, former defence minister of Canada

Kjell Magne Bondevik, former prime minister and foreign minister of Norway

Ylli Bufi, former prime minister of Albania

Jean Chrétien, former prime minister of Canada

Willy Claes, former NATO secretary-general and foreign minister of Belgium

Erik Derycke, former foreign minister of Belgium

Joschka Fischer, former foreign minister of Germany

Franco Frattini, former foreign minister of Italy

Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, former foreign minister of Iceland

Bjørn Tore Godal, former foreign minister and defence minister of Norway

Bill Graham, former foreign minister and defence minister of Canada

Hatoyama Yukio, former prime minister of Japan

Thorbjørn Jagland, former prime minister and foreign minister of Norway

Ljubica Jelušič, former defence minister of Slovenia

Tālavs Jundzis, former defence minister of Latvia

Jan Kavan, former foreign minister of the Czech Republic

Alojz Krapež, former defence minister of Slovenia

Ģirts Valdis Kristovskis, former foreign minister and defence minister of Latvia

Aleksander Kwaśniewski, former president of Poland

Yves Leterme, former prime minister and foreign minister of Belgium

Enrico Letta, former prime minister of Italy

Eldbjørg Løwer, former defence minister of Norway

Mogens Lykketoft, former foreign minister of Denmark

John Mccallum, former defence minister of Canada

John Manley, former foreign minister of Canada

Rexhep Meidani, former president of Albania

Zdravko Mršić, former foreign minister of Croatia

Linda Mūrniece, former defence minister of Latvia

Fatos Nano, former prime minister of Albania

Holger K. Nielsen, former foreign minister of Denmark

Andrzej Olechowski, former foreign minister of Poland

Kjeld Olesen, former foreign minister and defence minister of Denmark

Ana Palacio, former foreign minister of Spain

Theodoros Pangalos, former foreign minister of Greece

Jan Pronk, former defence minister (ad interim) of the Netherlands

Vesna Pusić, former foreign minister of Croatia

Dariusz Rosati, former foreign minister of Poland

Rudolf Scharping, former defence minister of Germany

Juraj Schenk, former foreign minister of Slovakia

Nuno Severiano Teixeira, former defence minister of Portugal

Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, former prime minister of Iceland

Össur Skarphéðinsson, former foreign minister of Iceland

Javier Solana, former NATO secretary-general and foreign minister of Spain

Anne-Grete Strøm-Erichsen, former defence minister of Norway

Hanna Suchocka, former prime minister of Poland

Szekeres Imre, former defence minister of Hungary

Tanaka Makiko, former foreign minister of Japan

Tanaka Naoki, former defence minister of Japan

Danilo Türk, former president of Slovenia

Hikmet Sami Türk, former defence minister of Turkey

The late John N. Turner, former prime minister of Canada*

Guy Verhofstadt, former prime minister of Belgium

Knut Vollebæk, former foreign minister of Norway

Carlos Westendorp y Cabeza, former foreign minister of Spain

* ICAN would like to extend our condolences to the family of former Canadian prime minister John Turner, who passed away on 19 September 2020. 

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UN International Peace Day

Working for Peace is a conversation for the peace movement, to mark the UN International Day for Peace. In the past,
WILPF and Scottish CND have organised panel events at the Scottish Parliament to mark this day – not possible this year!Instead, we are hosting the event online. Our panel of speakers includes:* Becky Alexis-Martin (Winner of the LHM Ling Outstanding First Book Prize)
* Sharon Dolev (Director, Israeli Nuclear Disarmament)
* Lynn Jamieson (Chair, Scottish CND)
* David Hutchison-Edgar (Coordinator, Irish CND)
* Timmon Wallis & Vicky Eldon (nuclearban.US)
* Xanthe Hall (IPPNW)Get your ticket now on Eventbrite at: event is co-hosted by Scottish ICAN Partners: SCND, Peace & Justice Centre, Trident Ploughshares, UN House, Medact and WILPF.

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Call on First Minister to Thank Ireland for Ratifying the TPNW

On 6th August, as the world commemorated the destruction of Hiroshima by a nuclear bomb, Ireland ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As a member of the EU it now stands in good counterbalance to the French attachment to weapons of mass destruction, as well as the occasional  mutterings about the EU having its own nuclear weapons. Today’s step forward by Ireland is also a boost for those who are working for the end of the treacherous business of “nuclear-sharing”, whereby the air forces of Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany are equipped with US nuclear weapons. Then there is the UK, a recalcitrant nuclear-armed state across the Irish Sea, and a little further north a Scottish government and people who reject nuclear weapons and support the TPNW – and who derive enormous encouragement from Ireland’s assertive stance.

It would be really good if Ireland’s courageous step in supporting a Treaty that is both disliked and feared by the powerful nuclear club was more widely acknowledged and celebrated. This is why we are asking people to write to their MSPs to ask them to ask the First Minister to publicly congratulate the Taoiseach. You may find the model letter below helpful in doing so. We can make a difference with this small action. The Write to Them website is an easy way to do this

Model Letter

Dear MSPs,

I was delighted to learn that Ireland ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) on the 6th of August, the 75th anniversary of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Ireland has been a leader in nuclear disarmament on the global stage since the 60s and has played a key role in the development and adoption of the new Treaty. The Treaty itself has acquired 83 signatures and 44 ratifications from UN member states and only needs a further 6 ratifications for it to enter into force. Once the Treaty is in force there may well be implications for the movement of nuclear weapon submarines in Ireland’s territorial waters and its contiguous maritime zone, including those deployed by the UK.

Here’s what the Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said about the ratification;

Ireland’s ratification of the treaty reflects our deep concern about the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear explosion and the sheer impossibility of any adequate humanitarian response. This has led us, as a country, to our deep-rooted conviction that we must ensure nuclear weapons can never be used again under any circumstance.”

I am a Scot who utterly rejects the UK’s possession and active deployment of nuclear weapons and who feels utterly misrepresented at the UN by the UK’s backward stance. I don’t just want these weapons out of Scotland, I want them out of the UK and totally eliminated from the world, so Ireland’s stand for peace is a huge encouragement to me.

I think it would be great if our First Minister would write to the irish Taoiseach, thanking and congratulating him for Ireland’s courageous commitment to a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons. Can you please ask her to do so?

With best wishes,

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6 – 9 August 2020, Seventyfive years after the event, survivor Setsuko Thurlow urges us to sign the pledge to work for the Treaty that will prohibit, and lead to the long-overdue elimination, of nuclear weapons. This is a time for refection as well as a call for action, and one of the traditions around doing this is fasting. Iona Soper is one of those undertaking this challenge. Here, we are posting her reflections for each day of the fast.


Why do we fast? Let’s talk about nuclear winter, or The Other Climate Change. 

One of the greatest lies we campaigners tell ourselves to sleep at night, is that the prospect of global destruction by nuclear weapons is less likely now than, say, at the height of the Cold War, when the collective global stockpile of nuclear warheads sat at three times the number in circulation today. Fewer bombs equals less suffering, right? If only. Nuclear weapons don’t exist in a vacuum, unaffected by the dealings of mankind. Transport accidents, misfires, the threat of cyber-terrorism, strategic positioning of nuclear firepower in ‘host’ nations, increasing nuclear capability, and increasing military tensions between the growing number of countries with a nuclear stockpile, all contribute to the culture of nuclear insecurity in which we find ourselves today. The Doomsday Clock, as we are so fond of preaching, sits closer to midnight than ever before. 

But it’s not just about the likelihood of a bomb being used. It’s about what’s going to happen if it does, and how utterly unprepared we are for what will follow. Throughout the anti-nuclear campaign, we have often centered our understanding of the humanitarian crisis reaped by nuclear weapons purely in relation to the immediate impact of the bomb, and the long lasting medical consequences of direct or genetic exposure to radiation. We must take the time to consider that when it comes to the use of nuclear weapons, the horrors of the immediate impact, are likely only the beginning of a far longer sustained period of widespread suffering and harm. 

Nuclear Famine theory first entered public discourse in the mid-1980s. Of course, anyone familiar with the aftermath of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings would have been acutely aware of the practicalities of the issue. However the fact that the bombings had coincided with ‘Operation Starvation’ – a six month campaign of cutting off Japanese food supplies by the US Navy and Air Force – meant that analysis of the starvation caused solely by the bomb was impossible. An official count of the number of deaths in Japan caused by starvation in the initial Post-War years was never conducted, though Japanese scholarship puts the number at six figures. 

In the mid 1980s however, a group of more than 300 scientists from over 30 countries came together to create a report assessing The Environmental Impact of Nuclear War. Among their conclusions published in 1985, they predicted that in the aftermath of a global nuclear conflict, if adequate measures were not undertaken to preserve food security, the billions of survivors would be plunged into “massive levels of malnutrition and starvation,” even in non-violent countries, and, in dire situations, “only a small fraction of the current world population could expect to survive a few years”. In a similar publication by the National Academy of Sciences in 1986, it was stated that “the primary mechanism for human fatalities (in a nuclear war) would likely not be from blast effects, not from thermal radiation burns, and not from ionizing radiation, but, rather, from mass starvation”. 

This works on two levels. The first is the immediate impact of nuclear war on food supplies and distribution chains. Stores of foodstuffs, pesticides and fertilizers, agricultural equipment, and transport lines for distribution can all be destroyed in the blasts of a strategic nuclear attack. The following uncontrollable fires can devastate crops in the fields and foodstuff stockpiles in the cities. 

Contamination of the water and soil will disrupt agricultural practices and strip much of the land’s fertility. Radioactive dust particles carried by the wind can contaminate surfaces miles from their origin (let us not forget that Scottish sheep were still being tested for radioactive contamination from the Chernobyl disaster in 2012). Unlike the survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings, 21st century survivors will be all too aware of the dangers of eating contaminated food, and will thus be forced to make the impossible choice between starvation and possible irradiation. In the years that follow a nuclear war, the disruption of global distribution lines, the inevitable breakdown of the global economy and loss of incentive for international commerce, as well as the chaos of a society of displaced, sick and traumatised peoples, will only deteriorate the issue of global food security. 

The second is the issue of a nuclear winter, or, ‘The Other Climate Change’. A Nuclear Winter specifically refers to the cooling of the Earth’s surface temperature, triggered by an injection of soot (in particular, black carbon caused by a firestorm) into the stratosphere, which would then block natural sunlight from reaching the earth and create a rapid cooling effect, disrupting agricultural practises and causing widespread famine in the process. This effect is not theoretically limited solely to nuclear explosions – the eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia in 1816 for example, caused a ‘year without a summer’ in the Northern Hemisphere which caused widespread crop failure, famine, and economic collapse. However these concerns were born out of the paranoia of the Cold War, amid fears of a global nuclear war in which black carbon would be released in unprecedented quantities, along with concerns about the amount of carbon already released from nuclear weapons tests – hence its name – ‘Nuclear Winter’. Many attribute the end of the Cold War nuclear arms race to the growth of these concerns, which forced nations to frame the use of nuclear weapons in terms of the damage done to non-combatant countries, as well as their own populations. 

Since the end of the Cold War, despite the depletion of the global stockpile of nuclear warheads, the risk of a nuclear winter has become less of a superstition and more of a very tangible threat, developing in tandem with the decline of global grain stockpiles, the growing number of nuclear-armed states, the promotion of low-yield nuclear weapons by world leaders, and the increasing strain placed on our climate’s natural balance. While the prospect of an ‘all-out’ global nuclear war seems less likely, the risks posed by even a ‘small scale’, regional conflict between two nuclear armed states continue to grow. It’s hard to wrap our heads around the scale of nuclear weapons development since the second world war. For reference, the Tsar Bomba tested by the Soviets in 1961, held the explosive capacity equivalent to 3800 Hiroshima sized explosions. In order to demonstrate the extent of the fragility of the current situation, contemporary studies on a nuclear winter focus on the premise of a regional conflict between two nations, such as India and Pakistan, each using one ‘small’ 15 kiloton thermonuclear warhead over an urban population. In this scenario, just 0.03% of the explosive power of the current global stockpile is enabled, a destructive force equivalent to ‘only’ 100 Hiroshima sized explosions. 

These studies have found that the heat caused by absorbing shortwave radiation would actually elevate the black carbon soot beyond just the injection caused by the blast of the explosion, situating it high within the stratosphere, meaning it would remain within the atmosphere for approximately six years – in comparison to one year following the Tambora volcanic eruption. There would be a ‘global average surface cooling’ of 1.25 degrees Celsius, which would remain at 0.5 

degrees cooler than average a decade later. A cooling of several degrees would occur over large areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with changes in temperature the most severe over land. 

US corn and soybean harvests would remain at a loss of 10% for a decade. Huge climatic disruption would be caused in all regions, even those far removed from the sites of detonation, including a global average decrease in rain of 10%, the reductions to monsoon season over the Asian continent being the most severe in this case. The resulting obstruction to wheat, rice and maize production in China alone, would create not only major food insecurity for the 1.3 billion in China, but also cause a famine putting at risk the lives of almost a billion already malnourished people living in developing countries, as well as the food supplies for the entire populations of countries highly reliant on food imports, which would likely be halted as panic and hoarding began to take place on an international scale. This would also presumably lead to gross inflation in global food prices, making food inaccessible to the world’s poorest in every nation. United Nations grain reserves in 2020 (let’s be kind and assume they’re unaffected by contamination and food is highly rationed) currently sit at roughly enough grain for four months. 

In the face of human starvation at an unparalleled scale, what more of a wake up call is needed for the nuclear powers of today to disarm? There exists today an unprecedented transparency of information about nuclear weapons, how they came to exist, how they have been used, and what they are ultimately capable of. The censorship that prevailed in the decades after the second world war has been lifted, along with many secrets of the Cold War. Atmospheric weapons tests have been replaced with virtual simulations capable of calculating every aspect of damage caused. Hibakusha voices have been amplified across the world. The Red Cross has stated that they would not be able to provide relief following a nuclear attack. Low quality simulation technology is freely available online – I’ve been known to break it out in the classroom to let the kids see for themselves how different kiloton yields and blast zones work. How is it that in the face of such freedom of knowledge, we have found ourselves in 2020, at only one hundred seconds to Midnight? And, more importantly, how much closer will we allow ourselves to get? 


Why do we fast? Let’s talk about the funding of fear over food. 

In 1983, the International Fast For Life was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of the widespread global attention it generated for the issue of nuclear disarmament. From August 06, 1983, over 150 fasts took place in 24 countries. For many organisers in Europe and North America, this fast was open-ended, and subject to demands, akin to a hunger strike. For thousands more, fasting in solidarity across the world, this was an unprecedented piece of international direct action, a revolutionary act of total nonviolence. And the movement flourished. In Italy, over 40 new peace groups were formed. Over 300 Parisians were arrested when a Fast For Life banner was hung over the iconic Arc de Triomphe. In Scotland, an open letter, signed by the heads of all Scotland’s major churches, was handed into the Queen and Prime Minister Thatcher. By September, an open letter to fasters was published by the World Council of Churches, reading, “Your fasting has fed the solidarity of all who hunger for disarmament. In your weakness you have made us strong”. 

Fasting in this context takes on a dual purpose. Fast For Life was born in the United States at the height of the nuclear arms race of the Cold War, the threat of an ‘all-out’ nuclear war seemingly imminent. Founders had concluded that “the nuclear crisis of that time was so grave that people of peace may have to offer up their lives in an effort to prevent the continuation of the silent holocaust of world hunger and the impending holocaust of nuclear fire”. And thus fasting was used as a nonviolent way of creating suffering as a means of drawing attention to a much graver evil. But the decision to fast was also born from a desire to emphasise the cruelty of governments’ financial prioritisation of weapons of mass destruction, when so many populations, both foreign and domestic, lived in poverty and starvation. Given that 1983 saw 15% of US citizens living below the poverty line, as well as the beginning of the Ethiopian famine that claimed an estimated million lives, it is little wonder that funding hunger was selected as the proposed alternative to funding death. And it’s an argument that remains crucially relevant today. 

In the 37 years since the first International Fast, food inequality and human hunger has remained a widespread and urgent threat, particularly in regions affected by conflict or poverty. The UN Sustainable Development Goals which were adopted in 2015 and signed by 193 countries, including the UK and the USA, pledge a commitment to “ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture”. The 2020 edition of the UN Global Report on Food Crises put 135 million people worldwide living in crisis – before coronavirus. Now, the pandemic risks almost doubling that number by the end of the year. Vulnerable citizens living on the poverty line in ‘food-crisis’ countries may be tipped into malnutrition by the resulting scarcity of food coupled with rises in prices. And for those already malnourished, as little as a 5-10% decrease in caloric intake can prove to be lethal. 

Lockdown regulations and safety measures designed to save citizens from the spread of the virus, in particular restrictions of movement, are restricting labour practises and obstructing the production, processing and transporting of food, delaying the whole process and reducing the availability of many foods and essential foodstuffs. This shortage will hit the hardest among those already most vulnerable to starvation: the unemployed, the impoverished, and the displaced. Guterres, Secretary 

General of the United Nations, writes that “At this time of immense global challenges; we must redouble our efforts to defeat hunger and malnutrition; We have the tools and the know-how. What we need is political will and sustained commitment by leaders and nations. This report should be seen as a call to action”. 

Multiple agencies have attempted, since 1949, to calculate the financial cost of ‘ending world hunger’. In truth, a settled figure is surely unreliable due to the high number of inconsistent factors that create and maintain poverty and food insecurity – war, economic collapse, unemployment, climate change, pests, and, as we have seen all too cruelly this year – outbreaks of disease. Typically using 2030 as the target year for success, best recent estimates place the figure at anywhere from 7 billion USD per year to 265 USD per year. By comparison, the United States administration’s current plans for the U.S. nuclear weapons programme are projected to cost 494 billion USD from 2019 to 2028. In the United Kingdom, the replacement nuclear weapons programme is expected to cost 205 billion GBP (268 billion USD). Global spending on nuclear weapons is projected to reach a trillion USD over the next ten years. In 2019, it amounted to almost 140,000 USD, every minute. 

Those who favour nuclear weapons will argue that the reaverting of funds would require defunding defence and reinvesting the funds into international humanitarian aid, to them, a dangerous and unthinkable choice. To this, I would ask, what is food security, if not defense against starvation? It’s 2020 and we no longer have a Ministry of War. Once we pause to consider defence policy through the lens of humanitarian security, the ending of world hunger (along with the other Sustainable Development Goals) are revealed as a far more appropriate use of ‘defence’ funds than weapons of mass destruction. But the choice to prioritise military spending doesn’t just harm those living in non-nuclear states far across the world. Food insecurity and malnourishment exist in the countries who choose to have nuclear weapons too. 

In China, over 150 million people are malnourished. In Russia, 21 million live in poverty. In Pakistan the percentage of the population living in food insecurity is 36%. India’s rate is higher still at up to 40%. Although accurate data is hard to gather, the North Korean regime has long stood accused by humanitarian groups of ‘starving its own people for a nuke’. In the UK, 16% live in food insecurity, and in England, the rate of death by starvation has almost doubled since 2001. Since the beginning of lockdown, there has been an increase of almost 4 million people seeking help from food charities and food-banks. In the United States, the number of households living in food insecurity has risen from 11% in 2018, to 22-38% as of the beginning of America’s lockdown in April 2020, with these numbers set to continue rising as economic and employment fragility continue to reduce or remove incomes for vast swathes of the population. 

The decision to spend vast chunks of the nations GDP maintaining a nuclear weapons programme while food insecurity remains an issue for their own electorates, is testament to just how far removed world leaders remain from the needs, and the wills, of their own people. I’m sure there isn’t a soul on earth who lies awake at night, restless from hunger, but comforted by the thought of nuclear weapons. The reframing of our conversations about security is imperative if we are to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and tackle the very real threats that look all of us in the face. How many more must we leave defenceless against starvation – how many will be lost from climate change – how many will perish from preventable diseases – before we recognise the full cost 

of our greed for power? When it comes to true defence, nuclear weapons systems are weapons of mass distraction. So we fast. 

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The international campaigners for the abolition of nuclear weapons (ICAN) only need the last seven final ratifications and nuclear weapons will be outlawed as indiscriminate and inhumane as germ warfare and mustard gas. This year is the 75th anniversary of the US attack on the civilians in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagagsaki on the 6th and 9th August. The Scottish democratic deficit is re-emerging as a key issue because we need a government that aims to protect people here and across the world, rather than put them at risk

We in Scotland have a particular connection to the experience of Japanese peace people, especially for Okinawa where cultural identity and outstanding natural heritage have been disregarded for the military aspirations of a government that was not elected by those affected, and also at Iwakuni, where a military base impacts on a community that did not choose to play host.

In Scotland we care about the suffering experienced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Setsuko is a Hirosima survivor who has made nuclear abolition her life’s work, receiving the 2017 Nobel Peace prize on behalf of ICAN. This may be the last significant anniversary that she will be able to campaign and so has written to leaders of nuclear armed states asking them to sign the Ban Treaty, including Boris. She also wrote a letter of thanks to Nicola for Scotland’s steadfast support despite being the base for the UK’s nuclear weapons without consent. Nicola’s reply expresses our opposition to nuclear weapons and our determination to play a part in getting rid of them, not only because Scottish campaigners fear the effects on our country, but because we absolutely refuse to continue to be made complicit or be held responsible for the terrible outcomes of nuclear weapons policies.

This internationalist rather than nationalist perspective along with Setsuko’s letters can put the humanitarian agument right at the heart of the UK nuclear weapons debate. Boris and his ministers are squandering energy and resources on an upgrading and renewal programme while Brexit, climate change and the pandemic threaten our continued existence.

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The Treaty is set to enter into force soon,only seven of the many UN member states already working on ratification of the TPNW need to completethe task before it enters into force. It’s time to ensure that every town council and every parliamentarian and everyone who dreams of nuclear disarmament speaks out and insists that it is time the UKGovernment to get its head out of the sand and start thinking about the common good. In the week that marks the 75th anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Around the world, people and parliaments are already responding to the hibakusha call to get rid of all nuclear weapons everywhere. Setsuko’s letter to Nicola and Nicola’s reply (see last week’s news) gave Scotland immeasurable reassurance that we are understood in our opposition to nuclear weapons and our determination to play a part in getting rid of them. This is an internationalist rather than a nationalist perspective and Setsuko’s letters to all heads of nuclear armed states are a very powerful tool in putting the humanitarian argument right at the heart of the UK nuclear weapons debate at this significant point in the upgrading and renewal programme. Ireland, always a key player in nuclear disarmament, in ratifying the treaty is a powerful example as we envisage a Scotland that can act responsibly instead of being the UK’s launchpad. As another three UN member states ratified the TPNW in a special cermony in New York with ICAN’s Setsuko Thurlow, a new generation of Scottish campaigners were speaking out at Hiroshima events across the country. They are taking the intersectional relationship between climate change, nuclear weapons and human rights and putting it clearly on the line.The TPNW is urgently needed, and on its way. Dan Haddow from UN House and Secure Scotland was at the Peace Tree in Glasgow

“It is thanks to my connection with Secure Scotland that I have the opportunity to speak with you today. Secure Scotland exists to re-examine the concept of security by asking what it is that makes people feel safe in their everyday lives. Our view is that categorically does not include nuclear weapons.

Hibakusha is a legal term in Japan that encompasses different categories of survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Those officially recognised as Hibakusha are entitled to financial and health support from the Japanese government in recognition of the devastatingly detrimental impact that exposure to either the initial blast of the atomic bombs or the ensuing radiation has had on their lives and livelihoods.

I have never personally met a Hibakusha, but I have had the opportunity to work alongside survivors of landmine accidents through my work with The HALO Trust. I will not insult the Hibakusha and landmine survivors through an effort to compare their vastly different experiences of conflict, however I do strongly feel that both the international campaign to ban landmines and the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons are right to put the testimony of survivors, especially innocent civilians, at front and centre of their campaigns.

This is because survivor testimonies, whether written, spoken, or inscribed upon their bodies are invaluable cultural artefacts. They function as cautionary tales to the rest of humanity through their depiction of the harrowing individual experiences of the human cost of conflict. They achieve this by generating deep feelings of sorrow, compassion and empathy with their audience and, simultaneously, by stirring up a powerful moral conviction that similar atrocities committed by man must never be allowed to happen again. Seen this way, I believe the testimonies of the Hibakusha form the hypocentre of the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons.

One Hibakusha testimony stood out to me in particular for its graphic depiction of the aftermath of the nuclear attack on Nagasaki. It is the testimony of Yoshiro Yamawaki. His story highlights the chaos, tragedy, fear and confusion caused by the nuclear bomb. Born in 1934, he was just 11 years old when a U.S. B-29 bomber dropped the fat man atomic bomb on his home city of Nagasaki on 9th August 1945. Mr Yamawaki explains how he and his twin brother were at home a few kilometres from the hypocentre and were lucky to survive the initial blast unscathed. After coming around, they crawled from their collapsed home and miraculously managed to reunite with their 14-year-old older brother. Together, the three brothers’ thoughts immediately turned to their father who had been working in a manufacturing plant much closer to the hypocentre. He did not return home on the day the bomb was dropped. The next day, they went out in search of him.

The idea of the boys walking across the apocalyptic scene of their devastated city while at the same time, on the other side of the world, Allied Commanders conveyed triumphant messages of military victory thanks to the technological marvel of ‘the bomb’ reminds me of a quote from war correspondent Marie Colvin. She says, ‘despite all the sanitised language describing smart bombs and pinpoint strikes, the scene on the ground has remained remarkably the same for hundreds of years. Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers children.’ To this forlorn list we can add children weeping for their parents as soon after embarking on their search, the young brothers’ worst fears came true when they discovered their father’s lifeless body amongst the wreckage of the factory he had been working. Following a suggestion from an adult rescue worker in the vicinity, the boys decided to cremate the body where it lay among the rubble. As the flames around the makeshift pyre grew so did their fear and confusion, so they fled and resolved to come back the following day to collect the ashes. When they returned they were horrified to find that the body had only partially burned, leaving a charred and corrupted corpse in place of the living, breathing man with whom they had shared breakfast together just two days prior on the morning of the attack. They were never able to give their father a proper burial.

Mr. Yamawaki says: ‘I think that all people who lost family members and others close to them went through similar experiences to this.’

I am really struck by this idea. It is hard to listen to Mr. Yamawaki’s story. But it’s even harder to comprehend that to truly grasp the scale of human loss and suffering caused by the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the emotive power of his testimony must be multiplied hundreds of thousands of times. This mind-expanding thought really brings home to me the appalling devastation caused by nuclear warfare, and the urgent need to continue strengthening the voice that speaks of the human cost of nuclear weapons.

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