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: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/working-for-peace-in-2020-tickets-121187863161This event is co-hosted by Scottish ICAN Partners: SCND, Peace & Justice Centre, Trident Ploughshares, UN House, Medact and WILPF.
Working for Peace is a conversation for the peace movement, to mark the UN International Day for Peace. In the past,
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
Scottish First Minister Confirms Rejection of Nuclear Weapons and Support for the Nuclear Ban Treaty
ICAN in Scotland1
Scottish First Minister Confirms Rejection of Nuclear Weapons and Support for the Nuclear Ban Treaty
The Scottish First Minister, in her reply to a letter from Setsuko Thurlow, who at the age of 13 survived the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima, has re-iterated her government’s opposition to nuclear weapons and its support for the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).
Setsuko Thurlow, who received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), wrote to all the leaders of all the nuclear weapon states, pleading with them to reconsider their opposition to the Treaty2. Exceptionally, she also wrote to the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to thank her for Scotland’s opposition to nuclear weapons and in recognition of Scotland’s potential to play a key role in global disarmament as a significant and distinct part of a nuclear-weapon state which rejects its nuclear policy.3
In her reply4 Nicola Sturgeon said:
“As you are aware, the Scottish Government is firmly opposed to the possession, threat and use of nuclear weapons and the thought that such weapons of indiscriminate and mass destruction could be launched from our shores is unacceptable to me and, I believe, the majority of people in Scotland. We need to do all that we can to create the conditions for a safer world without nuclear weapons. I was greatly encouraged that 122 countries voted for the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and like you I have called on the UK Government to sign and ratify the Treaty.”
Janet Fenton, Vice-Chair of Scottish CND and ICAN liaison worker in Scotland said:
“Scotland’s First Minister is leading a distinctive and safer response to the Covid-19 emergency and has challenged the impact for Scotland of a Brexit that was not supported by people here, so her consistent and unambiguous support for the sane alternative to the UK’s disastrous addiction to nuclear weapons is another source of pride and encouragement to us all. She has never hesitated in joining the majority world in the demand for their total eliminationa nd is respected and celebrated by the international community. We are appreciative of Setsuko’s awareness of Scotland’s uniquly unacceptable position, and proud of the FM’s response to her letter. The 75th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki takes place this week and that sobering reminder of horrific suffering offers us a special moment to take the necessary radical steps to end the UK’s nuclear occupation of Scotland.”
Contact: Janet Fenton 07795 594573
1 Campaigners in Scottish CND, Trident Ploughshares, Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre, MEDACT, Northern Friends Peace Board, UN House Scotland, Scottish WILPF, Mayors for Peace and Don’t Bank on the Bomb Scotland working with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.
2 82 UN states have now signed the Treaty and 40 have ratified it, so that it now requires only 10 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 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.”
3 In her letter Setsuko said: “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 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.”
4Letters from Setsuko to Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson, and the First Minister’s reply are at https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1WqOqCdgO8_J7wZ8ltnooIhVkVbec83GA?usp=sharing
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
In February the YesHub in Edinburgh supported three folk to join the Paris Forum organised by ICAN France. Three (very different) women went to Paris thanks to the sponsorship.
Anna Karisto is currently pursuing a nuclear disarmament internship with Edinburgh Peace and Justice Centre while completing the last year of my law degree at the University of Edinburgh. She became involved with ICAN in 2017, just before the second TPNW conference, when interning with a Finnish partner of the campaign. She describes the ICAN Paris Forum as a powerful experience;
“ I got to hear and learn about nuclear disarmament directly from activists and scholars who I have watched speaking through my laptop screen for years now and cited in my own research. ICAN places the experiences of individuals and communities impacted by nuclear weapons at the centre of the disarmament debate and how nuclear disarmament requires cooperation between generations..”
Dagmar Schwitzgebel integrates her art and her activism in every aspect of her life, working with a range of performance strategies as tools for resistance, to challenge expectations of political activism. As part of a Trident Ploughshares, she disrupts and draw attention to the ‘nuclear dump’ of Trident submarines at the Devonport docks. “The importance of infinite dignity was expressed, especially that of indigenous peoples that are poisoned and violated by uranium mining. Grassroots movements all highlighted the links to climate change, and aimed to educate. Art in activism makes issues accessible, we need to enact the change, be kind with each other and enable a room for dialogue.” The third of the women who shared the accommodation provided by the YESHUB was Anne McCullagh-Dlyske. Anne has come to campaigning later in a life that has nonetheless always had resistance to supporting the war machine at its core. As a piano teacher she was never to enjoy a full musical career, because she is also a War Tax Resister
“Developing a more peaceful, sustainable world includes divestment from supporting the defence and nuclear industries, diversification into more positive alternatives and education for a better future. War – the military, and particularly the US military, with the highest carbon footprint of any nation, are the worst offenders on the planet. “ She hopes is that an independent Scotland will create an option for those who refusal to pay taxes for the military to contrbute to a fund to work for non violent conflict resolution.
A great aspiration for Scotland you can hear more about soon. All three women intended speaking at Disarming Women From Paris! (sponsored by the HUB) but the event has been postponed meantime, but we hope that before long they will be sharing ideas about how Scotland can be rid of nuclear weapons and part of the global majority that does not want them here – or anywhere.
Almost every week seems to bring us closer to the edge of nuclear catastrophe, most recently the news that the US is deploying the weapons and doing the war games for “limited” nuclear war. There are however signs, albeit small, that this wild spear-waving is beginning to provoke some realism.
On 23rd January the Bulletin on the Atomic Scientists moved forward the hands of its symbolic clock which registers the status of existential threats to humanity and the planet, based on the risks of catastrophic climate change and of nuclear war. In its statement, the Bulletin said that any belief that the threat of nuclear war has been vanquished is a mirage and that civilisation-ending nuclear war – whether started by design, blunder, or simple miscommunication – is a genuine possibility. Their assessment was based on the Iranian and North Korean developments as well as on the almost total breakdown in arms control measures applying to the nuclear armed states.
The situation has just got even worse. On 29th January we learned that US Navy had deployed the new W76-2 “low-yield” warhead aboard the USS Tennessee. The W76-2 It has an explosive yield of five kilotons, a third of the power of the “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima. The unhinged idea behind it is that it could be used militarily, unlike the bigger weapons in the arsenal whose use would lead inevitably to a civilisation-ending exchange. These bright planners are glossing over the fact that it is still a warhead of massive destructive power, capable of inflicting thousands of civilian deaths, horrific injuries, fatal radiation sickness and significant environmental damage. Further, these “tactical” missiles would not be launched singly but as a salvo. Also off the wall is the calculation that any enemy response to its use would be limited to the same level. Once the nuclear threshold is crossed we are on a steep slope to disaster.
On 17th January the US conducted a simulated war scenario in which they responded to a tactical nuclear attack from Russia with their own nuclear weapons. Far from being secretive or coy about it the Pentagon released the story at a press conference, with the clear aim of impressing everyone they felt needed to be impressed. Granted, this was a “table top” exercise invisible at the time to outsiders but the nuclear planners seem to have forgotten just how close to global nuclear war we were brought during the Cold War by exercises such as Able Archer. Were they also unaware of the study conducted by researchers at Princeton in September last year calculating the effects of such an exchange of “tactical” nuclear weapons? The researchers’ scenario depicted “a plausible escalating war between the United States and Russia using realistic nuclear force postures, targets and fatality estimates. It is estimated that there would be more than 90 million people dead and injured within the first few hours of the conflict.”
In the history of the major Cold War nuclear confrontations a touch of realism tended to appear at the most critical points. Kennedy and Kruschev, then Reagan and Gorbachev, backed off. The ramping up of nuclear tension comes two months before the Review Conference of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) which, at least notionally, provides an opportunity to measure the stance and performance of the nuclear-armed states against their responsibilities as parties to the Treaty. On 25th February the Stockholm Initiative nations (Argentina, Canada, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland) laid out their hopes for the Review Conference. While their requests to the big 5 nuclear-armed states are modest, their call for a strong arms control framework and for restraint on the part of the US and Russia is a helpful move.
Yet something more radical is needed. Article V1 of the NPT Treaty states that : Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control. No significant progress has been made by the nuclear-armed NPT signatories on this article since the NPT’s’s entry into force in 1968. So long as nuclear weapons exist we will keep coming back to these junctures of extreme peril and always in the background is the realistic threat of an accidental or computer generated initiation of a nightmare exchange. The only real answer is prohibition and elimination. Also at the Review Conference will be the 122 states that voted for the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons which provides the legal instrument that article V1 requires to do precisely that. We look forward to hearing their voices at the Conference. We are all downwind on this one.
In is important to note that the missiles on the UK nuclear weapon submarines are not British but are leased from the US. Indeed the UK does not have the facility to remove the missiles from its four Vanguard class boats– that needs to be done at King’s Bay in Georgia. The delivery and targeting software is US made. The Trident warheads – the actual nuclear bombs – have been manufactured and assembled at the Aldermaston/Burghfield complex in Berkshire but the design is American, although the evidence suggests that some design elements have depended on collaboration between US and UK nuclear weapon engineers. Not a sniff of “taking back control” on this one. The UK describes its Trident system as an “independent nuclear deterrent”. The description is false.
There is therefore nothing new or surprising about the announcement by the Pentagon of a UK/US deal to supply Britain with new warheads. What is less often remarked upon is the fact that this promised deal, and the history of the UK dependence on US warhead technology, amount to a blatant breach of Article 1 of the Nuclear-Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which states that “Each nuclear-weapons state (NWS) undertakes not to transfer, to any recipient (underline added), nuclear weapons, or other nuclear explosive devices, . .”. In nine weeks time diplomats from across the world will gather for the once-in-five-years NPT Review Conference. This Review takes place at a critical juncture for nuclear disarmament. The world is faced with the dismantling of key nuclear arms control frameworks, the ongoing modernisation of nuclear arsenals, and the indications that new states will seek to acquire their own nuclear weapons.
At the review these five nuclear-armed states will seek to represent themselves as the mature and responsible custodians of nuclear security. This is the opposite of the truth. Article V1 of the Treaty states that : Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.
In 2017, the majority world adopted the necessary treaty, its called the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, (TPNW) so why is it boycotted by the nuclear-armed states, and why has no significant progress has been made on Article V1 since the NPT’s’s entry into force in 1968? Currently we are going backwards.
The TPNW, a treaty “on general and complete disarmament” already exists and is tailor-made to slot into that gap in the NPT. The TPNW has been signed by 80 states and already ratified by 35. With 50 ratifications it will enter into force and put nuclear weapons in the same pariah category as chemical weapons and landmines. The nuclear-armed state in which you and I are currently stuck has two contradictory responses to the TPNW. On the one hand it sneers at it as a Utopian irrelevance and on the other it claims that it threatens the stability of the arms control and disarmament regime. Along with the other big 5 the UK will want no talk of the TPNW at the NPT conference. This is why we need Scottish parliamentarians to attend the Review Conference as civil society representatives, to make our support for the TPNW visible and articulate. If you want more evidence of the urgency of this check out the stance of the three candidates for the Labour leadership, who feel themselves compelled to parade their virility by parroting the mantras of delusion that bolster the UK’s sacred slaughter system. We can do so much better.