It was announced on November 24th that Germany will be participating as an observer in the First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. As one of five countries used by the US to site their nuclear arsenal, the fact that Germany is resisting US dominance and calling out their explicit opposition to the treaty by expressing intent to observe the negotiations is a landmark decision. This decision follows Norway’s announcement that they would be observing the Meeting, which came in early October. As the first NATO state, Norway’s announcement was significant, as it ended the unanimous resistance to the TPNW from NATO states. Norway was also the first nuclear weapon complicit state to agree to observe the negotiations.

Both Germany and Norway’s decisions are significant for the future of the TPNW and nuclear disarmament. By agreeing to observe the negotiations, they are ending the unofficial embargo made by all nuclear-armed and nuclear-complicit states against the TPNW. This has opened up space for other states to commit to attend the Meeting, broadening the impact of the negotiations and hopefully increasing the possibility for wider ratification of the Treaty. 

As a host to US nuclear weapons, Germany’s decision is notably contrastive to the US’ clear refusal to engage with any negotiations surrounding the TPNW. Germany’s situation as a host for nuclear weapons mirrors Scotland’s situation as hosts of the UK’s Trident programme. As former Scottish Green MSP John Finnie explained, “both nations are saddled with nuclear weapons imposed on them by others, and are thus potentially implicated in a crime against humanity” (cited in this article). Given that the majority of the Scottish people resist nuclear weapons, yet under devolution they are denied the power to remove Trident from Scottish land, it is imperative for there to be a Scottish presence at the negotiations for the TPNW. The Scottish voice is neither being heard nor implemented at Westminster, thus Scotland must make their voice heard on the international level, giving them the opportunity to have a say in the future of the Treaty. 

Scotland cannot follow the precedent set by Germany and Norway and commit to sending a delegation as observers to the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW, because it is (mis)represented at the UN by the UK Government and cannot join unless it gains independence. However, Scottish parliamentarians who have signed the ICAN Parliamentarians’ Pledge can attend. In that role, especially given that ICAN is coordinating civil society participation in the meeting, they can speak for us. Not only would this be a valuable opportunity to participate in the future of the nuclear ban, but it would also be an opportunity for Scotland’s perspective to be heard as a separate entity from the United Kingdom’s intransigent perspective in support of nuclear weapons policy. As an unwilling host of nuclear weapons, Scotland deserves to have its voice heard in issues regarding the implementation of and adherence to the nuclear ban.

Written by Christina Kelly